Confusing climate

Delhi has its own idiosyncratic take on the weather cycle. Trees shed their leaves from end December to April, begging for a system of composting to be put in place by civic agencies

Published - November 03, 2012 11:40 am IST

In its glory: The exceptional Calindra sports red flowers. Photos: Sohail Hashmi

In its glory: The exceptional Calindra sports red flowers. Photos: Sohail Hashmi

It has been said that Delhi does not have a climate, what it has is in the name of a climate is so closely tied to developments in the geographical neighbourhood that it can fairly accurately be described as a comprador climate.

If it snows in Simla or Srinagar we in Delhi begin to freeze and if it gets too hot in Rajasthan we need to run our fans, coolers or ACs without a break. But it is not only this; the weather cycle in Delhi follows a strange logic. All over the world the cycle of seasons is winter; spring, summer and autumn and winter once again to restart the cycle. The regions covered by the monsoons have a fifth season. The monsoons arrive after summer and the rest of the cycle remains unchanged.

But Delhi has its own idiosyncratic take on the weather cycle. After the sweltering heat of summer and the monsoons one would expect an autumn, and it arrives, but it arrives so quietly and surreptitiously that even most of trees don’t notice it.

Trees in Delhi by and large bypassing late September and October is something that I had noticed earlier, but this became very evident when I began to carry and peruse, with the devotion of a new convert, Pradeep Krishen’s green bible on the trees of Delhi.

One wonders why the end September, early October break in schools is called the ‘autumn break’ while there is hardly any sign of autumn. Actually, if you look around, you might mistake this time of the year as an early spring as there are flowers sprouting of all kinds, for example the Babool and the Ronjh are in full bloom through September and October. The Copperpod – called ‘ Peeli Gulmohar’ — a native of Andamans and the almost look-alike African Wattle flower at the same time as do the yellow bells.

One can identify the trees and talk knowledgeably about their original habitat thanks to Pradeep Krishen — a whole lot of people are beginning to notice the trees of Delhi thanks to him. An interesting thing about these flowering trees and shrubs is that they are all, with the honourable and glorious exception of Calindra, in shades of yellow or pale orange. It is difficult to say if it is more than a coincidence, since all these trees/ shrubs do not belong to the same region or family.

Many of the varieties of trees that have been planted in Delhi are evergreens but among those that shed their leaves most do it across a time span that stretches between October- November to March- April, some shedding earlier and others waiting for summer to set in properly before they get rid of their worn out raiment and don a new attire.

The following list has been compiled with help from ‘Trees of Delhi’ to indicate the period when one set of trees would begin to shed their leaves from December onwards and continuing through April. Between December and January Sonjna or Sainjan, Tun, Goolar, Khirk, Bistendu, ,Jamun, Dhau, Peepal, Toot and Shahtoot, Mango, Amla, Sembhal, Sheesham, Ronjh, Siris and Bakain will shed their leaves. February will see Harsinghar, Pilkhan, Dhak and Imli, losing their foliage, to be followed in March by Ber, Kadamb, Baheda, Kachnar, Bael, Neem and Babool, while Arjun and Amaltas bring this rather protracted autumn to a close.

So from January to April we have trees that are shedding their leaves across the city, all the trees listed above are not avenue trees and some avenue trees that shed during this time are not on this indicative list.

The point of placing this list here is to underscore the fact that for almost one-third of the year trees of one kind or another are shedding their leaves on the avenues and gardens of Delhi. If the civic agencies are serious about the promises that they have made before the courts that no leaves will be burnt in Delhi then they will need to put in place a system of collecting and composting these leaves and it will have to be an ongoing and not a sporadic activity. Unfortunately one sees no signs of such concern.

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