BENGALURU: This Valentine’s Day will see Bangaloreans hugging trees near the Bal Bhavan in a special event that is part of the crowdfunded tree festival Neralu. The festival celebrates the rich heritage of the city — its trees. Do you know which flowering trees you have been living amongst? Try this quiz and find out.
1. A good luck charm
This tree is native to South America and associated with Christmas in Australia. Its leaves look like feathers. During this time of year, the tree is laden with clusters of lilac-blue trumpet-shaped blooms. People believe that if a flower falls on you, it brings good luck. Pretoria, in South Africa, has so many of these trees that it is called the City of ___________.
2. Let’s play cricket
Many of its vast canopies line wide streets of old Bengaluru. If you hack this tree off, you might very well be taking away an acre of green cover. Its leaves fold and almost droop during the evening, gloomy weather or the rains, from which it gets its name. The white and pink flowers of this tree look like a roundish brush. Also known as a monkey-pod tree, it sheds pods that are sticky and used by kids to make ‘cork’ balls and play cricket.
3. Sacred and fragrant
It flowers regularly and its blooms have a distinct fragrance. The trees are often found in the vicinity of temples and its flowers are used for pujas and worn by women in their hair. The Common Jay butterfly uses the leaves of the tree to lay eggs, and an Indian children’s magazine shares its name with the flower.
4. Two fabrics in one
Its trunk has spikes to deter attacks by animals. When in bloom, the leafless tree provides a striking picture of crimson. And after its green fruits turn brown, its seeds, attached to silky fibres float down, to be carried away by gusts of wind. You can find these trees in Lalbagh and some parts of Banashankari. It grows in most regions, unless very arid. The tree is called shaalmali in Sanskrit.
5. Almost like a deity
This tree is rather less common. It bears large woody fruits and flowers that resemble one of the Hindu trinity shaded by a hood-like group of stamens, suggestive of its vernacular name. The hard shells of the fruits are used to make containers and utensils. The flower has an unusual fragrance which is especially strong at night.
6. In the myths
It’s in a garden of these trees that Hanuman is supposed to have first met Sita. Also knows as the sorrowless tree, Buddha is said to have been born under it. It grows into a well-proportioned, round canopy with orange-red flower clusters, but its name is often misleadingly used for a pillar-like tree with pale green blooms.
(Pics: Poornima Kannan; Quiz: Neralu)
Answers to quiz
1. Jacaranda, Jacaranda mimosaefolia
2. Rain Tree, Albizia lebbeck
3. Champak tree, Sampige, Michalea champaca
4. Red Silk Cotton, Bombax malabaricum
5. Cannonball Tree, Nagalingam, Couroupita guianensis
6. Ashoka, Saraca asoca