Beauty by the roadside

There are things that can be simply branded as either common or uncommon. And then, there are things that are both common and uncommon.

For me, two flowers signify the second category and I find both of them in my neck of the woods. As I have mentioned earlier, I live in what I call “The Greater IT Corridor”, which includes Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR), East Coast Road (ECR) and Vandalur-Kelambakkam Road. By way of natural features, especially a raft of reserve forests, these sections enjoy an organic connection. And as a result of the IT industry, development of these three corridors is along comparable lines.

Now, one of the two flowers that I deem common as well as uncommon are found in large numbers in the reserve forest in Othivakkam, off Vandalur-Kelambakkam Road. I am talking about ironwood flowers, which thrive in dry tropical evergreen forests. Last year, in mid-July, I saw ironwood blooms at Othivakkam. In pink and pinkish-blue, they were a sight to behold. There was a bit of white too — but these were flowers that had lost their colour. When I revisited Othivakkam in early July this year, I was disappointed. There wasn’t a single bloom to clap my tired, computer-weary eyes on.

When I discussed this subject with D. Narasimhan, a retired botany professor, I realised I had made it just in time last year.

“Ironwood blooms twice a year in our parts, during the South-West monsoon and the North-East monsoon. The blooms last only two to three weeks. Ironwood belongs to the Mullai region (forests and surrounding areas). They are known to flourish in both sandy and red-laterite soil. There are two species of Ironwood – one is memeceylon edule and the other is memeceylon umbellatum. Both are locally known as kaasan.”

While the plant (sometimes it grows big and is somewhat tree-like) is common, its blooms are not. As we have had rains not too long ago, I have inked in a trip to the forest tracts in my region this weekend. May be, I will be lucky this time around.

The other flower is yellow and commonly found on the roadside, almost everywhere, but has an uncommon flush to it. Though out there, it is as fetching as ornamental flowers. Only a few days ago, on the way to Mahabalipuram, I saw a section of Vengaleri on Old Mahabalipuram Road overrun with yellow. There is singular story behind this flower.

“This flowering plant is turnera ulmifolia, and it had been introduced from Tropical American region, but has now become naturalised. It is fast-spreading and it can be used as an ornamental flower,” says Narasimhan.

That is exactly what I thought when I saw that “nature-raised garden of tumera ulmifolia”in Vengaleri. I am going to bat for this plant to be allocated space on the median gardens on OMR.

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