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Flowering trees

Arvind Kotwal , Flowering trees in Jammu "Daily Excelsior" 1/4/2018

As the spring is in the air the Jammu foothills and plains come alive with splashes of colour after a drab winter. The trees in the hills and plains surrounding Jammu start sprouting flowers of various hues. A burst of scarlet in an otherwise colourless forest makes a compelling sight and makes it difficult to take one’s eyes off it. Having been attracted to these sights at the onset of spring merging into summer, it’s become a hobby over the years to look for arboreal blooms.

Perhaps possibly the earliest spring bloom that I chanced upon a few years ago on the Jammu bye-pass near the Environmental Park was the foxglove tree. With off white/cream flowers which resemble the foxglove flower profusely covering the leafless branches the sight took my breath away. Later I found another tree in full glory in the Housing Board flats at Panama Chowk which to my dismay no longer exists; possibly having been chopped away with callous disregard for the beautiful flora of the tropics. Close behind, the Semal tree also catches the eye, sporadically located in the jungles surrounding Jammu. Though not as spectacular as some of the tree blossoms which follow later, the stark branches of these huge trees bear oversized red flowers which bloom from February to April and announce the beginning of the colours of spring.

The Palash tree, also known as the Flame of the forest is fairly common in the country side of Jammu and blooms in the months of February and March. It flowers in leafless conditions, and the branches get covered with flaming scarlet-orange flowers. Yet another tree which is conspicuous for its stunning red coloured bloom is the Coral tree which can also be seen in the country side. Also known as Pangara tree in hindi, the Scarlet red flowers resemble tiger claws. Bunches of the flowers grow in clusters on the ends of the leafless branchlets. These trees grow in the wild as well as one can find these planted along avenues. Another tree which is hard to miss in late spring is the Laburnum or Amaltas . Bright Yellow flowers dangling in pendulous bunches from the branches of the otherwise non-descript trees make for a compelling sight. In the month of April, one gets attracted to patches of yellow Amaltas in the Raika hill forests on the bye pass. Though someone in the past has also thoughtfully planted laburnum trees alongside some of the avenues in Gandhi Nagar.

The Jacranda is yet another flowering tree that blooms in late spring/early summer. This tall imposing tree produces deep blue mauve flowers which grow in clusters. There is an abundance of these trees within the city especially many a tree can be spotted in Gandhi nagar , Trikuta nagar and the plains of Jammu. The Ashok, though not a very imposing tree of the tropics, more than makes up for its modest appearance when it blooms in the month of April. It was on a week end outing to the tourist bunglow at Surinsar lake that i first beheld the enticing flowers which grow in bunches of yellow and red among the thick foliage of the tree. Mildly fragrant, the flowers make a riveting sight. I have spotted a couple of Ashoka trees in the Rotary Bhavan park Gandhi Nagar too. One would be well advised not to confuse this tree with the more common variety called drooping Ashok which adorns many a garden and parks in Jammu but doesn’t bloom.

One of the loveliest sights to behold in the months of April to September is the Pink Cassia tree in full bloom. The leafy tree gets profusely covered with dense bunches of pink and white flowers making it a most beautiful sight in summer. The Department of Floriculture at one end of the Green Belt Park Gandhi Nagar has a lone pink cassia tree which greets morning walkers with its delightful bloom. How one wishes there were more of these trees in the gardens and parks of Jammu. Another tree which is hard to miss is the ubiquitous Bauhinia or Kachnar also locally called Karael. Growing almost everywhere in Jammu the flowers ranging from white to a variegated pink are much in demand for the edible buds which make a great savoury and curd raita. Yet another tree which starts blooming in the months of October-November is the Silk Floss tree. With conical spikes all along the trunk the tree doesn’t make a very pleasant sight but the bright pink flowers stand out conspicuously during the onset of winter when other trees start shedding leaves.

The Bahu Plaza is the place to go to for a visual treat of these trees in bloom. Several trees have been planted in the garden laid out in the middle of the complex.

All these trees and many more like the Silver Oak, Gulmohar, Scarlet Bell etc. brighten up the landscape during spring and summer months and even autumn. The trees described here are illustrative of the fact that the plains and foothills of Jammu abound in flowering trees. It is worthwhile to visit the University of Jammu or the SMVDU Kakryal to see how flowering trees have been planted all over the campuses. It would be in place to suggest here that an exclusive garden of flowering trees can be created in Jammu which would not only provide a treat of continuum of colourful tree blooms but also shade during the summer season. This could may well be another tourist attraction in the City of Temples.

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