Tree Talk: The tree of fire

Summer is incomplete without the Gulmohar’s flaming red beauty

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor | Chandigarh | Published: May 1, 2016 10:01 am
A Gulmohar tree in full bloom in Sector 9, Chandigarh,  on Saturday.  Sahil Walia A Gulmohar tree in full bloom in Sector 9, Chandigarh, on Saturday. Photo by Sahil Walia

As much as one loathes the heat, summer brings with it blooms that can cheer up anyone. There’s Palash, Jacaranda and now, the Gulmohar. Flaming red clusters of the Gulmohar – a tree, so breathtakingly beautiful and symbolic of Chandigarh – dot the city skyline. It wears a bridal red colour, and so no wonder it’s also called ‘Flamboyant’, and goes by other names like Royal Poinciana Pentcost, Peacock Flower and in Spanish, — ‘Arbol de Fuego’ or the tree of fire.

It’s a tree that also makes school goers of an earlier generation nostalgic about the Gulmohar textbooks CBSE schools used to prescribe. The Gulmohar are pretty for avenues, and parks or that corner of the perfectly manicured garden, even though, come a perfect storm, the tree’s branches are the first casualty.

They are brittle and it can’t stand high velocity winds or showers but the roots run deep, making digging for pipes and other works a tad challenging. Trees like the Gulmohar, or Mayflower, another of its many names, are still needed attract birds, absorb the pollution and maintain ecological balance.

Not many know, but the Gulmohar we so love as ours, is actually not native to this country. It came from Madagascar. While its botanical name is Delonix regia (from Caesalpinlaceae family), the Royal Poinciana title it gets from 18th century governor of the French West Indies M de Poinci. In the top five most beautiful flowering trees list, there are fables around the Royal Poinciana in Mexico and Central American and annual festivities in Miami to celebrate its flowering.

Deciduous with an umbrella shaped crown, it can be found in sectors 27, 28, 14, 32, 22, in Manimajra (park opposite the Rail Vihar), on the Sector 18-9-17-8 light point.

You need a well-drained soil for it to thrive and a hot dry climate. It cannot withstand the cold. While its wood and oil called karanga finds economical use, scientists in Bhubaneshwar have been able to extract natural dyes from the Gulmohar flower by combining them with other substances.

In fact, apart from the scarlet red, if you are lucky, you can spot a rare white or yellow flowered Gulmohar too. And don’t confuse it with the Amaltas!Nor with the Flame of the Forest. That’s another tree, but for another day.

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