Trees of Morni: Kandai

Kandai (Flacourtia ramontchi/indica) Muwas, Morni Hills end February 2017

Governor’s Plum/Kandai/ Kakai Flacourtia ramontchi/ Flacourtia indica is a small thorny deciduous tree with rough whitish-grey bark; young parts are hairy.

Leaves are 2-4 inch long, are ovate and obtusely serrated, smooth above and usually hairy beneath. The leaves and twigs are lopped for fodder (and the tree is hence susceptible to browsing).  It is leafless in February/ March.  New leaves are an attractive pink/ red and appear in March/ early April. 

Flowers appear early in the year on leafless branches and the male trees are densely laden with fuzzy flowers. Flowers are small greenish-yellow in short hairy racemes.

Fruit is globose upto half an inch in diameter – red or dark brown when ripe. Fruit is acidic and is eaten. The tree fruits in May/ June. The tree has been widely cultivated for its fruit. The wood is hard and durable and is used for agricultural implements.

The tree is abundant in dry/ scrub forests and is found in Shivaliks upto 4000 feet. It readily adapts to a variety of soils.

Kandai bloom in end February at Muwas, Morni Hills
Leafless Kandai tree laden with yellow flowers in Muwas, Morni Hills (End of February 2017)
Kandai tree bark
Kandai tree – flowers in February end

References:

  • Forest Flora of the Chakrata, Dehra Dun and Saharanpur Forest Divisions, United Provinces; Upendranath Kanjilal (1928)
  • Jungle Trees of Central India, Pradip Krishen (2013)

Trees of Morni: Bahera

Bahera /Behada/Vibhitaka (Fearless in Sanskrit)/Beliric (Terminalia bellerica) is a large deciduous tree of South-East Asia that grows on plains and in lower hills. It has an uneven bluish or ashy-grey bark with longitudinal furrows. It grows to a height of 80-100 feet with a girth of 8-10 feet and is easily recognized from a distance by its characteristic bark and broad, massive crown. Bahera is also known as the bastard myrobalan.

 

Bahera Tree

Bahera Tree

Bahera Tree Trunk

Bahera Tree Trunk

Leaves 3-8 inches long, obovate-elliptic, are alternate, crowded towards the ends of the branches. The genus name ‘Terminalia’ comes from the Latin word ‘terminus’ or ‘end’ – referring to the leaves borne at the ends of the branchlets. The leaf is pale below and has 5-8 lateral nerves on either side of the thick mid-rib. The leaf-stalk is 1-3 inches in length and glandular. The base is generally uneven.

Bahera Leaves

Bahera Leaves

 

Bahera leaves (July)

Bahera leaves (July)

Bahera leaves are considered good fodder for cattle.

The tree flowers in April – June after the new leaves. Flowers are about .2 inch across, pale-white or greenish-yellow, with an offensive smell.

Bahera blossom (May)

Bahera blossom (May)

 

Bahera flower

Bahera flower

The tree fruits in December- February. Fruit is 1 inch long, ovoid or globose, grey-velvety; nut thick-walled and hard. The kernel is edible and gives oil which is used for the hair. The fruit is a favourite food of monkeys, deer, sheep, goat and cattle.

Beleric is one of the ‘triphala’ in ‘Artha Sastra’ that is, the three fruits – emblic, beleric and chebulic myrobalans  that go into ayurvedic medicinal formulations that are used to treat a large number of diseases. The fruit pulp of beleric is considered to be astringent and laxative (‘wind-killing’) and is prescribed with salt and long pepper for throat and chest infections.The kernels are used for external application to treat inflammed parts. Tribals smoke the dried up kernels that have narcotic/ mind-altering properties.
The nuts are said to have been used as dice in Mahabharata. It was once considered to be inhabited by the demons and Hindus avoided sitting in its shade. The troops of Gray Langurs that can be commonly spotted feeding on the nuts in Morni are apparently not dettered by such myths!

Bahera nuts (November)

Bahera nuts (November)

 

Bahera nut

Bahera nut

Bahera nuts (kenels) have an oil content of 40% and the fatty-acid methyl ester extract is used extensively as biodiesel in USA and the European Union.

The wood is light-grey or yellowish, hard and coarse-grained, not durable used in house-building, making packing cases etc.

References:

  1. Forest Flora of the Chakrata, Dehra Dun and Saharanpur Forest Divisions, United Provinces; Upendranath Kanjilal, Rai Bahadur, ELS (1928)
  2. Meaning of Indian Flowering Plant Names; M.P. Nayar (1985)

Shrubs of Morni: Charming Clematis

Charming Clematis/ Dhanwali धनवाली (Clematis grata) is a vigorous Himalayan climber that bursts into clusters of many small cream-colored fragrant flowers with spreading petals from July to September. The climber is found up to 2500 metres. Leaves are compound – leaflets are 1″ to 3″  long, ovate, lance-shaped, strongly toothed/lobed and hairy beneath.

Clematis grata, Diyothi, Bhoj Darara (September)

Clematis grata, Diyothi, Bhoj Darara (September)

Flower clusters of Clematis grata, Diyothi, Bhoj Darara (September)

Flower clusters of Clematis grata, Diyothi, Bhoj Darara (September)

Flowers of Clematis grata, Diyothi, Bhoj Darara (September)

Flowers of Clematis grata, Diyothi, Bhoj Darara (September)

 

Trees of Morni: Curry-leaf

Curry-leaf tree/ Kari patta करी पत्ता (Murraya koenigii) – is a small tree, growing up to 20 feet tall, with aromatic, pinnate leaves with 11-21 leaflets.

Curry patta shrub, Mandana, Morni Hills

Curry patta shrub, Mandana, Morni Hills

The plant produces small, white self-pollinating flowers.

It bears small, glossy black berries that yield a single, large viable seed.

Curry patta- berries, Mandana, Morni Hills (July)

Curry patta- berries, Mandana, Morni Hills (July)

The species is named after the German botanist Johann Gerhard König who worked as a naturalist for the Nawab of Arcot in the late 18th century and discovered a number of medicinal plants in his travels across the hills of South India and his voyages to Ceylon and South East Asia.
The plant is best known for its aromatic leaves that are used as a seasoning in Indian curries and also South-Indian/ Sri Lankan dishes like vada, rasam and kadhi. The leaves are a rich source of vitamin A, calcium and folic acid and are used for preparing
Ayurvedic medicines.

Curry leaves

Curry leaves

The plant can be propagated from stem cuttings or from fresh seeds.

Curry tree grows wild all over the Shivaliks upto an altitude of 1500 metres. Morni hills are particularly blessed with this spicy shrub that grows almost like a weed.

Shrubs of Morni: Potato tree

Potato tree (Solanum verbascifolium) is a widespread weed of the tropics that originated from the Central American region. The shrub can grow up to 4 to 10 metres tall. A toxic plant that is used to prepare formulations that are used as diuretics and purgatives for treating malaria, leprosy and venereal diseases and for stimulating the liver functions.

Stem is unarmed, woolly and can grow up to 20 cm thick in diameter.

Woolly Stem of Solanum verbascifolium at Rasoon, Morni Hills (October)

Woolly Stem of Solanum verbascifolium at Rasoon, Morni Hills (October)

Leaves are velvety/ woolly, alternate, simple with wavy margins.

Leaves of Solanum verbascifolium at Rasoon, Morni Hills (October)

Leaves of Solanum verbascifolium at Rasoon, Morni Hills (October)

Flowers are white in colour, 1.5 cm in diameter and grow in terminal cymes.

Flowers of Solanum verbascifolium at Rasoon, Morni Hills (October)

Flowers of Solanum verbascifolium at Rasoon, Morni Hills (October)

The berry-like globose fruit that turns dull yellow/orange on ripening is considered poisonous and causes nausea, headache and cramps. The fruits were used as an ingredient in preparing arrow poison. Yet the fruit is reportedly eaten in some cultures and is used for preparing curry in South India!

Fruit of Solanum verbascifolium at Rasoon, Morni Hills (October)

Fruit of Solanum verbascifolium at Rasoon, Morni Hills (October)

Seeds are ovoid, compressed, 1–2 mm in diameter.
The velvety leaves are used to remove grease from dishes. Leaves are pounded to prepare a poultice for treating haemorrhoids. A decoction of the leaves is drunk for treating vertigo, dysentery, diarrhoea and fever.

The root bark is used to treat arthritis.

The plant is generally considered a weed but is grown as a shade plant for coffee in some African countries and also as an ornamental plant.
References:

  1. Modise, D.M. & Mogotsi, K.K., 2008. Solanum erianthum D.Don

Trees of Morni: Himalayan Wild Pear

Himalayan Wild Pear /Mehal मेहल /Mol मोल/ Kainth कैंठ (Pyrus pashia) is a small or medium-sized deciduous Himalyan tree found at altitudes of 750 m to 2700 m with lance-like, glossy leaves with serrated edges and glossy brown, table-tennis ball sized, edible fruit covered with raised cream-white pores. The fruit is rich in minerals and ripens in November-December.The tree flowers in March-April. Its large thorns make it a popular choice for cultivation as a live fence.

Himalayan Wild Pear at Diyothi, Bhoj Darara, Morni Hills (September)

Himalayan Wild Pear at Diyothi, Bhoj Darara, Morni Hills (September)

Himalayan Wild Pear at Diyothi, Bhoj Darara, Morni Hills (September) - Fruit

Himalayan Wild Pear at Diyothi, Bhoj Darara, Morni Hills (September) – Fruit

Himalayan Pear, Cream-white pores on glossy brown fruit

Himalayan Pear, Cream-white pores on glossy brown fruit

Thorns of Himalayan Pear

Thorns of Himalayan Pear

Shrubs of Morni: Glory Lily

Glory Lily/ Fire Lily (Gloriosa superba) is a tender, tuberous rooted, perennial climber that climbs over plants with the aid of tendrils at the ends of leaves. It has large showy, ‘flaming’ yellow-orange-red flowers with 6 large wrinkled petals ensconsed by 6 prominent stamens. Flowers are solitary and open by longitudinal slits in the buds.
The plant is rich in alkaloids and is dangerously toxic. Leaves are spirally arranged around the fleshy green stem. Glory Lily was once common in the Western Ghats but is increasingly threatened by excessive exploitation for producing herbal medicines. It is the State Flower of Tamil Nadu (National Flower of  the Tamil Eelam!!).
The Tramp encountered the beautiful flowers on the forest track to Bhoj Darara in mid-September. The anthers were exceptionally rich in powdery yellow pollen and the handling of the flowers for getting a clear photograph left the fingers yellow. The Tramp later learnt that like all things beautiful the plant is extremely dangerous and yields ‘colchicine’ – a deadly ‘spindle poison’ that blocks cell-division. A dose of 6 mg/kg of colchicine is lethal!!

Glory Lily, Bhoj Darara, Morni Hills (Sep 2014)

Glory Lily, Bhoj Darara, Morni Hills (Sep 2014)

Changing colours of Glory Lily, Bhoj Darara, Morni Hills (Sep 2014)

Changing colours of Glory Lily, Bhoj Darara, Morni Hills (Sep 2014)

Glory Lily Flower Buds with longitudinal slits, Bhoj Darara, Morni Hills (Sep 2014)

Glory Lily Flower Buds with longitudinal slits, Bhoj Darara, Morni Hills (Sep 2014)

Leaves of the Glory Lily, Bhoj Darara, Morni Hills (Sep 2014)

Leaves of the Glory Lily, Bhoj Darara, Morni Hills (Sep 2014)

Leaf-tip tendrils of Glory Lily, Bhoj Darara, Morni Hills (Sep 2014)

Leaf-tip tendrils of Glory Lily, Bhoj Darara, Morni Hills (Sep 2014)

 

Shrubs of Morni: Chhota Kalpa

Indian Borage/ Chhota Kalpa (Trichodesma indicum) – a small, spreading, erect herb with lance-shaped, stalkless hairy leaves,hairy stems and small, 5-lobed white flowers that point downwards when open.

Indian Borage (Chhota Kalpa) Mandana, Morni Hills

Indian Borage (Chhota Kalpa) Mandana, Morni Hills

Leaves of Indian Borage (Chhota Kalpa) Mandana, Morni Hills

Leaves of Indian Borage (Chhota Kalpa) Mandana, Morni Hills

Also known as the ‘Starflower’ it belongs to the family of ‘forget-me-nots’ and is believed to have originated in Syria and then spread in the Mediterranean region and South America. Found in India upto 1500 metres generally in stony, wastelands. Used for a variety of cures including problems related to Menopause.

Shrubs of Morni: Jungli Karonda

Jungli Karonda /Wild Karoda/ जंगली करौंदा (Carissa spinarum) is an erect, thorny shrub with leathery,ovate leaves and forked branches. The leaves exude a toxic, white latex if plucked from the stem. The small, red berries are edible. The thorns can be an inch-and-a-half in length. The star-shaped flowers are white with 5 narrow petals. Jungli Karonda grows wild in the foothills of Shivaliks upto an elevation of 1500 metres. Its root yields an extract that is used for treating wounds.

Jungli Karonda, Banswala, Bhoj Ponta, Morni Hills

Jungli Karonda, Banswala, Bhoj Ponta, Morni Hills

Red berries of Jungli Karonda, Banswala, Bhoj Ponta, Morni Hills

Red berries of Jungli Karonda, Banswala, Bhoj Ponta, Morni Hills (January)

 

Shrubs of Morni: Indian Nightshade

Indian NightshadePoison Berry/Brihatee/Bardhi Kateri (Solanum indicum) is a spreading shrub of open scrub land. Leaves are about 10 cm long . The flowers are purple. The berries are yellow when ripe. The prickly shrub can grow to a height of 1-5 metres. The roots of brihatee are used for preparing Ayurvedic medicines for treating cough, asthma, congestion and tuberculosis. It has narcotic properties and leaves were kept in cradles of children to promote sleep!! It has prickles but is less thorny than its shorter cousin the Yellow-berried Nightshade (Solanum virginianum)

 

Flower and berries of Brihatee or Bardhi Kateri (Solanum indicum), Water Harvesting Dam,Kamballah, Morni foothills

Flower and berries of Brihatee/ Indian Nightshade/ Bardhi Kateri (Solanum indicum), Water Harvesting Dam,Kamballah, Morni foothills

Brihatee or Bardhi Kateri (Solanum indicum), embankment of Water Harvesting Dam, Kamballah, Morni foothills

Brihatee or Bardhi Kateri (Solanum indicum), embankment of Water Harvesting Dam, Kamballah, Morni foothills