Mumbai: With this duo, learning about nature is a walk in the park

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Mar 16, 2015 16:17 IST

If you love trees but are clueless about the names of most, or are a nature enthusiast who would like to know more, shake off your Sunday laziness and join Renee Vyas and Dr Usha Desai for their Tree Appreciation Walks (TAW).

For the past five years, on the second Sunday of every month, Vyas, 59, and Desai, 71, lead a small informal group of nature lovers to various green spots in and around the city, and educate them about plants around them.

On Sunday, they conducted the 59th such walk at Dattaji Salvi Udyan in Thane. “Our main aim is cultivate love for trees among people. Some have enjoyed the walks so much that they have begun similar ones in their own neighbourhoods,” said Desai.

What makes their events interesting, say participants, is that along with the names and properties of trees, the two also narrate interesting stories about their origins, or mythological tales associated with them.

“Desai and Vyas always have either mythological or an informative story while they tell us about a certain plant, which makes the walks exciting and interactive,” said Samir Gulavane, founder, urban biodiversity conservation group, Thane.

Desai and Vyas came together by a shared love of nature at a botany class at Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). They two have studied various nature-related courses at the institute, such as biodiversity, entomology, ornithology and herpetology.

On Sunday, the participants of the walk were handed out a list carrying the botanical name, common name and family of 30 different trees and plants in the garden. “As a medical practitioner, these walks really help me understanding the different sections of medicinal plants, which are used in drugs,” said Dr Parmeshwaran Shankar, resident of Mulund.

The walks have also been conducted in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Rani Baug, Colaba woods, Sagar Upwan, Mahim Nature Park, Hanging gardens and Hiranandani gardens in Powai.

Desai and Vyas began their initiative by imbibing information from tree walks conducted by expert botanists like Marselin Almeida and Swapna Prabhu. “We referred to tree guides, which have been invaluable source for us, and the Internet,” said Desai.

During these walks, points of general interest are touched upon and they avoid going into technical details. “We point out the interesting features of each tree, such as the country of origin and medicinal and commercial uses,” said Vyas.

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