A longer winter delayed shedding of leaves in Delhi
The chill is gone. Mercury levels in the city have started rising. The withering leaves, trees turning ochre, and flowers blooming across the city herald the arrival of spring before Delhi’s harsh summer well and truly takes over. On Sunday, the mercury touched 35 degree Celsius, and will touch 40 sooner than later.
“Trees such as the semal and kachnar have long started flowering, while others such as the pilkhan have started shedding their leaves. The pilkhan is now growing new leaves, with colours changing from dusty purple to red, from bronze to pale green. The dhak will also start flowering very soon,” Pradip Krishen, author and conservationist, said.
With strong winds over the past two days, Delhi’s roads are now littered with these shed leaves. A riot of colours can also be seen at roundabouts in central Delhi where plants such as dianthus, antirrhinum and pansy have all started flowering.
A section of experts said that as the winter chill extended well into March, the process of shedding of leaves and flowering has been delayed this year.
“This year, because of the extended winter, some plants have started giving off new leaves rather late. Normally, the process starts by February-end or early-March. But this year, as March started on a cooler note, the process has been delayed,” said CR Babu, professor emeritus and head of the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystem (CEMDE) at Delhi University.
“The emergence of new leaves and blooming of flowers in trees like dhak, pilkhan, kusum Carribbean trumpet tree and millettia have been slightly delayed. In some trees, the flowers could not bloom fully because the temperature shot up suddenly over the past few days,” said Padmavati Dwivedi, an activist who conducted Delhi’s first tree census in a south Delhi neighbourhood.
“The process of shedding of leaves should have been over by now. But this year, we can see the roads are still littered with leaves. Temperature and humidity play a major role in the shedding of leaves,” said Prabhakar Rao, a member of Kalpavriksha Environment Action Group, and an expert on urban forests.
Delhi experienced its coldest March night in 40 years on March 1 this year, when the minimum temperature dropped to 6.8 degrees Celsius as winter lingered longer than usual.
The day temperature on Sunday, 34.3 degrees Celsius, was a degree above normal and the night temperature, 21 degrees Celsius, was three above normal. Officials from the India Meteorological Department’s regional weather forecasting centre in Delhi forecast that day temperatures will hover between 34 and 38 degrees Celsius. The night time mercury will remain between 19 and 22 degrees Celsius.