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Mumbaiwale: How to identify plants that only spring up in the monsoon?

A 60-year-old guidebook, complete with beautiful illustrations and local names might help

mumbai Updated: Jul 01, 2019 08:32 IST
Rachel Lopez
Rachel Lopez
Hindustan Times
Monsoon,plants,Konkan
Picture for representation only.(HT Photo)

Finally some rain!

I’d written, briefly, a few weeks ago, about my favourite part of the season: the four-month plant party in which every growing thing goes crazy. I love the climbers that cover large swathes of the Konkan – a green hijab – of the Sahyadri valley. I love neon-green moss on boundary walls. I love shoots tearing out of concrete corners. And along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway last weekend, I spotted so many wildflowers, I suspect I bored my travel companion half to sleep.

I’ve been looking for a good field guide to the season’s plants. I haven’t found one yet. This one is by no means exhaustive, but certainly is among he prettiest. And it’s from the Bombay Natural History Society publication from 1959. The fourth in the BNHS’s Glimpses of Nature series, Our Monsoon Plants lists a handful of common greens (and, helpfully, local names), as compiled by Madhav Raut and beautifully illustrated by Mrs B Lucas.

Here are excerpts from some of my favourite entries:

TALIMKHANA

Talamkhana (Hindi) Gokshura (Hindi and Marathi) Talimkhana; Kolsunda (Marathi)

This thorny shrub attracts attention by the conspicuous colour of its flowers, which may vary from purple-blue to pale violet. The flowers are borne in whorls at each node. All over the country large patches of swampy places are covered with it, while during the monsoon it is common in damp places and along the roadside.

TALIMKHANA

INDIAN FLEABANE

Sahadevi (Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati)

This small herb, bearing tiny brush-like flowers, is found in the countryside and also as a weed in fields and gardens. Each brush-like flower is really composed of a number of tiny flowers. When the ‘seeds’ (really fruits) ripen, small powder-puff-like balls are seen. We can see many species of this plant having white, pink, violet, reddish or purple flowers.

INDIAN FLEABANE

INDIAN MALLOW

Chota Bala (Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati) Bariara (Hindi)

This slender shrub with its many branches is studded with small yellow flowers during the latter part of the monsoon. The plant yields fine strong fibres. Some species grow to a height of 6 to 7 ft and are covered with coarse hairs. Various species may be seen along the roadside and the railway track, as well as occupying large patches of waste land.

INDIAN MALLOW

HILL TURMERIC

Kachura (Hindi) Ran Halad, Ambe Halad (Marathi) Kachuri (Gujarati)

Seen along streams and rivulets as attractive bunches of flowers coming up from the ground surrounded by broad leaves. They form bright, conspicuous patches. The mauve-purple parts of this plant (often as red as illustrated) are the coverings—known as bracts — of small clusters of bright yellow flowers which are partly hidden. Different species may have dark rose, crimson, purple, pink or red bracts, and purple, yellow or white flowers.

HILL TURMERIC

WATER HYACINTH

Jalakumbhi (Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati)

A part of a lake or slow-flowing river covered with 6 to 10-inch bunches of beautiful flowers of mauve or lilac of this floating plant is indeed a beautiful sight. But its rapid spread ultimately obstructs the flow of water, so this plant has become a menace in our country, particularly in the eastern parts. A native of South America, it was introduced into India as a garden plant about fifty years ago, and has now spread all over the country.

WATER HYACINTH

MONSOON CASSIA

Pavad; Chakvad (Hindi) Takla (Marathi) Kuwadio (Gujarati)

Flowers are borne in large numbers during the latter part of the season. This plant can be recognised by the compound leaf of three pairs of leaflets, the flower with five pale yellow petals, the seven stamens and the long slender pods. The tender leaves are used as a vegetable and the seeds, rich in protein, are good as food for cattle.

MONSOON CASSIA

WILD COCKSCOMB

Surwari (Hindi) Kurdu (Marathi) Lampdi (Gujarati)

The swinging tufts of glistening pinkish flowers of this herb impart a lively touch to the landscape whether it is an open place, a harvested field, a river bank or a railway track. The plant is one of the most common monsoon herbs; but parts of the plant assume a different appearance according to the soil and situation. Each tuft consists of a number of small flowers, each of which has a dry and papery corolla and calyx.

WILD COCKSCOMB

BLUE IPOMOEA

Neel Kamalata (Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati)

The bell- or funnel-shaped flowers of different species of Ipomoea glistening in the sunlight are a common sight. The flowers of many wild species, like the one here, are seen during the monsoon, while those of the cultivated species are found throughout the year. Most species of Ipomoea twine round a support while some creep along the ground. The colours of the flowers range from pure white to dark blue or purple and all shades of yellow and crimson.

BLUE IPOMOEA

First Published: Jun 29, 2019 00:44 IST