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The spectacular world of exotic flowering trees

Alladi Jayasri

They not only enchant the onlooker but also find a place in a book



IN ABUNDANCE: Tabebuia avellanedae in front of the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore.

BANGALORE: Bangalore earned its first sobriquet of "Garden City" in mid-19th century, after two of its famous landmarks, Lalbagh (1856) and Cubbon Park (1870), came into being.

A good number of flowering trees, both exotic and indigenous, ensured that the name became a well-deserved one. But the one tree that delights and enchants the onlooker even to this day is the tabebuia, which paints the town yellow and pink every March-April.

Says S. Narayana Swamy, Assistant Director of Horticulture, in charge of Vidhana Soudha's gardens, "the tabebuias, also called the New World Trumpet tress, came from South America and the West Indies." The tabebuias even dominate the book, "Blossoms of Bangalore", written by former Chief Secretary the Late T.P. Issar. He notes that 10 species of the tree are acclimatised in Bangalore. The European curators of Lalbagh, William New and John Cameron, introduced them here as exotic flowering trees in the late 19th century.

The seasonal cycle of blooms of the tabebuia makes it conspicuous. Mr. Narayana Swamy says the blooming begins after the end of the rainy season. The first to bloom is the species called Tabebuia avellanedae.

As the winter sets in during November, the flowers emerge in singles, and in a few days, all the leaves are shed, making the tree look like a forlorn skeleton. But two or three days later, the buds burst open, and the deep pink, bell-shaped flowers make a pretty picture in the misty mornings.

"It is not unusual to see walkers, joggers and commuters stop at Minsk Square or Basaveshwara Circle to admire them," says Mr. Narayana Swamy, who has counted many on the Jnanabharati campus of Bangalore University where he was earlier Horticulture Officer.

The Tabebuia argentea pops up rather pertly in the first week of January in Bangalore. The Tabebuia spectabilis brings its dazzling flowers in a spectacular display in the first week of March, but the glory lasts only a week.

It is then the turn of the Tabebuia rosea. As the name suggests, this is a rose-coloured bloom with a subtle light pink flowers that are utterly bewitching. Their semi pink and white flowers are a dignified lot, and the tree does not shed its leaves, and the green-pink-white foliage makes for a great spring ambience.

There are a few groups of roseas around Cubbon Park, but they occur only in singles in Lalbagh, says Mr. Narayana Swamy.

The Tabebuia rosea grandiflora, as the name suggests, is the grandest of all tabebuias, and it waits to splash out in light pink until after all the other sister trees have made their appearance and gone backstage.

It is a rare sight, because of the short duration of blooming. A conical canopy, and a stately trunk make it the most elegant of the tabebuias. Only a few of these trees are to be found in Lalbagh and Cubbon Park today.

During March-April, the Tabebuia pallida, glassy pink flowers with yellow throat and pink lines, also join the carnival of colours.

A solitary tabebuia, Tabebuia donnell smithii, can be found in Raj Bhavan.

This native of Mexico has glistening yellow trumpet shaped flowers, but a poor canopy, and in February, looks spectacular against the stately backdrop of Raj Bhavan.

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