Devoid of flower through the year it is like any other tree pale of trunk and green of leaf. But come March, when the Flame of the Forest burns up the landscape for far furlongs, its incendiary sight you can neither ignore nor forget
I remember Beej telling me about his first visit to BR Hills on damp, foggy morning, and how the Flame of the Forest in full bloom had studded the landscape like the faces of smiling children in a sea of glum grownups. When I saw the spectacle for myself it was an epiphany in itself.
It was in March last year, when mornings had ceased to be bone-chilling and moved on to what one might call mild and pleasant, that I was on a customary stroll along the bund of the now “ruined for renovation” Hebbal Lake in Mysore. Just next to a fig tree of which I have written some time ago), I noticed a breathtaking transformation. There had materialized a tree, with branches that looked like bare muddied bones covered with orange-red flowers like glowing upturned claws. The morning sun rendered the numerous flowers yellow with gleaming edges. It looked like the tree was smiling - nay, I should say beaming. The name of the tree dawned upon me automatically – from my memory of Beej describing it on one of our trips. Flame of the Forest. Butea monosperma.
|A hundred glowing claws|
|Tongues of Flame|
|A closer look at the flowers|
|Look closely and you can't miss the pods that encapsulate the seeds|
The hardy tree, which thrives in a variety of climates and topographies, is a medicinally important plant as extracts from it are used in various drugs. Now I am on the lookout for a sapling for my tiny yard. I’d love to have a Flame of the Forest right next to the mango, guava and sapodilla saplings that I have planted.
Text and photos: Sandeep Somasekharan
Smitten with flowering trees? You have to check out The Green Ogre's archive of posts celebrating them!