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Flamboyant indicators of summer

A Flame of the forest tree in full bloom. Image from the SUJÁN archives.

At this time of year the dry landscapes of Rajasthan are injected with a burst of colour as flowers of the spring blossoms such as the Flame of the forest (Monosperma Butea) and the Marwar Teak (Tecomella undulata) begin to bloom.

Both the Jawai landscape and the Ranthambhore forest are covered with these dry deciduous with ‘dhak’ trees (Butea monsoperma), a species that is capable of withstanding long periods of drought.

A parakeet extracting nectar from the flowers of the Flame of the forest. Image by Yusuf Ansari.

Native to India, Flame of the forest is a medium sized tree, growing 20-40 feet high, and the trunk is usually crooked and twisted with irregular branches and rough, grey bark. From January to March it truly becomes a tree of flame, a riot of orange and vermilion flowers covering the entire crown.

A leopard spotted through the Flame of the forest. Image by Vedant Thite.

It is no surprise the tree is considered by many to be a form of Agni – the God of Fire. The flowers of the Flame of the forest are often used to make a dye which is used during the festival of Holi.

Tecomella undulata is a monotypic genus and one of the most important deciduous trees in the dry regions of Rajasthan. Locally known as Rohida, or the Marwar teak, the plant holds tremendous potential of medicinal value.

A Marwar teak tree. Image from the SUJÁN archives.

These trees also play an important role in ecology of the area. They act as a soil-binding tree by spreading a network of lateral roots on the top surface of the soil.

Marwar teak is also used for the production of high quality timber, in addition to its use as fuel, wood and fodder.

The Marwar teak is very attractive when in full bloom from March to April. The flowers are large tubular and usually bright yellow and orange.

A flower from the Marwar teak. Image from the SUJÁN archives.

It is a treat to the eyes seeing these flowers in the wilderness at this time of year. Both trees can be spotted in their fiery splendour from miles away, injecting the granite rocks and dry landscapes beautifully with their colour.

A Rabari escorting his flock across the Jawai hills. Image by Vedant Thite.


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