AN ENCHANTING THIEF

Perfect weather makes a  glorious morning and the Garden is all set to receive guests.

Garden is set for the afternoon
                                             Garden is set for the afternoon

Dressed in a three stripe  suit the first guest gives a quick look all around and heads straight for the table.

the first guest arives
                                                                 the first guest arrives

After a swift jump on the chair and then onto the table  the uninvited guest does not realize it has been spotted.

a stealthy walk
                                                                    a stealthy walk

Sniffing around it assesses  the goodies .

the uninvited guest sniffs the goodies
                                                          the uninvited guest sniffs the goodies

The enchanting thief is caught with its head in the sugar till.

hand in the till
                                                  hand in the till

The Three Striped Squirrel ( English)  , Gilheri ( Hindi), Funambulus Palmarum ( Scientific) is native to India and well adapted to modern life.

Lord Ram , the  hero of the Indian epic Ramayan is said to have blessed this sweet chipmunk which helped his army in making the bridge across the Ocean to Lanka.

Mythology claims the three white stripes on the back of the squirrel are said to the be marks left by the fingers of the Lord Ram.

Do watch out for the  rarer five striped squirrel.

BLACK EYED SUSAN

This single extraordinary flower stands out from a sea of green at the amazing HOTEL FATEGARH in Udaipur.( Rajasthan, India).
At first glance it is difficult to identify what belongs to which plant. It is a maze of leaves, branches, buds and flowers.

eye catcher
                                                                      Eye Catcher

It is indeed a lot of fun ( and sometimes frustrating ) to identify a flower or a plant. Try it.

My recent education makes me hone it down to the Malvaceae family ( A  diverse family including the flower Hibiscus,  the cash crop Cotton,  vegetable Okra  and the fruit Durian) .

Recent education was in a vegetable market in New Delhi, where I saw the  conical tell tale buds of Roselle ( Hibiscus Sabdariffa )  for the first time. ( a rushed picture from my mobile)

Thus the Genus Hibiscus  is clearly  established from the buds , now onto the tougher part of identifying the species.

Roselle
                                                           Roselle bunched with Raw Mangoes

I have a recent picture of  the Lady Finger ( Okra) plant which shows the similarity of the two family members in the typical cone-shaped buds, the whorl below the buds and the leaves.

This picture was taken at THE CORN VILLAGE near Mussoorie in the Himalayas.

( please check out the blog http://www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com)

Can you imagine the vegetable Okra ( Abelmoschus esculentus and the flower above belong to the same family?

Okra
                                                            Okra or Lady Finger

When I checked out from the  initial look and colour of  the flower ( yellow with black centre)  I came up with no less than seven options from the Genus Hibiscus.

Hibiscus calyphyllus, Hibiscus caesius ( five-fingered mallow) ,Hibiscus hispidissimus,

Hibiscus lampas ( Jangli Bhindi) ,Hibiscus manihot ( Jangli Bhindi).Hibiscus vitifolius, Hibiscus abelmoschu.

Do remember all I have are photographs taken from a digital camera close to two decades ago.

malvacae family
                                                        Malvacae or Hibiscus  family

The habitat where one locates flora ( or fauna)  is an extremely useful tool in identifying the species.

After a pain staking comparison of the buds ( they have no hair in the picture), the typical whorl below the buds and the leaves resembling the head of a coconut tree ,I think the flower is christened Hibiscus Caesius Garcke.

( Please  verify at  http://efloraindia.nic.in ) 

As i leave you to ponder and decipher the correct identify of Susan, I move onto identify the white flowers seen along with these eye catchers.

BIRDS OF WISDOM

Nature has a charming way of casting an enchanting spell at the most unusual places.

The ultra luxurious Leela Hotel at Udaipur was a place where I  was least expecting to be smitten by Nature.

The lovely view of the beautiful City Palace from the gardens of the Leela Hotel  across Lake Pichola at Udaipur.

the view off the city palace at udaipur
                                                The View of the City Place at Udaipur

We were sitting under an old Jamun Tree ( English: Java Plum .Scientific name: Syzygium cumini)  located in the Gardens of the Leela Hotel when a rustle in the tree made me gaze upwards.

I was awestruck as I saw four lovely eyes gazing at me. They were a spectacular and loving pair of Spotted Owlets.( Ullus in Hindi).

The Spotted Owlets ( scientific name: Athena Brahma)  had made a hollow in this tree their home and though being nocturnal kept a careful watch for intruders during the day as well .

in the jamun tree
                                                  Cuddling in the Jamun tree

The scientific name is very interesting as the Genus Athene is derived from the Greek Goddess of Wisdom  Athena. Legend has it that a Parliament ( yes a group of owls is called so)  of Owls inhabited the Temple of the Goddess Athena in Athens, Greece.

The species Brama is in honour of Lord Brahma , the learned Hindu God of Wisdom and creator of the Vedas. The logic was that the owlets were unique to India.

The Spotted Owlet ( Athene Brama) is native to the Indian Sub continent and has a total of three subspecies as well.

well hidden
                                                                       Great Camouflage

It is interesting how perspectives vary across the world. An owl is considered to be wise in the Western World , however in India the Hindi word Ullu ( Owl) is a derogatory word for an Idiot.( German: Dumbkopf)

To complicate matters further, the Owl ( or Ullu in Hindi ) is revered in Hindu Mythology as the vehicle of the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi.

There is a temple shaped liked an Owl in India ( follow my blogs to know about it)  and the ruling deity is none other than Goddess Lakshmi who was worshiped across India yesterday during the festival of lights, Diwali.

Be bewitched by the enchanting ways of Nature in this Land of myth, fables and surprises.

THE DESERT BLOOMS

The Rao Jodha Desert Park surrounds the Mehrangarh Fort at Jodhpur in the state of Rajasthan in India.

It is an incredible story of THE DESERT BLOOMING and  the interesting  retrieval of a Rocky Desert from the clutches of Invasive weeds /shrubs and trees.

The beautiful all marble Jaswant Thada looks over one of several lakes in the Desert Park along with hundreds of endemic desert flora and fauna.

The Rao Jodha Desert Park
                                                      The Rao Jodha Desert Park

A galaxy of names from Desert Apple, Giant Swallow Wort, Milkweed, Apple of Sodom, Rubber Bush,  ( English) , Ark ( Hindi) , Calotropis Procera ( scientific) are used to address these Desert Blooms.

You can get a vast amount of Information on these beautiful flowers if you Google any of the names mentioned above..

The milky sap it exudes gives it the name Milkyweed, whereas the green apple like fruits give it the name Apple of Sodom.

The rubbery large leaves  of the Ark, however. are used by the camel herders or the RAIKA ( do see my blog on this amazing community) for drinking Camel’s milk.

Milkweed
                                                                 Milkweed

Not only do these beautiful plants look good they also improve the fertility of the soil by retaining water in the soil.

These beautiful  blossoms along with other parts of the bush ( leaves, roots, bark)  have a  large number of medical uses.

They provide an herbal remedy to  asthma, fevers , paralysis and swellings.

flowers and buds
                                                  Flowers,  Buds and ants.

Nature provides a remedy for all human ailments.

Even the Rocky Deserts of Rajasthan are enchanting provided we take a close look.

A LONELY STORK

The Painted Stork ( English) , Kathsarang ( Hindi, Pinglaksh ( Sanskrit)  or Mycteria leucocephala ( scientific) is native to the Indian Subcontinent and found primarily near wetlands.

This lonely male painted stork was seen looking for a partner in Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary in Bharatpur, Rajasthan.

The male storks are distinguishable  by an orange neck and bald head as can be seen in the two  pictures that follow.

This handsome but lonely gentleman  was looking for his partner on this lonely Road.

A lonely Painted Stork
                                                                       A   Lonely Painted Stork

See the lovely pinks, oranges and yellows that give it the name Painted Stork.

The painted storks are local residents to the Indian Subcontinent but prefer temperate climates.

They neither like the cool Himalayas or the intense heat of the deserts.

the stork leg up
                                                                     One leg Up

Do notice the large black and white wingspan and stretched out neck typical of storks when in flight.

A lovely Desi Babool ( Scientific name Acacia Nilotica)   with delicate Canary yellow flowers forms the perfect backdrop to the graceful Painted Stork.

In flight
                                                                                        In flight

The Painted Stork and it’s nest in the midst of a tree located on an island in the numerous water bodies of the national Park.

They usually nest in large colonies and you can hear them from quite a distance as they discuss their domestic affairs.

Nesting on a babool tree
                                                      Nesting on a tree

These pictures were take ages ago when I had a small Sony Digital Camera, no fancy cameras or mobiles.

Located these pictures  and decided to share some precious memories though they are not as clear as I would like them.

Happy Diwali.

LILY OF THE INCAS

These absolutely stunning and unusual flowers take my breath away.

Native to the distant mountains of South America, the Andes , once home to the ancient Incas they are called THE LILY OF THE INCAS.

They were named Alstroemeria by Linnaeus ( father of botanical names or tongue twisters) after  his friend Swedish Baron Karl von Alstroemer. ( why not more appropriately an Inca Chief?).

bunch of peruvian lilies
                                                       Bunch of Peruvian Lilies

The tubular form makes the  flower look very similar to a Lily ( see side profile in pic below) , hence the nomenclature Lily is accurate.

However almost all the species known to date are native to Chile and Brazil, thus the name PERUVIAN LILY is a mystery .

The flowers have many interesting and curious features . One of which is that  the leaves grow BOTTOMS UP. See the picture below, the base of the leaves twists so the underside faces upwards. Why do they do so?

turning leaves of the peruvian lily
                                    Turning leaves of the Peruvian Lily

These amazing  flowers are made of 3 petals ( smaller three in the centre)  and 3 sepals ( larger outer ones)  . What is interesting is that the sepals and petals have the same colour making it difficult to differentiate between the two.

These large and beautiful flowers of the Incas have however NO FRAGRANCE.

( philosophers/ poets are free to their interpretations)

The flowers are now  extensively cultivated  across the world as they exhibit a very long shelf life in a Vase.

flower and bud of peruvian lily
                                      Flowers and a bud of the Lily of the Incas

Numerous hybrids in a wide range of bright  colours  are now  commercially available and thus also called PARROT LILY . They are grown from clusters of tubers.

The flower of the Alstoemeria symbolizes friendship and devotion.

All the pictures were taken in the lovely Green House of the JW Marriott Walnut Grove Spa & Resort, Mussoorie. See the picture .

The wonderful and creative chefs of the Resort photographed with the Green House ( home to hundreds of exotic flowers)  forming the backdrop.

Home of the Peruvian Lily
                                                        Home of the Peruvian Lily in the background

Keep following these blogs as more tumbles out from the barbecue and green house in the days to follow.

Say Happy Diwali with potted plants and celebrate with Nature.

CHINESE LANTERNS

These  gorgeous chandeliers of the desert are the flowers of the Sickle Bush ( English).

Called Khairi in Hindi and carrying a tongue twister of a scientific name  Dichrostachys cinerea they are gradually replacing the invasive Vilayti keekar ( Prosposis Juliflora)  in Rao Jodha Park in Jodhpur.

The sterile flowers change from pink  ( see featured image) to white  ( see pic below) as the flower ages.

In white
                                                              Pink turns  to  White

The Sickle bush is a short stunted tree or bush belonging to the Touch- me-not  (Mimosaceae)  family .

Fertile flowers make up the  yellow head of these Chinese Lanterns, whereas the pink rear are the sterile flowers. The collective presence of two kinds of flowers gives it the generic name Dichrostachys. Continue reading CHINESE LANTERNS

Amazing Peacocks

Enchanted Forests

The  stunning  Peacock (  Scientific Name Pavo cristatus)  is the National  Bird of India.

India is also the Native habitat of this gorgeous bird.

I leave you with images captured across the country .

All images are of birds in the wild and none were in captivity.

close up                                                                 close up

The peahen is unfortunately not as spectacular as the Peacock, but the sea green neck is still gorgeous.

pea hen                                                                    pea hen

Interestingly over a dozen peacocks near an ancient well.( the four pillars are…

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Amazing Peacocks

The  stunning  Peacock (  Scientific Name Pavo cristatus)  is the National  Bird of India.

India is also the Native habitat of this gorgeous bird.

I leave you with images captured across the country .

All images are of birds in the wild and none were in captivity.

close up
close up

The peahen is unfortunately not as spectacular as the Peacock, but the sea green neck is still gorgeous.

pea hen
pea hen

Interestingly over a dozen peacocks near an ancient well.( the four pillars are unique to Medieval India) . I wonder why there are no Peahens  ?

peacocks at a well
ONLY  peacocks at an ancient  well near the steps to a fort

Water is a precious commodity during  Indian summers. A langur ( see the pic below) rushes towards the hand pump ( in the foreground) where a peacock is drinking water.

the peacock a well and a langur
The Peacock ,a water hand pump and a Langur

The Peacock interestingly drops these magnificent feathers and regrows them at regular intervals throughout the year.(  a phenomena called called moulting).

Trust you will be curious to google more information on this large bird which roams free throughout the Indian subcontinent.

The Rose of Winter

These gorgeous flowers resembling roses are called Camellias.

Native to Japan and China they represent faithfulness and longevity.

CamelliaCamellia japonica

the bud
                                                                                the bud

These wonderful flowers were  spotted at the JW Marriott Resort  gardens in Mussoorrie.

Looking deceptively like roses they are close cousins of the plants ( Camellia sinensis)  of the favourite Indian beverage Tea. 

red wood rose
                                                          Blood  red flowers in bloom 

As there are numerous hybrids of these beautiful flowers please correct me if I have identified them incorrectly.

There is a lot of information on Wikipedia about these flowers which were introduced in America from China and are now the state flowers of the state of Alabama in USA.