CACTUS BLOOMS

I had always heard that the bright  Blossoms of Cacti are a sight to behold.

I always associated Cacti with dry Arid  Deserts in far away  lands like Mexico.

However, Nature had a surprise for me in the Rain Soaked Himalayas in the North East of India.

Little did I realize that the Himalayan Abode of Clouds  at Kalimpong would treat me to a Spectacular view of Cacti Blooms, have a look.

This is the Misty Himalayan Abode  of the brilliantly coloured  Cacti Blossoms that follow.

view from cactus nursery
The Cactii View of the Himalayas

Brilliant colours of these Cacti blossoms rival the Orchids, Azaleas and Rhododendrons of the Himalayas.

orange bloom
Vibrant Orange

Mellow Yellow Beauties nestled  in the midst of Beastly Thorns . I draw your attention to the  interesting bud at the bottom of the picture.

yellow
Mellow Yellow

Nature springs Enchanting surprises, ‘Amazing’ are they not?

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PINK ALL THE WAY

Gorgeous bouquets in Pink and White adorned the sprawling lawns of the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur.

It was a romantic setting for a grand and spectacular Indian Wedding ( will post a blog on the same at a later date on http//www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com). I had a real close look and attempted to unravel the meaning of each flower in the bouquet.

Pink hydrangeas (Scientific name Hydrangea macrophylla) romantically symbolize  heart beats.

Native to the Himalayas and China they are consumed as Herbal tea in China, Japan and Korea.

hydragenas
Pink hydrangea or “you are the beat of my heart”

Pink button pom pom Chrysanthemums belong to the Sunflower family Asteraceae. Each flower is actually a collection of flowers in the centre and the pink  petals are in fact  ray florets.

Native to China they symbolize Happiness and are even today the symbol of The Imperial Family of Japan.

The Festival of Happiness in Japan celebrates  Chrysanthemums.

chrysanthemums
Happy button Chrysanthemum

Roses ( family Rosaceae)  have for time immemorial been the symbol  of love. Pink roses symbolize happiness and admiration.

These graceful and lovely Pink Rose buds have a solitary golden bud of the Aster flower for company.

Roses are also native to Asia and China in particular.

pink roses
Pink Roses

Pink Carnations (Scientific name Dianthus caryophyllus) symbolize love and fascination.

As per Christian mythology they sprung up where Mother Marys tears fell on Earth as she saw Jesus on a cross.

Also called Dianthus, the literal translation from Greek means the Flower of the Gods.

carnation
Fascinating Love

Love, Fascination, Heart Beats and Admiration all make up the perfect Wedding Bouquet.

Bouquet of Pink
All in Pink

I wonder if the florists knew that all the Pink flowers in the gorgeous bouquet are native to Asia.

 

THE DANDELION PUFFBALL

These gorgeous flowers are actually quite small and but for their attractive golden colour would have missed my eye.

Dandelion ( English), Dudhi ( Hindi) , Taraxacum officinale ( scientific)

Known down the centuries by both Indian and Western Herbal Medical practitioners, all parts of the plant are used for curing various ailments.

The Dandelion is particularly useful to cure ailments of the Liver and Kidneys.

The flower and leaves are also used to make wine and salads respectively. The leaves are a rich source for various vitamins and minerals .

Dandelion
             Dandelion growing as a weed in the gardens of JW Marriot,  Mussoorie

It was by chance that I photographed the Puffball in quite another location in the Himalayas. ( in the garden of the Brentwood sanctuary near Prateeks lovely home)

It was only upon writing this article that I realized the Puffball is none other than the ripe fruit of the gorgeous golden yellow dandelion flower.

The seeds are dispersed by the wind and have inspired famous poets like William Wordsworth.

It is however an invasive weed and infests the crops of farmers around the world.

Puffball
                                                             Puffball

Do keep reading for more interesting anecdotes about  Himalayan wildflowers.

BABY’S DAY OUT

I could hardly resist taking pictures of these lovely lavender coloured flowers within the Dhanraj Mansion at Mumbai.

The Dhanraj Mansion is a lovely heritage building located diagonally opposite the historical YACHT CLUB and THE TAJ MAHAL HOTEL  ( do check out my blog THE GATEWAY TO INDIA at http://www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com) .

The Laurel Clock Vine is a  vigorous climber and  had covered the Gulmohar tree and formed the hedge in the mansion as well.

A Vigorous climber in Dhanraj Mansion
                                                A Vigorous climber in Dhanraj Mansion

The heart ( or paan ) shaped leaves with their pointed tips adorn this creeper unique to South Asia. Unknown to me these attractive  leaves serve  as baby cradles as well.

the hedge
                                                                       The hedge of the Laurel Clock Vine

As I went closer to photograph the flowers of the Laurel Clock Vine ( Scientific name: Thunbergia laurifolia)  I was surprised as two eyes inquisitively looked back at me .

Nature springs a lovely surprise gift.

the flower and baby
                                                            the flower and baby

A baby  chameleon ( I guess a few days old only)  was  probably on his first day out and had stretched out on a heart-shaped leaf. Have a look at  the baby  sunbathing on his cradle.

Reminds me of the fairy tale of Thumbelina.

the chameleon baby
                                                                    the chameleon baby

How can I not share  a close up of the gorgeous flowers which had beckoned me into this lovely mansion. Do observe the vine winds up clockwise giving the creeper its name .

The guard of the mansion  was extremely unhappy with my photographic acrobatics.

Beating a hasty retreat I wonder if the inmates of the mansion  ever saw the baby ?

the laurel clock vine flower
                                                    The Laurel Clock vine flower

I had been enchanted in an Urban Forest in the midst of bustling Mumbai . Hope you discover the JOY OF NATURE in the cities you dwell in as well.

THE CHAMELEON FLOWERS

If you look at the pictures that follow  you will wonder if the scientists who named the flower Blue Morning-Glory have mixed up  their colours .

They are however  the Chameleon flowers of the hills, thus the scientists are not at fault.

The spiral buds are a shade of a baby pink. With the morning sun they transform into a beautiful shade of blue.

Oceanblue morning-glory
                                              Ocean blue morning-glory

The flower has numerous names and each picture has been captioned with one of  these several names.

It is indeed a very interesting flower as it changes colour from dawn to dusk.

The picture below of the  violet tubular flower , (characteristic of the Ipomoea family ) were taken early in the evening. The petals are curling up and have faded from a blue to a magenta-violet shade.

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                        Blue  morning-glory

  Ipomoea indica is unique to the foothills of the Himalayas and found near the towns of  Mussoorie and Nainital in the hilly state of Uttaranchal.

The seeds contain alkaloids and can give a high similar to  drugs like LSD.

Ipomoea indica
                                                                      Ipomoea indica

Spotted on the hills near Mussoorie, the Blue Morning-Glory is a gorgeous creeper.

The three lobed leaves along with a multitude of flowers  covered the entire fence of a lovely cottage located on the edge of a Himalayan hill.

Blue Dawn Flower
                                                      Blue Dawn Flower

The Sweet potato ( Ipomoea batatas) or Shakarkandhi in Hindi is a cousin of the blue morning-glory as well.

Talk of cousins being similar.

GOLDEN BLOSSOMS

LANTANA. (Lantana camara) 

Watch these little pockets of joy evolve into gorgeous golden blossoms.

baby
baby

Transforming from green to  ecru and then finally  yellow

middle stage
middle stage

Covered with yellow blossoms, the butterflies love it too.

in full bloom

They have traveled a long way from their native Mexico.

A GOOD OMEN

The Greater Coucal or Crow Pheasant ( Centropus sinensis ) is a fairly large  bird you see across the Indian Subcontinent.

If you follow the calls of birds you will be able to spot them as well. The Crow Pheasant has  a distinctive booming call.

It has extremely interesting names in the  vernacular  languages. With the names are interwoven myths and folklore.

Called Bharadwaj in Marathi , this member of the Cuckoo family,  is supposed to herald good fortunate. Thus considered a GOOD OMEN.

For me personally  flora and fauna is a   GOOD OMEN.

Is it a Crow?
                                                             Is it a Crow?

Am telling these myths for fun and joy. Please, for heaven’s sake do not take them seriously.

There is another myth about the Coucal ( being a doctor of sorts),  it cures all ailments

The Kid chooses the blossoms of a tree
                                        The Kid chooses the blossoms of a tree

Called Kamadi kukkar in Punjabi, it is linked to the Chicken ( Kukkar in Punjabi) .

The Coucal is also believed to cure all ailments related to the Lungs including asthama.

Juvenile Coucal
                                                           Juvenile Coucal

The pictures above were taken in the gorgeous ANANTA SPA & RESORTS in magical  Udaipur.

AFRICAN FLAME OF THE FOREST

Behold the Glory of Nature and be overcome.

This Gorgeous Tree  Is located on the edge of a Hill in Bhopal, within the sprawling estate of the Noor-us- Sabah Heritage Hotel.

SPATHODEA CAMPANULATA  or THE AFRICAN TULIP TREE

The Tree
                                                                                The Tree

In full bloom the magnificent tulip shaped flowers of this tall and upright tree set the landscape on fire. A combination of the  Origins and the Bright Flame Coloured Flowers have given the tree the alias AFRICAN FLAME OF THE FOREST.

A closer look
                                                                      A closer look

The Tulip Tree is a close relative of the Sausage tree. Both are native to the African Continent.

True to its name the blossoms have set the tree on fire.

Under the tree
                                                                   Splendour under the tree

Do locate such splendid trees in your neighbourhood

MOON BEAM AND A BLOGGER’S EYE PACK

Vernacular Languages are so accurately  descriptive especially when describing native flora and fauna. 

Chandni in Hindi says it all. Somehow when translated into Moon Beam in English , it looses a bit of the moonshine.  The magical and enchanting Chandni bush is draped with these gorgeous flowers and is a romantic  sight to behold on a moonlit night.

chandni
                                                                     Chandni

I always thought these flowers were called Periwinkle. Don’t  they looked like the paper periwinkles ( fans you get for children all over India. Another thing to look for on your travels within India if you have not seen them thus far.

However I  discovered a beautiful name and an eye pack for my sore eyes. while I was hunting for the botanical name of  Chandni. Scientific name Tabernaemontana Divaricata.

Simply crush the Chandni flowers in a mortar and put the paste  within the folds of a very damp muslin cotton handkerchief. Place it over your eyes and all burning sensations caused by long working  hours in front of  the computer  will be beamed  out of the window.

They are also called Carnations of India. An evergreen tree , there is a magnificent specimen outside Hema’s house in GK 1, New Delhi.

the feather and the Carnation of India
                                        The feather and the Carnation of India

Can you guess the name of the bird which left a clue behind?