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Monsoon Blooms!

Monsoon Blooms!

By September, the magical monsoon casts a colourful spell on Indian hill slopes and plateaus to create floral wonder lands. The term 'monsoon flora' is used for herbs, shrubs and bushes that appear lush green during the rainy season and by August and September, bear beautiful flowers to help the species reproduce. Have you heard of the Kaas Plateau in Maharashtra or the Valley of Flowers in the Himalaya? Here, the changes in the flowers and their colours happen so quickly, that the entire plateau and valley look different week after week!

Most of these flowers are insect pollinated. The bright colours help to attract insects. The flowers have nectaries as rewards for the visitors but since the quantity of sugar is not enough to fill its stomach, the insect is forced to move from one flower to the next, which helps in pollination.

Glory lily Gloriosa superba

Suraj Das Photo: Suraj Das.

You might have thought that lilies grow only in water. The glory lily is a terrestrial lily, whose flower blooms upside-down, a phenomenon referred to as a ‘reflex corolla’. The stalk holding the flower is attached to its base from above. The flower is also called the ‘tiger’s claw’ as the petal colors are similar to that of a tiger. In nature, bright red is usually associated with danger – every part of this plant is poisonous, especially the underground swollen roots called tubers. A chemical called colchicines extracted from the plant is used to treat certain types of cancers.

Indian sundew Drosera indica

Dr. Pramod Bansode Photo: Dr. Pramod Bansode.

The Indian sundew, an insect-eating plant, derives its name from a sticky liquid on the tips of its branches which looks like shining dew. The sticky liquid drops help to capture insects. The insects become an alternate source of nitrogen for the plant which grows in soils with poor nitrogen content.

Spherical pipewort Eriocaulon sedgwickii

Saurabh Sawant Photo: Saurabh Sawant.

This plant is found only in the rocky plateaus and shallow waters of the Western Ghats. The delicate white flower heads of the plant, which are less than a centimeter in diameter, appear on bright green stems that are less than 61 cm. tall.

Doll orchid Habenaria crinifera

Raman Kulkarni
Photo: Raman Kulkarni.

The ‘dancing’ flowers and the shape of its petals, give the doll orchid its common name. The plant is found in places where there is a lot of moisture in the air. It usually grows on the ground, but can occasionally be seen growing on tree trunks as well.

Kaas, Satara - The colour blast

Pushkar Achyute
Photo: Pushkar Achyute.

Located 22 km. away from the city of Satara, the Kaas Plateau is often referred to as Maharashtra’s ‘Valley of Flowers’. Vast expanses of grass and open vegetation grow on the rich soil. Carpets of stunning, coloured flowers belonging to varied plant families adorn the otherwise flat terrain. During summer, the same landscape becomes dry and dull.

Nabhali Cyanotis sp.

Suraj Das Photo: Suraj Das.

The scientific name of the nabhali is derived from the bright blue hues of the flower (cyan means blue). The delicate, hairy male and female parts of the flower make it appear like a rounded puff. It is quite common along edges of streams, in moist soils and in grasslands.

Tropical sundew Drosera burmannii

Saurabh Sawant Photo: Saurabh Sawant.

Another insectivorous plant which is hardly an inch in diameter, the tropical sundew’s leaves take just a few seconds to curl around an unwary prey insect. This herb has concentric short stems and leaves and grows flat on the surface of marshy soil in grasslands and degraded deciduous forests.

Water willow Justicia sp.

Saurabh Sawant Photo: Saurabh Sawant.

A plant more common in southern parts of India, the water willow is less than 61 cm. tall. The flower has additional green, hairy and leafy parts called bracts, which help it to attract insects. The large lower petal acts as a ‘landing stage’ for flying insects and the dark lines function as ‘runways’ to lead the insects to nectar-bearing glands.

Peacock fly trap Ceropegia oculata

Saurabh Sawant Photo: Saurabh Sawant.

This climber bears tube-like flowers, whose tip looks like a snake’s head. Inside the tube are stiff hair-like projections. The flower attracts insects using the nectar at the base of the tube. Once the insect is inside the tube, the mouth of the flower closes and the trapped insect moves around inside. Only when this process is over, the flower opens to release the insect to visit another such flower and help in pollination.

First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia Cub, September 2013.

 
 
 

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