Blue hairy

Walk along the Sahyadris in July and August, and you will find a variety of flowers growing everywhere: on the verges of roads, on the berms between paddy fields, and on rocky slopes. There’s a genus called Cyanotis (dew grasses) which are common, and in which the species are not easy to tell apart. I’d seen the Sahyadri dew grass (Cyanotis tuberosa) in Kaas plateau some years ago. This week I saw something that, after much dithering, I think is the common and widespread Cyanotis cristata (crested dew grass). In Marathi it is called nabhali, and the fact that it also has names in Telugu, Tamil, Mizo and Nepali attests to its wide distribution in India. The Kew listing shows a broader distribution: through south and south-east Asia, and in parts of Africa. IndiaBioDiversity lists it as flowering and fruiting in the months of July to October. In the pouring rain during my walks, I must have missed the fruits.

The plants clearly spreads quickly, and perhaps doesn’t need much water, because patches of gravelly ground next to roads had been taken over by these low shrubs which came up to my ankles. I suppose they are less than 30 cms tall. The flowers are small, about half a centimeter across, but highly visible because of their bright blue to purple colour, topped as they are by the contrasting bright pollen. I love the tangled crest of filaments which gives this species its name, although the feature is common to the genus.

In this second photo, the pale carpel sticks out, a long way away from the stamens. I think the rain must have disarranged it, because the pollen from the stamens can no longer be brushed off on the backs of the usual pollinators which dive into the carpel for nectar. I’m happy to have my new conveniently small water-resistant camera with such a lovely macro lens for the monsoon.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

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