Two sub-Himalyan wildflowers and a stranger

From the plains the Manas National Park begins to rise as it crosses the border with Bhutan. In late March the forest was full of the graceful flowers of Clerodendrum wallichii. It has lots of fanciful names, but the one I like most is Nutan bleeding heart. Is that a reference to the film star Nutan, active in the 60s and 70s? I forgot to ask for the local Bodo name of the flower. A little further south the Khasi call it Horrandieng, and their neighbours, the Garo, call it Bolungre. Although Assam and the north-east are home to it, I’ve seen the flower escaped from gardens and growing wild in the Sahyadris. You know it is not local because in Maharashtra it is called Clerodendron. I suppose it is one of the flowers that now grow in temperate gardens.

In one spot I saw this Euphorbia cactus. I don’t think it is native. There are no cacti in this humid jungle. I suppose at some time there might have been a forest guard outpost here. The guards are local recruits, and treat their outpost as their home. To many of them the notion of protected biosphere means prevention of poaching, and perhaps, at a stretch, foraging. The notion that planting a garden, or releasing smuggled exotics into the wild is quite as undesirable has not yet been widely understood.

Among the flowers that I could not recognize were these tiny whites growing on vines in some spots. They seemed to prefer shade, but that is all I could tell. When you take a jeep through a jungle there is much that you can miss. Most drivers are tuned to large animals. A few have concentrated on the category of visitors who want to watch birds. I haven’t yet found a driver who will point out flowers and trees and fungi. And no one notices insects.

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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