For a whiff of fresh air

For a whiff of fresh air

Worried the post-festival garbage dumped on road will lead to stench and other problems? Grow these trees to keep the air clean and fresh, says Rashmi Shrinivas.

Now that the Gowri-Ganesha festivals are over, dumping of flowers and other accessories used in festival on road side is not uncommon. Though systematic wastage disposal was introduced in the City quite some time back, such incidents of dumping of garbage in vacant sites can be spotted occasionally.

Heavy rains this year only add to the woes since this garbage rots and emanates an unbearable stench. What will you do if such things happen in your neighbourhood? Though taking charge of the entire neighbourhood is impracticable, there is still a simple way of tackling such problems by improving the air in a small area in front of your house.

This can be achieved by growing a couple of trees bearing fragrant flowers at the entrance of your gate. Though we have a host of such plants like Plumeria alba/rubra (Frangipani), Nyctanthes (Parijata) etc, it is the Tree Jasmine that has been gaining popularity among garden enthusiasts based in Bangalore of late.

Tree Jasmine, as the name suggests, bears fragrant flowers that are more than enough to nullify the stink of garbage, if any, in your neighbourhood. Though jasmines are generally borne on climbers, this fragrant jasmine-like flower is borne on a tree and hence the name. This tall evergreen tree does not branch too much and grows upright.

Its dark green compound leaves with dentate margin give an attractive look to the tree even when it is not into flowering! It, however, bears clusters of attractive white fragrant flowers. Flowering season is twice a year! Superficially, these flowers resemble the flowers of Tuberosa (Sugandharaja) though they are totally unrelated. The flowers are too short-lived and fall early, resulting in a fragrant carpet of white flowers that would turn off-white as time passes, below the trees.

The jasmine flowers can be woven into ornamental braids without using any thread just as in the case of Quisqualis (Rangoon creeper) and Mirabilis jalapa ( Madhyahna mallige). It is known as Indian Cork Tree, since its soft wood was a cheaper substitute of real cork in making bottle lids. Until recently, some Ayurvedic medicines and honey were stored in bottles with cork lids.

Though this tree is a native of Burma, it is now common in India. In Kannada, it is known as Birade Mara and in Konkani, as Boocha rooku, both meaning “lid tree”! It is botanically known as Millingtonia hortensis and belongs to the family Bignoniaceae (Neerukayi mara family). The name Millingtonia is in honour of 18th Century botanist Millington and hortensis in Latin means “related to garden”. In fact, this tree was popularly grown as bordering tree in tea estates of Burma. Since it was found to be invasive, it lost its popularity there.

However, in cities like Bangalore, day by day it is gaining popularity not only because of its fragrant flowers, but also because of its ability to grow in any kind of soil and low maintenance. Though its fruits are not seen generally, seedlings appear below the trees. This tree can be propagated either by these seedlings or from the plants procured from nurseries.

Though it takes about 6-8 years to attain maturity, once it grows it lasts at least for a period of 40 years. Considering the fragrant flowers it yields that can even be used in worshipping, the long wait is really worth it. Though in natural habitat it attains an enormous height, in cities, where it is grown either as a road lining tree or bordering tree in school/ college campuses, it generally attains a height of about 40-50 feet.

Other options

If you feel that the wait is too long, you can even go for our own Champaka, saplings of which are easily available in nurseries. It yields flowers in relatively lesser period. Known as Sampige in Kannada, it is botanically known as Michelia champaka.

It is used in worshipping god in India since ancient days. Its fragrance is replicated and used in manufacturing of Agarbattis. Once it starts flowering, the tree fills the whole area with its strong fragrance. This tree has been a popular tree among the residents of Bangalore since decades. In fact, a road in Bangalore is named after this tree and is known as ‘Sampige Road’.

So go ahead, grow these trees and fill the atmosphere in your neighbourhood with fragrance!

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