We celebrated several festivals in April, the month of spring, across the country. Rongali Bihu in Assam, Vishu in Kerala, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, and Baisakhi in Punjab, marked the beginning of new year and spring. In Vishu and in Puthandu, two trees are especially revered.
Vishu is culturally related to the flowering of kani konna (amaltas). The bright yellow flowers are arranged as hanging bunches on the tree crown. These flowers are seen as an auspicious sight to begin a new year. Puthandu feast includes rasam prepared with veppa maram (neem) flowers. Such associations between festivals and tree flowering are interesting as they recognize the changes taking place in trees around us and incorporate them into the fabric of life. Do you happen to know of similar cultural associations with trees? If yes, we would love to hear from you. You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We thank all our friends who are continuing to monitor trees with us and welcome new ones on board. In this newsletter, we share some news and updates from the program including an interview with Shri Resly R Pariong, a SeasonWatch ambassador.
Ghost tree or Kulu (Sterculia urens) is a native Indian tree which is easily noticeable due to its bony-white trunk with peeling bark. When leafless, the tree is captivating with its crooked branches that spread outwards, and the pale bark that make it stand out in a dry, rocky habitat, where it commonly occurs. Fruits are star-shaped and covered in fine hair, giving them a velvety appearance. They are initially pink, turning red and then brown on maturing. Each arm or follicle in the fruit splits to reveal dark shiny seeds that are much loved by monkeys and people.
Do you know this tree?
This highly sought after tree has a fragrant bark. An interesting but less known fact about this tree is that it parasitizes roots of other ‘host’ plants to draw nutrition for its own growth. Do you know what tree this is?
The answer to our last quiz is Kulu (Sterculia urens).
Resly R Pariong, SeasonWatch Ambassador
Shri Resly R Pariong teaches at the Pariong Presbytery Higher Secondary School in West Khasi Hills, Meghalaya. His school joined SeasonWatch last year in May. We spoke to him about their experience.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a graduate in Botany. I started teaching, seventeen years ago, soon after finishing my graduation. I couldn't afford to continue with higher studies but managed to complete my BEd while teaching. I like to travel and spend time in the hills, and on river-side. I take photographs of the places I visit and also like spending time with my friends. I am interested in exploring new ways of thinking and understanding.
How did you get interested in nature?
My father was a small cultivator. I remember that I had to drop out of school once because my parents couldn't afford to send me to school. My mother offered to tutor me at home. After a year, I took exams and cleared, and my parents managed to put me back in school. But it was during the time that I spent away from school, that I also accompanied my dad to his fields and for fishing. This time is most memorable for me because he told me numerous stories about the hills, the animals, and flowers. His stories made me love nature and I have ever since been interested.
How many children are monitoring trees in your school? How many trees and species are being observed by these children?
Twenty students are observing four trees, a pear tree, a plum tree, a box myrtle, and a peach tree, in our school campus.
Your sons go to a different school. But they too are participating in SeasonWatch. Tell us about this.
Yes. When I found out about this project in a workshop that was conducted at my school, I went back home and told my sons about it. They immediately got interested and said that they too wanted to join. I agreed to help them in getting started. Now they observe their trees by themselves.
What motivates you to encourage young children to watch trees? What do you think they expect to gain from this experience?
By adopting and naming a tree, they immediately form an intimate bond with the tree. They keep visiting and observing the tree regularly and care for its well being. They start observing nature through these trees. I have also told them about the ability of trees to track changes in their environment, and that the trees respond to changes in seasons. And how by observing flowering, fruiting in trees, we too can learn about our environment. This has made them curious. We have only watched our trees for a year now, and the students want to continue observing to learn more.
The children have been monitoring trees for a year now. Can you share with us some anecdotes and observations?
Students often come back and tell me what they saw. If the tree was flowering they tell me they saw many insects. Sometimes they notice birds on the trees. These are interesting everyday observations and they are observing how animals and plants depend on one another. The pear tree that my students are observing flowered twice in the last one year. We thought it was interesting since fruits from the October flowers are present on the tree together with the new flowers. One of my students told me that it has happened in his garden also, although, it only happens during certain years. This is an interesting observation. We will see what happens this year and know more.
It is also interesting to see how children are bonding with their trees. My son is observing a cherry tree. The branches of the tree were lopped sometime back. When my son spoke to me about this incident he was very sad. After a few months, when new buds started appearing from the tree, he rejoiced. It is nice to see children care for their tree friends.