Going gaga over trees

February 11, 2017 / Sujatha Bhagath

A motley group of around 20 students of Sishu Griha Montessori and High School had a whale of a time on a bright Saturday morning exploring the world of trees at a Tree Walk which was part of Neralu – The Bengaluru Tree Festival.

The group all of them belonging to the middle school trooped enthusiastically behind naturalist Poornima Kannan as she explained the nitty-gritty of the trees skirting the lovely playground of the school.

                                                                     Children enjoyed playing with the Mahogany seeds

The helicopter seeds of the mahogany tree grabbed eyeballs. One student after another chucked the seeds in style to see them landing like a helicopter on terra firma. When Poornima asked the students all of whom belong to the school’s nature club why the seed landed like a helicopter, pat came the replies:

“The seed makes a slow and soft landing.”

“The seeds should not scatter near the parent tree.”

Certainly, the boys and girls had done their homework and how!

The talk then moved to the mahogany pods as Poornima pointed skywards to the hundreds that were on the tree.

A game of cricket was on at the ground. Whoever was at the crease seemed to be belting sixes and fours and the ball seemed to be always coming near the group. But the cricket enthusiasts in the group did not allow themselves to be distracted by the ball or the cheers and claps.

Early morning joggers and dog walkers passed by and gave the group curious looks. I asked a couple of girls what they felt about the walk. “It is an experience I can’t forget,” said Sharanya with a sweet smile. For Pradnya it was an experience which she would not get to have on a daily basis. They were clearly enjoying their outing on the sun-soaked ground.

The diversity of the tree wealth in the neighbourhood took Poornima by surprise. There were a lot of species. When she pointed to a little peepal tree that had sprouted from the steps of the playground and asked, “Can you tell me what tree this is?”, it was greeted with enthusiasm.

 Peepul tree

“Aunty, it is the peepal tree”, “Aunty it is also called the Bodhi tree, Buddha meditated under it”

The teakwood trees, jackfruit trees, rain trees, Nile tulip trees, papaya trees were next on the itinerary.

 Lipstick tree Bixa Orellana

A lipstick tree just outside the ground came across as one unheard of the tree. “This is one of the food colours that has been approved by the USDA”, said Poornima as she crushed some juvenile seeds with her fingers.

Even before the euphoria surrounding the lipstick tree died down, Poornima pointed out to a tall tree and said, “Children! that is the Buddha’s coconut tree.” A student standing in the crowd asked, “Aunty, whose tree?” much to the amusement of others. And another remarked at the seed pods, “They look like helmets.” “The tree is as interesting as its name and is also called the “Pagla Tree” in North India because of variations in its canopy. A good time was spent admiring its little flowers and laughing over the funny names.

The walk ended at the lush green BDA park in the vicinity. The children went gaga over the numerous Bottlebrush trees and the bees buzzing around the drooping flowers.

The pavilion at the park turned out to be a fine venue for a mini-quiz contest on trees. Quizmaster Poornima kept the students busy with a steady flow of questions. And after the quiz, she opened her Santa bag to unveil a beautiful collection of pods and seeds. The children marvelled.

As the clock struck nine, the accompanying teacher signalled it was time to wind up. On the way back, Poornima pointed to a huge tree whose trunk bore a resemblance to a eucalyptus tree, “See that’s an Arjuna tree”. The teacher and the students were spellbound. After a brief discussion on the school grounds, it was time to go. Surely, the trees around Sishu Griha would have been touched at the amount of love and attention showered on them that special Saturday morning. It is up to us, their guardians, to look after them and conserve them for generations to come. As for the students, “they enjoyed more than they learnt”.