The Good City crew celebrates 110 years of Bengaluru's Towns with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Join us as we rediscover Fraser Town, Richards Town and Cooke Town, in a three-part series, starting with the secret life of Bengaluru's trees.
While Bangalore has attracted an increasingly diverse population from across the world, there is one particular expatriate community that has given the city much of its charm and identity through the years; its trees. The Garden city, despite massive losses to rapid urbanization over the years, is still one of the only places in the country that is home to trees from all corners of the world.
Imagine taking a walk through the streets of the city in Spring, when it is exploding with the colours of the most beautiful, happy flowers you have ever seen. The fiery Gulmohar (Delonix regia) that line the avenues, came all the way from Madagascar. In the by-lanes of Davis Road, lives the Achiote (Bixa orellana) of Central America. It is also called the 'lipstick tree', because if you crack open its spiky fruit, out pop tiny red seeds, the pigment of which is used to make lipstick and kumkum. The bright pink Tabebuia, an integral part of the cityscape, is from South America and is the national tree of El Salvador!
Naturalist Ganeshram says there is a reason why Bengaluru has such a globalised flora. “The trees in Bengaluru were deliberately planted so that there would be flowers throughout the year. This is probably the only city in India where you will find trees from all over the world,” he says.
The Good City crew caught up with Ganesh at a tree walk at Milton Park last week, as part of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Bengaluru’s ‘Towns of our City’ festival. It was a celebration of the 110 years of existence of our old ‘Towns’ such as Fraser Town, Cooke Town and Richards Town, which have retained the essence of "Bangalore", in their heritage, architecture, food, and of course, in the many parks.
As we strolled through these nostalgic lanes, we stopped to look, touch, and smell the leaves and barks of the trees that we pass by a thousand times, without ever acknowledging them. Right there, was the Honge or Pongamia (Millettia pinnata) tree, which is a source of seed oil and is used as bio-diesel. The air filled with the fruity smell of the leaves of the jamun (Syzygium cumini) tree, and the distinct aroma of the eucalyptus (Eucalyptus obliqua), a powerful plant with hundreds of healing properties.
The walk was a revelation for young and old alike, shedding light on the forgotten lives of trees around us. Eight year old Aanya Rodriguez, who had built a collection of leaves, seeds and fruits by the end of the walk, said, “I enjoyed every bit. He really explained what we do not read in textbooks.”
The Good City crew now know the name of the tree ablaze with yellow flowers next to our office - the Copperpod (Peltophorum pterocarpum). It is never too late to know one’s neighbours.