Category Archives: Trees

29 Oct

Flowering Shrubs and Trees: Crotalaria, the Rattlepod

Crotalaria is a large genus of flowering shrubs and trees from the Fabaceae family to which popular flowering trees like Laburnum, Orchid Tree, and Wisteria belong. Most species of Crotalaria are indigenous to Africa where they grow in tropical climates as flowering shrubs or small trees.

Crotalarias are popular plants among horticulturists because of showy, yellow flowers that look like fluttering birds giving these plants their common names – Bird Flower and Canary Bird Bush. Most species bloom in spring. Flowering is followed by formation of hallow seed pods containing large seeds that rattle when dried seed pod is shaken, that is why these plants are also known as rattlepods.

Crotalaria agatiflora, Bird Bush

Crotalaria agatiflora/ Bird Bush/ Image by Erick Lux

A popular garden plant from this genus is Crotalaria agatiflora which grows as a small tree and produces large yellow flowers in spring. Crotalaria capensis is another popular species which is grown as a fast-growing and small tree.

Most species of Crotalaria prefer moderate watering, bright sunlight and a regular soil mix.

21 Sep

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis, the Sad Tree

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis has many popular names – Night Jasmine, Coral Jasmine, Sad Tree, Parijat and Lover’s Tree. The plant justifies all of these pretty names. Legend has it Parijataka who was a beautiful princess fell in love with the sun but the sun deserted her. The mournful princess committed suicide. From ashes of the sad princess sprung a beautiful tree. Unable to stand the sight of the lover who left her, the tree blooms only at night and sheds its flowers before the sun rises.

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis/ Image by Dinesh Valke

The plant growing in my garden is now 5 years old and these days it is blooming profusely. Every day, I see a carpet of white flowers under the ‘sad’ plant. Anyway, Nyctanthes arbor-tristis is a nice plant to grow in the garden. It is not fussy about soil or water. In fact, it is quite hardy and prefers a little neglect.

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis grows as a shrub and grows in to a small tree (up to 5 meters). The coarse leaves cover straggling branches and make it a good foliage plant for filling in empty spaces in the garden. Small flowers of white color with orange center appear in summer. These scented flowers are rather short lived – they bloom at night and drop before rising of the sun.

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis grows natively in tropical climate of Pakistan and spreads across tropical regions of India, Bengladesh, Nepal and Thailand.

Besides its ornamental value, Nyctanthes arbor-tristis has various medicinal uses. The leaves are antibacterial and are used for the treatment of fungal infection, cough, and snakebite. Flowers are source of a yellow dye which is used to color clothes.  The lovely flowers of Nyctanthes arbor-tristis are also used in Hindu rituals and for preparing garlands that is why it is the plant is also known as Haar Singhar (beautification or make up).

09 Sep

Lovely Foliage and Flowering Trees: Melaleuca

Melaleuca is a genus of evergreen shrubs and small trees from Australia. The genus is known for its horticultural use as well as medicinal effects and soothing properties.

Melaleuca are popular ornamental plants in tropical or sub-tropical climates where they are grown for their vibrant foliage and attractive flowers. The foliage is usually fragrant, the trunk has silvery bark, and the flowers that resemble the blooms of Callistemon are white, yellow, pink or red.

Melaleuca tree

Melaleuca tree/ Image by Tatiana Gerus

The plants in the genus of Melaleuca vary greatly in their size. Some species grow as shrubs that grow up to 3 – 5 meters whereas some of the species grow into small trees that can gain the height of 6 – 8 meters. Melaleucas can be grown easily from seeds or cuttings. They prefer sunny exposure, a well drained soil and regular watering.

Popular species of Melaleuca include:

Melaleuca nesophylla (Tea Myrtle) – Small tree (up to 6 meters) with spongy bark and pompon shapes flowers of pink color.

Melaleuca lanceolata – Clustering shrub (up to 5 meters) with small and narrow leaves. White flowers resembling bottle brush appear in summer and attract a lot of birds and butterflies.

Melaleuca huegelii (Honey Myrtle) – Evergreen shrub (up to 3 meters) with dense clusters of spiky flowers of white or pink color.

Melaleuca trichophylla – Small spreading shrub with globular clusters of pink, reddish pink or purple flowers in late winter to early summer.

Melaleuca lateritia – Commonly known as the Robin Red-breast Bush, M. lateritia grows as an erect shrub (up to 2 meters) and produces attractive red flowers in summer.

02 Sep

Small and Beautiful Shrubby Tree for Gardens: Halleria

Halleria is a small genus of shrubs and small trees grown for their attractive foliage and flowers. The genus is native to Madagascar and tropical climates of Africa. The most popular shrub from this genus is Halleria lucida – a small shrubby tree with pendulous branches and glossy foliage.

Halleria lucida is grown as evergreen ornamental and drought tolerant tree. The tree does not usually require much space and thus makes a good choice for small gardens where it can be pruned and trained in to a smart tree. Gown up plants can be used to create shady canopies.

Halleria shrub

Halleria ligustrifolia, Image by Leonora Enking

Halleria lucida grows up to 2.5 meters tall and spreads across 1.5 meters. Though it is a drought tolerant plant, Halleria lucida responds well to regular watering and shows vigorous growth when provided with sufficient watering and fertilizer. Halleria lucida can be grown under sunny or partially shady spots in gardens.

Leaves of Halleria lucida are small and glossy that turn purple in winter and provide beautiful contrast to red tubular flowers. Flowers are followed by formation of sweet berries that attract a lot of birds to the garden.

Another popular plant for the genus if Halleria elliptica. Commonly known as Wild fuschia, Halleria elliptica grows as shrubby tree (up to 2.5 meters) and produces orange-red flower in autumn.

06 Aug

Olinia ventosa, the Hard Pear Tree

Olinia ventosa or Hard Pear is a graceful tree with glossy green leaves and tiny white flowers. Native to South Africa, Olinia ventosa grows as a tall and evergreen forest tree. However, when grown in gardens it matures into a small tree.

Olinia ventosa

Olinia ventosa, the Hard Pear tree

Olinia ventosa is a good choice for landscapes and gardens for its decent foliage, fragrant flowers, and shady canopy. The tree is quite hardy and tolerates drought and neglect. Flowers, though insignificant, bloom profusely in spring and emit almonds-like fragrance. Clusters of tiny white flowers attract birds butterflies that visit the tree for its fruit and nectar.

Besides its horticultural use, Olinia ventosa is a good source of quality timber which is used in manufacturing of fine furniture.

Olinia ventosa prefers regular soil mix but can survive poor soil conditions as well. Propagation can be done from seeds. Young plants grow slowly but once established, Olinia ventosa grows rapidly and forms vigorous roots and branch system.