09 Sep

Michelia – The Champa Tree

This post is eighth in the Native Trees of Pakistan series. In this post, I am featuring a lovely flowering tree, Michelia.

Michelia is one of the most popular flowering trees. It belongs to the Magnoliaceae family, the family of sub-tropical bushes and small trees; It is also one of the ancient families of the plant kingdom having existed since 95 million years. Today more than 40 species of Michelia are distributed in tropical and sub-tropical regions of Pakistan, China, India, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia.

The most popular species are Michelia champaca (Buy Michelia champaca online) and Michelia alba. Michelia Champaca, also known as Champa, Yellow Champa, Golden Campa or Fragrant Champa is highly revered by the followers of Hinduism and Buddhism. They use Michelia flowers during religious ceremonies. Tibetans believe that the Buddha of the next era will find enlightenment under the white flower canopy of the champaca tree.

orange flower of michelia champaca

Michelia has several ornamental, commercial and medicinal uses too. For gardeners, it is an excellent choice as a houseplant or as companion plant in landscapes.  Commercially, the timber of Michelia is used for almost anything from cabinet-making to firewood and flowers are grown to sell at cut flower shops. The extract from the flowers of Michelia Alba is used in preparation of the famous ‘Joy’ perfume. Medicinally, the tree has wide applications; the bark is used to prepare tonic, the oil extracted from flowers is used to cure toughs and rheumatism, and for relieving eye troubles and gout.

Michelias are easy to grow and maintain. They love a lot of light and warmth but filtered sunlight. The best location for Michelia is the place where it receives direct and ample sunlight in early morning but partial light for the rest of the day. Suitable for containers, Michelias has shallow and brittle root system. It likes moderate watering in acidic and well-drained soil. As a general rule, water lavishly when the plant is young to allow it to develop good root system. Water mature trees moderately and feed with a general purpose fertilizer during spring. Prune in winter when plant goes dormant.

Michelia can gain a height of 30 meters in suitable conditions. The tree bears large leaves that resemble the leaves of Mango tree. The tree booms from May to October and produces abundance of star-shaped flowers that fill the entire surrounding with mesmerizing scent. Flowers are usually golden-yellow, golden-orange and creamy-white. Michelia can be grown from seeds; however, some species grow well when grafted. Flowering is followed by fruition. The tree develops abundant of flowers. In fact, it consumes most of its energy in producing seeds and requires a few years of rest for the next flowering, that is why, commercial growers remove most of the fruits before they start hatching seeds.

The tree was named by a Florentine botanist, P. A. Micheli.

09 Aug

Amaltas, The Golden Shower Tree

This post is second in the Native Trees of Pakistan series.

Cassia Fistula (Buy seeds online) or Amaltas is one of the loveliest flowering trees of our region. Also known as the Indian Laburnum, Amaltas is closely related to the English Laburnum but the flowers of Amaltas are brighter, denser and more beautiful than those of its English cousin.

lovely yellow flowers of amaltas

Photo by: homestretching.blogspot.com

The tree drops most of its leaves in winter and starts producing shining green leaves in early summer. The feathery leaves of Cassia Fistula are usually large and wide. Soon the plant starts blooming that can last till the end of summer season.  During the flowering season, the whole tree is covered with large clusters of uncountable delicate yellow flowers. The profuse and bright flowers of Amaltas shine bright under the hot sun of summer and make a spectacular show. Delicate flowers drop to cover the ground turning it in to a yellow carpet, that is why, Cassia Fistula is also called The Golden Shower tree.

Amaltas, Cassia Fistula or the Indian Laburnum can be grown easily from seeds. This sun loving plant can reach the size of 10 to 20 meters and grows well in full sun and well-drained soil. Because of its size, it is not suitable for small lawns but makes an excellent show when planted along the roads. The Laburnum Road in Mumbai has been exclusively lined with Amaltas trees.