Trees of Delhi: Get this great guide

tree-semel

You must have noticed that India’s most beautiful tree is back in bloom? It’s time to learn about Delhi’s Trees with a book written by the tree man of Delhi, Pradip Krishen.

Delhi is often in the news for its air pollution, but with 20% of the city under green cover there’s plenty of spectacular trees to enjoy too.

This post praises the trees of Delhi and Pradip Krishen, the tree man, who is the font of all knowledge about the capital’s trees that help us breathe better.

Even though Delhi is geographically small, it has a number of different micro climates that support different types of trees.  What’s found on the Delhi Ridge is different to the tree lined streets of Luyten’s Delhi.

And within Luyten’s Delhi, there are different tree zones, dictated by the tree master plan drawn up when the city was being built.

In short, there is a lot to see.  Pradip Krishen, who has written a Field Guide to Delhi’s Trees, has discovered a total of 252 different trees in the capital.

It took him a lot of time, a lot of walking and some serious investigation to do just that.  Hats often him.  Here’s a mere five trees that you might want to get to know that little bit better.

Figs – With 14 different species, the fig tree takes the title of Delhi’s most diverse genus of tree. 

The great big Banyan with its long aerial roots, the Mysore Fig with short, thin aerial roots that don’t reach the ground and the Krishna Fig, with its uniquely cup shaped leaf base are three to look out for.

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Collecting Neem seeds on the avenues of Luyten’s Delhi

Neem Tree – The medicinal properties of Neem have been known about for millennia.

In many South Asia nations the Neem tree is known as the village pharmacy.

This drought-resistant tree is planted all over Delhi.  Edwin Luyten’s, Delhi’s master planner, made sure Neem featured heavily in the plans for the city because it was a hardy evergreen

I’ve met a man selling neem tree stick toothbrushes and lady collecting neem seed pods to make oil that she promised will cure my receding hairline.  Surely, it is a tree to get to know, no?

Jamun – This large canopied tree is another that lines the wide boulevards of Luyten’s Delhi.

It retains its leaves during the summers months to give shade and every year the Delhi authorities auction off the rights to pick the fruit.  Found on Tuglak Marg, Rajjaji Marg and Tyagaraj Marg amongst others, the Jamun fruit is loved by Indians.

Semel – Is this Delhi’s most beautiful tree.  We think so.

This great big tree is capable of growing to a height of 60 metres, but most in Delhi are a third of the size.

It’s noticable all over Delhi avenues for is wonderful, waxy, bright red flowers in spring time.  Watch out when the fall, the flowers can grown to 18 cm.

Not on the original New Delhi tree master plan, most have been planted post 1947.  Neeti Marg has some lovely Semal, there’s two huge trees at Teen Murti Bhavan and most parks have specimens (thanks for telling us Pradip).

Mango – Last, but not least, the Mango Tree, the King of Fruits.

A favourite of the Mughals (they loved a mango too), Mango trees can be found Luyten’s Delhi, in the garden’s of the wealthy and in large parks.  Watch out for men wandering the streets with cutters on huge sticks to harvest the fruit in the summer months.

Finally, a bit more about Pradip Krishen, the tree man of Delhi

A man who loves his trees and has written the go to guide, Trees of Delhi, is Pradip Krishen.  His book is a labour of love and that comes through its pages.

Not written for botanists, but the common man, he knows what layman needs to know about when looking at trees.

He also shares the history and story of the city through its trees.

So, why did it this book come about?  Having walked on the Delhi Ridge for 40 years and known near to nothing about trees, a magical moment happenedon the 16 February 1995.

Pradip tells the story .  The sight of some fresh shoots on the dry, dead looking branch of a tree, a simple,  beautiful sight of nature, caused a stir that led Krishen to wander the streets of Delhi documenting all the trees in the city.

It’s been called “a veritable treasure” by legendary author and commentator Kushwant Singh, and “a portrait of a city through its trees by Bikram Grewal in IIC Quarterly”.  Namaste

New Delhi loves it.  Thanks Pradip.

Find it at all good bookshops.  Here’s a link to five fab ones.

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