Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Forgotten Handkerchiefs

From a distance they look like long handkerchiefs hanging from the tips of branches. That was what intrigued me when I drove along this stretch of road at BDC housing estate this morning . To my knowledge this is the only locality in Sarawak where this species is planted as a roadside tree. Though it is native to Malaysia one hardly find it planted in other towns of Sarawak besides Kuching. This tree is called Yellow Saraca ( Saraca thaipingensis) on account of its bunchy clusters of bright yellow flowers. The young leaves are pale purplish pink and become more white as they age and finally turn dark green upon maturing.
Have people forgotten this tree like they have forgotten the use of handkerchiefs with today's 'throw-away' culture? It would be sad if they do because this tree is most suitable for small gardens and even smaller roads. They grow very slowly and would attain their maximum height of 20 m within 20 years. Furthermore they are very attractive to birds and bees. There is a close relative of this plant called the Ashoka Tree ( Saraca asoca ) which is native to India. It was under the Ashoka tree that Buddha was born and therefore the tree is considered sacred among adherents of the Buddhist faith.

Peculiar to Saraca is the emergence of flowers on the tree's older branches. I watched a bee visiting the blooms and saw too that the branch was being shared by ferns and pigeon orchids . A tiny white flower of the pigeon orchid is seen on the upper right hand corner of the picture. The flowers of the Yellow Saraca give out a strong fragrance especially at night. We may have tissue papers in the car or our bag as substitute for handkerchiefs but if we lose the Saraca we only have our ignorance to blame.

1 comment:

Protege said...

This is so extraordinary, I have never seen a tree like this ever; not in real life, not on any pictures.
It is so exotic to me, I lack the appropriate words.
Magnificent; almost looks not real to me.;)