Lantana Shrubs

It is the start of month of September. Still it is very hot during the day but mornings have begun to become cooler. Sometimes very strong breeze welcomes you when you are outdoors.

While going out these days in the morning, I noticed multitudes of butterflies. These although are very agile and usually rarely sit still at one place are seen sitting peacefully on the leaves of shrubs.

There are many species of shrubs growing wildly in our area. Names of many of these are not  known to me as will be to others because no one is interested in knowing the names of weeds and shrubs which are of no tangible use to us although nothing exists in nature that is without purpose.

There is one such shrub which grows abundantly here and these days giving different color of flowers. While passing by these shrubs you will be welcomed by strong aromatic smell exuded by these flowers.

Lantana’s aromatic flowers clusters  called umbels are a mix of red, orange, yellow, or blue and white florets . Other colors exist as new varieties are being selected. The flowers typically change color as they mature, resulting in inflorescences that are two- or three-colored.

About 150 species exist worldwide. The leaves contain poisonous chemicals but its ripe berries are eaten by many birds. Thus the plant uses very clever strategy to survive and propagate. Animals don’t eat its leaves and birds spread its seeds far and near helping the plant to proliferate. Thus at many places it becomes invasive irritant.
Its one use is that it is a honey plant.

I took some pictures of flowers of different varieties prevalent here.

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Travels along Morni Hills Road

Morni is a hill station about 55 kilometers away from Chandigarh. Morni in local language is referred to peahen. The name is derived from the name of girl of a local ruler. There were many small princely states all over Shiwalik hills. The rulers were mostly Rajputs many of whom owed allegiance to Mughals.  Morni hills were ruled by Rajputs from Sirmaur which is near Nahan in Himachal Pradesh.The place is situated in Shiwalik hills and can be reached through a road from Panchkula. The map of the road is given below:

The road is serpentine because hilly area begins just after crossing the Panchkula and after a continuous climb for about 20 kilometers from Panchkula, the path begins to descend. I have gone up to point where this descent begins.

There are hills covered with wild shrubs and trees including teak. When you begin the journey towards Morni from Panchkula there are hills covered with thorny acacia trees. Hordes of monkeys roam along the road. All day they are there squatting on edges of road and climbing on the adjacent trees. People who came to visit Shiva temple near Berwala, gave them banana and other eatables. This causes the menace to normal visitor who is afraid to get down.

On the way, is Gauri Shankar temple which is seldom open. It seems more of a private property of some Guru who enjoy immense clout over politicians rather than a public place as the temples are generally opened to public. After about 8 kilometers there is small bridge on a seasonal branch of Ghaggar river which is dry in the summers. There is a place with dense trees and foliage along the river which is marked as a bird sanctuary. But you have to be very patience for sighting the birds.

There are few fields where farmers can be seen working. The area beyond Panchkula suddenly takes on an idyllic character. Hills along gorges seem like walls of brown mud completely devoid of greenery except the exposed roots of some trees at the top. In these walls, one can see parrots clinging  on to the holes which they must have dug for raising their nests.

One can also come across, the men and women sitting in the cars stopped at different spots engaged in cavorting activities from the city giving slip to their legal partners. Groups of young boys and girls can be seen drinking and making merry. Due to the drunken driving in the hills many a times fatal accidents have been reported.

There are Langoors also hiding in the bushes and occasionally coming into open on the road or to cross the road. They seem to be shy of humans and avoid humans unlike the monkeys. There are many birds and trees which bear flowers and adorn the landscape.

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Palash Flowers: The Fire of Jungle

Near Panchkula which is our native place are Shivalik hills. One of places in these hills is called Morni. The entire route is through hills and zigzag. There are streams passing through under the bridges. A number of wild trees and plants grow. It is a very picturesque site.

We go on to that route many times just for drive. There are hordes of monkeys and langoors. This time we went yesterday. There is a part of jungle adjoining a stream and lots of trees which is marked as bird habitat.

From the beginning of the hilly road, there were beautiful blossoms of trees called Palash. There season has just begun. At many places there are clumps of many of these trees. The intense light red colored flower bunches look as if jungle is on fire. There are very few leaves on these trees when they bloom. For more information on this flower. see my another blog post “Flame of Forest

A lots of insects and bees converge on these trees for nectar. Similarly many birds can be seen visiting these trees.

We took some shots…

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Animals take drugs when in grief

Man’s penchant for getting drunk is much older than keeping himself clean. I mean the use of alcohol and other substances obtained from plants which give high is much older than the invention of soap for cleaning the body. But it is not only the humans who feel the need to get a high but many animals also are similar. Johann Hari, who is the author of book “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs” has spent 25 years observing the behaviour of animals when in they are alarmed or in grief. He began his research after going through the findings on this subject from Ronald Siegel. For example, Siegel had planted “Silver Morning Glory” a plant containing powerful hallucinating chemicals in the pen of Hawaiian mongoose. The animals tasted it leaves felt disoriented and avoided the plant altogether. But there happened a tropical storm which destroyed the den, filled it with mud and female dead. The male returned to the plant and ate its leaves to get blasted out of mind. After that Hari began his research and found more evidence. For example, in Vietnam, he found that prior to bombings in the Vietnam war with America, the buffaloes never chewed on opium plants. But when the bombings began, the water buffaloes ate the opium plants. They became dull and dizzy to escape their thoughts like mongoose. Similarly, bees bees fell to ground in a temporary stupor after sampling the numbing nectar of certain orchids. Birds gorge themselves on inebriating berries, then fly with reckless abandon. His more observations are given below : “Cats eagerly sniff aromatic “pleasure” plants, then play with imaginary objects. Cows that browse special range weeds will twitch, shake, and stumble back to the plants for more. Elephants purposely get drunk off fermented fruits. Snacks of “magic mushrooms” cause monkeys to sit with their heads in their hands in a posture reminiscent of Rodin’s Thinker. The pursuit of intoxication by animals seems as purposeless as it is passionate”

Darkness

Darkness is a much maligned being. Everyone praises the light, everyone advocates in the favour of light. Especially on the occasion of Diwali, the most common refrain begins with “Let there be light……”, as if we are living in the dark till now.

Importance of light is due to the darkness. In fact they follow each other. It is only for darkness, we admire the light. The truth is that we have been blessed to see only a very narrow spectrum of the reality. It is a very narrow window in comparison to the whole spectrum. We are not able to see beyond the infrared and ultraviolet region. Only a minuscule window is available for us. Birds and bees are better off than us in this regard. Bees for example can see in the ultraviolet region. Birds can see in the lower frequencies than infrared.

In fact, the visible is just an iceberg floating in the sea of hidden or darkness. Dark matter which is counterpart of the visible matter is many times bigger.

Darkness is absolutely necessary for shutting down the process visible inputs to our mind. It forces the humans to sleep and rejuvenate the brain by giving it the necessary respite. Receptors especially eyes & ears are always receiving and feeding the information to the brain. They keep the brain busy. So the darkness helps to shut down these receptors periodically.

Everything exists in pairs in the universe. One is complementary to the other. Matter has antimatter, electron has positron, vice has virtue, Ravana has Rama, Yin has Yang, eggs have sperms, night has day as their complements. Think if everyone were good or everyone were bad, the evolution or progress will come to a grinding halt. Humans thrive on the competition, dominating others is in their blood. If it were not true, life would be so boring. Species will not have to do anything for survival. No one will challenge others as everyone will be satisfied and have no aspiration.