3 mins | Lifestyle | 22 May 2022
Today is World Biodiversity Day and to commemorate it we decided to put together a Nature Walk around our ecosystem at Oberoi Garden City, Goregaon. It’s been over 20 years of developing this project and one of the conscious things we did was to preserve the Oberoi Garden City Hilltop.
The walk to the hilltop was a nice change and a get away from our airconditioned offices. The entire experience took us just over an hour. And what we learned and discovered with Kiran Thumma, Education Officer of Bombay Natural History Society, was delightful as she shared some botany facts through story-telling which even had an influence of the Hindu mythology.
We first walked up to a Eucalyptus tree which she said was a non native plant; what that means is that it was introduced by human action either accidentally or deliberately, outside of its natural range. Hence, we noticed that the fallen leaves do not degenerate as fast as other leaves. She brought to our attention that we must not confuse Eucalyptus with Nilgiris which we commonly think is why Niligiri Hills in South India have been named after. The Hills got this name because of a Blue flower (Neel) that blooms once in 12 years. And Giri means hills.
We then walked up to a Mango tree on which rests an Ant Nest. I have often seen Ant hills but never an Ant Nest – and this one is water proof; built by over 1000 ants. What a laborious wonder!
Our next stop was the Banyan Tree which is native to our country. Kiran quizzed us if we knew why the tree was named Banyan – none of us came out tops. The Indian merchants in the old days sat under this tree for shade and shelter as they went about conducting business. Popularly called Baniyas (even today), when the Britishers set shop in India, they addressed the tree as the Banyan tree after the Baniyas who sat under.
Baniyas under the Banyan Tree
On our way back, we stopped by the Butter Cup Tree, which got its name from the action of Lord Krishna from the Indian mythology. Being fond of butter, little Krishna would often steal it as a prankster. And to hide it from his mother, he placed it in a leaf and folded it in. The story goes to say that the leaf remained folded and so every leaf on this tree now looks like a butter cup.
Lord Krishna’s Butter Cup
We often see Neem and Tamarind trees around us; both known for their cooking or medicinal use. Kiran insisted to tell us a story that would remind us of this. The story goes like this about a young couple early on in their marriage – the young man travelled extensively on work and never had time for his wife. She was cleverly advised to ask him to rest and sleep under a Tamarind tree – which he did. But due to its acidic properties, he started to feel uneasy and ill and decided to return home. On his way back the Neem tree under which he rested again, soothed him due to its medicinal influence.
We now walked up to an odd looking Tree with thorny spikes only on its bark. This protects it from any harm by animals or humans we were told. There is an old mythology that says that one of the Hindu Gods was a reckless chariot rider and, in his rage, Bhisma flung a chameleon on this tree who stuck put. Bhisma was cursed by this creature that he would neither live or die just like the chameleon.
Kiran then taught us about flowers and how one petal of a flower acts as a pollination guide. Nectar guides are markings or patterns in flowers that guide pollinators to nectar or pollen. These patterns are sometimes only seen by insects and bees and are invisible to humans. So next time you buy or see a flower, look for that one petal that is different than the rest.
It was now time to conclude our walk. The sun was nearly setting and we stopped for some masala chai that was set up for us by the organising team. The crunching dried leaves under our feet and the rustling summer breeze was a refreshing change and an opportunity to stop and stare at the beauty of nature and God’s creation around us.
My hope is that you did something special on World Bio Diversity day too that brought you closer to nature!