Flower Power

Tabish Qureshi of Jamia Milia Islamia has created a fantastic website, Flowers of India.

"Remember that tree laden with yellow flowers, which hang like bunches of grapes? How often have you wondered: What's that flower? Nobody around you seems to know ... for the city bred individual, flowers are only like pretty pictures.

Flowers of India is aimed at having information about all the flowers found in India, with their common names, especially in Indian languages, pictures and habitat, easily available in one place. This is meant to be a place you can look at if you saw a flower and wanted to know more about it. Knowing more about flowers, and then going out and having a look at them, will be more like communing with nature."

The site is organized extremely well- for instance, the flower on the right is the Brahma Kamal, ब्रह्म कमल , or Saussurea obvallata... and the annotation is quite detailed: "The Brahma Kamal, the much revered flower of the Himalayas, is an excellent example of plant life at the upper limit of high mountains (3,000-4,600 m). The flowerheads are actually purple, but are enclosed in layers of greenish-yellow, papery, boat-shaped bracts. The flowers bloom at the height of the monsoons and abundant in high-altitude places like The Valley of Flowers. The bract-cover provides the warm space needed to bloom in the cold mountains. The flowers are used as offering in the hill temples, like the shrines of Badrinath. The thick curved root of the plant is applied to bruises and cuts, as part of local medicine. Brahma Kamal is the state flower of Uttarakhand. A postal stamp was issued by the Indian Postal Department to commemorate this flower."

The many thousand flowers on the site have photographs (of excellent quality, in most cases!) are indexed by name, colour, flowering time, botanical names, and so on... with special sections on vines, creepers, cacti, medicinal plants, and so on... Flowers in the ancient literature, Himalayan flowers... the classification possibilities are numerous and Tabish and his team have made this site a joy to navigate and learn from.

Flowers of India is built by contributors from all over the country- it really is a pan-Indian effort, and one to enjoy and share-

A new entry on their home page is a whole section on the Trees of India. A very valuable tool for the enthusiast, these pages could be a fine companion to Pradip Kishen's Trees of Delhi: A Field Guide that we have written about earlier, The Book of Indian Trees by K C Sahni, or Subhadra Menon and Pallava Bagla's Trees of India. Or many other books...

A recent title in the area is a compendium of the trees on the campus of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, A Botanist's Delight by K Sankara Rao. A collection of excellent photographs accompanies text describing the flora of the campus, well known in academe for its landscaping and planning.