Monday, July 28, 2014

A Surprise Brahmakamal Bloom that Led to Some New Horticulture Learning!

My wife is very fond of gardening and horticulture. She loves to watch the plants grow and bloom with much interest and care. Though we have enough land to fulfill her horticulture passions, we could not make use of it so far due to my wanderings due to my job compulsions. But wherever we lived, whether it is an independent house or an apartment, she had tried to plant a few plants and take care of those with extreme care.

I am not a botanist by profession and I do regret about it now. My dislike to botany began during my school days due to the teaching methods of our botany teacher which I felt as repulsive. I had a natural inclination and liking towards plants, flowers, trees and fruits and I used to enjoy watching them and to learn about them. Unfortunately, my botany teacher did not realize that. She was more inclined to force feed us with botanical jargon and associated text book knowledge.

The case with my wife too was not very different. Though with a natural liking for horticulture, she could not learn the topic of her natural liking. Instead she graduated in economics. 

And that is how education goes in our world now. And we cannot do any thing about it for the time being.

Being in the fag end of my career, we had landed in Ranchi, the capital of the Jharkhand State of India. As there was not much time left for us to nurture a small garden in our new official residence in this place, we had decided not to have any more plant nurturing activities now.

But as habits and hobbies cannot be forgotten so easily, our flat's spacious balconies soon got filled up by potted plants. A few month's ago, my wife brought home a small fleshy leaf of a green plant that she got from the road side. Perhaps some one has cut it and thrown out.

It was the leaf of a kind of cactus. I realized it as some kind of Bryophyllum ( a plant specie that can sprout from its leaves) So, this leaf piece was placed in a pot. We had previous experience with it some time earlier and we knew it would sprout and grow without much care.

It happened that way. From one leaf, there soon appeared many green leaves. One day we observed a shoot projecting straight up from the space between two leaves that emerged from the soil in the pot. The shoot soon grew up to nearly three feet. We did not know what this feature is up to as it stood that way for quite a few weeks.

Then we saw leaves again appearing on the top portion of the new shoot. The shoot was perhaps the stem of the plant.

The new leaves became full sized within another few weeks. Then, to our surprise we found some new brownish growths emerging from the mid of a few leaves at the top and the bottom of the plant.

And yet in another few days, these new outgrowths from the leaves began to bulge. It was clear by this time that they are flower buds.

It was this time that I remembered that this is nothing but probably the plant which we Keralites call as Nishagandhi [നിശാഗന്ധി].  

In just a couple of day's time the three flower buds kept on bulging and a few days ago, I felt that two of them are going to bloom some time during the night. 

To our great joy and surprise, as thought, two of them opened up beautifully to sweet smelling flowers. These two were touching the floor of our balcony because of their weight. They were really large, sparkling white and beautiful. We kept watching them blooming wider and wider! As they kept opening, they made our balcony and home filled with their pleasant scent.

We knew the flowers would close by dawn. As an experiment, I decided to cut them and place them in a watered glass pot inside our home. Though my wife did not agree to the idea of scissoring and wounding the plant during the night, I did that any way.

The two flowers looked beautiful on our tea table giving out their glorious smile and scent in the mid of the night. 

In the early morning I was eager to know their condition. I found them closed up, but yet retaining their majesty.

In another two day's time the top bud also bloomed in a similar fashion.

I wanted to find out more about this plant. Thanks to the internet and the Google search, things are not so difficult now-a-days.

I found that the plant is botanically called Epiphyllum oxypetalum. 

There are differences of opinion about various people whether this is the famous Brahma Kamalam of Indian mythology

Some people say it is in fact Brahmakamal [ब्रह्मा कमल]while some others give that credit to another plant scientifically known as Saussurea obvallata  

But the most detailed information about the plant is found in this website which talks about the Queen of Night (the English name for this flower) in detail. 

This site has provided me some new information which I did not know. First, this plant produces an eatable fruit with a sweet fleshy core with black seeds. It is abundantly cultivated in the world. The flower and the fruit are edible and has medicinal properties. But to make the plant fruit, some techniques are needed. How to cultivate this plant for possible yield of fruits is described here with much illustration.

Interesting. Is it not?