My Almond Tree

Yes, I do know that there is nothing mine about the tree, it is a community property, growing in the garden of the co-op housing society. However, this is the first thing that I see as soon as I open the curtains in the morning. And then, the entire day it stands there right outside my window – like a part of my family.

The Almond Tree in its full glory

A entire post devoted to a single tree? It surely is trying the readers’ patience to the limit. But please bear with a female crazy about Kingdom Plantae. 

There is hardly any time to sit back and watch the tree — (I’m not trying to sound like some busy bee, but any woman would vouch about the leisure time — or the lack of it) But every once in a while when I pause by the window and look at it, some or the other new thing is there, waiting to be discovered…… The bunch of new leaves, initially in an upright conical shape, shining at the tip of every branch, then each leaf growing, changing colour to a darker shade, spreading out to form a canopy.

The delicate first leaves

Even before the leaves spread to their full size, at the centre of each bunch of leaves sprouts out a thin stem bearing the tiny buds. These are green while in the bud form and then the flowers turn cream coloured as they blossom. These flower-bearing stems, fluffy with the cream blossom, look exactly like the Kalagi on the Pagri (Turban) of the Maharajas or bridegrooms. I guess the Nature is the best designer and we get inspired and borrow the ideas for our jewellery from it.

The Badam blossom

Earlier I was not aware of the special affinity of the birds for these flowers. I always assumed that the birds flocked the trees only when the fruits ripen. But here, right outside my window, I could see flocks of parrots relishing the almond flowers. Not only parrots, even the pigeons enjoy pecking at it.

Parrots, pigeons, crows are the regular species, but apart from these many different variety of winged visitors frequent the tree. I think I’d need assistance from one of  Dr. Salim Ali’s books to identify the species. I do recognise a pair of bulbuls that is a regular visitor at the badam branches and some Mynah. A very tiny one, I think it is called Indian thrush, is hardly the size of thumb; but well, the strength of its vocal cords is something to be heard to believe. Really, sometimes I feel that God truly enjoys playing such pranks — imagine, fitting a loud voice box in a body that is hardly visible!

That reminds me of a formal phone call that we once received from a bank. While discussing some official matter, the lady at the other end suddenly paused for a second and said, “Please don’t mind me asking this, but is that chirping of birds? Have you got a garden around your apartment block? How lucky! Here in Delhi, its only air pollution and heat for us!” Indeed, we are lucky!

I wish I had the expertise to capture these shy and elusive creatures on camera. But they are too small to be seen amidst the thick foliage. Come rain and these big leaves turn into mini water-baths and these birds enjoy frolicking into the little rainwater collected in it.

As the almond fruits grow fuller and fuller, the parrots gather to devour the treat. It is a sight to see. Most of the birds either peck at their food or hold the food between the branch and their claw, bend their head and eat. But the parrots break the fruit from its stem, hold it up in one claw, just like humans, and then very systematically remove layer after layer with their beaks. Their colour is so exactly identical to that of the badam leaves that it is difficult to spot them.  Can you see them in these pictures below?

Around February all the leaves of the tree start changing their colour and within days the entire tree is covered in all red. Even this look of the tree has a glory of its own. It doesn’t take long for all the red leaves to fall off and the barren sticks of the branches stand there, looking forlorn, with only a few badam fruits still adhering to the branch tips.

However, this condition doesn’t last for too long. Because even before the old red leaves could fall off, tiny buds of new leaves are already pushing their heads up from the branch corners. And once again the cycle continues ——–

Do you have any such near and dear companion? Do share your thoughts …….


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