Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Pink Paradise in New Delhi - Floss Silk Flowers

October 2015

Trees will be everywhere, in every garden however small it be, and along the sides of every roadway, and Imperial Delhi will be in the main a sea of foliage. It may be called a city, but it is going to be quite different from any city that the world has known...

Captain George Swinton, Chairman of the Town-Planning Committee for the new capital of New Delhi

You love New Delhi. You love the city for the spaces, the grid of broad avenues, the colonial bungalows, the roundabouts, and yes, the trees. It is the trees that announce the arrival of New Delhi as your shredded senses are balmed over by the shade and greenery. Even the honking seems to fade away and you seem to be drifting in this zone of bliss. No wonder Delhi has more trees per square km than any other big city. It is because of this dense canopy that Delhi is a paradise for bird lovers and the foliage keeps the city cooler by a couple of degrees during the unforgiving summers. Yes New Delhi is different from any other city.

While the builders were giving shape to Edwin Lutyens’ blueprints of the newest city of Delhi, saplings were being grown in Sunder Nursery to be soon planted across the newly laid out roads. By design, massive and shade-giving trees were chosen – neem, arjun, imli, jamun, sausage tree, baheda, peepal, and pilkhan. Trees that grow slow and live long. It is possible that the trees chosen were non-floweringkind and did not shed in the same season and therefore it would have been easier to keep the roads clean and the entire city would not look barren at the same time. Also, there was an attempt to ensure that the trees did not obscure sights that were meant to be unhidden.

But during later years as Diplomatic Enclave, and government and private colonies came up, the choice of trees was broadened to include trees that flowered and grew faster. So now, the city witnesses an annual floral cycle that begins with silk cottons and is followed by corals, flame of the forest, amaltas and gulmohar.

Willingdon Crescent, the road where you grew up, had an interesting mix of peepal, jamun, imli and khirni trees that would keep us busy across the year while the NDMC gardeners chased us over the Rashtrapati Bhawan walls. Playing cricket among gently tended flower beds and throwing stones at khinni trees would get any gardener worth his clippers mad.

You remember while cycling your way to school by Nehru Park, entire Niti Marg would explode in red as the semals or silk cotton trees (Bombax ceiba) start to flower in early spring. In a few days, white puffy cotton would cloud the entire road even as you tried to catch the drifting fibres.

Until all these years you had noticed only these red flowers besides the gulmohars and amaltashes. You always assumed October to be a quiet month as trees busy themselves growing leaves and hunkering down for the winters.

The Magnificent Floss Silk Flowers

Well until now. Driving around the government colonies you come to the Laxmibai Nagar Lake Park. You love this area and have childhood memories by loadfuls. And there by the side of the road you see this majestic sight. You can’t believe it. Yes you are pretty blind to birds and flowers but good influence of friends and you seem to be slowly developing an eye for nature.

The Lakshmi Bai Nagar Lake Park, New Delhi

Inside the Lake Garden, you see the marvel. Two trees laden with such exquisite flowers coloured with shades of pink and magenta greet you. It seems like a miracle. You have never seen such flowers in Delhi. Why is nature so kind to you – first Valley of Flowers and now these beautiful trees?

The splendid sight belongs to Floss Silk trees, which in the process of shedding their green leaves have put up a spectacular display just for you. The five-petalled flowers are large and seem to have shades of pink, magenta, purple and even ivory.

The ground below is draped with fallen flowers. The flowers look so real and alive as if even the ground is nurturing them and is not willing to let them fade away.

Magenta Magic in Sector 39 Noida

Floss Silk on Copernicus Marg

The Spiny Trunk

Floss Silk tree (now isn’t that a lovely name?) or Ceiba speciosa is a deciduous tree native to tropical forests of South America. The tree endearingly called Resham Rui is regarded as one of the most beautiful trees in the world. Now these trees are grown as ornamental trees in other parts of the world. A unique feature of the tree is that its entire trunk and stems is covered with thorns or conical spines. The flower yield vegetable silk that is used in stuffing soft pillows. But we are more interested in those divine looking flowers.

Pink Paradise on Shanti Path

Sea of Pink Foliage

The next day you find more trees – this time in another Delhi’s piece of heaven – Shanti Path. It is the familiar road you took when you went to school by bus and when you visited Rail Museum and when you went to visit relatives in Moti Bagh and Vasant Vihar. Every time you come back to Chanakya Puri to relieve memories it seems you turn back the clock and are back in your childhood. You feel happy here. And this place gets prettier and prettier.

Silk Floss Flowers in New Delhi

On one of these pretty roundabouts that you visited on Holi, it seems Holi has come early here. The place is brimming with Floss Silk trees. What a sight! You feel loved by Nature here. This is your own little paradise right here.

The Nehru Park mounds where you rolled down feeling the cool grass on your face
Sangharsh Sthal, near Raj Ghat - 2016

The Last Floss Silk - Lodhi Gardens 2016

Floss Silk bloom in Nehru Park

Your own island of Pink Paradise - Shanti Path

Now what to say about these roundabouts? They are like islands where you can maroon yourself in the middle of this megacity - a place, in words of a friend, where you can spend a lazy afternoon. You can just sit under the beautiful flower-laden trees, reminisce, write, dream, or just talk to yourself.

Delhi is full of surprises – whether in its monuments, or people or bazaars and now here in nature. In these wonderful October days as you discover more of Delhi, you are falling in love with your city all over again.

Circa 2017
Delhi is doomed. The pink star-studded Silk Floss trees would bring some cheer to the deary and grey October skies over Delhi even as neighbouring states go medieval on the environment burining paddy stubble.

But this year it seems even Silk Floss is unhappy and gloomy and droopy, as if protesting Delhi’s indifference to the environment. Even in the same grove, the trees seem to rebelling to varying degrees. While some trees are all green with no blooms, some trees have some scattered blooms. But the grime covered leaves and the flowers are unequivocally unhappy. God, send us some rain from Chennai.

At the Yashwant Place Roundabout

At the Janpath and Rajesh Pilot Marg Roundabout - 21st Oct 2018

India International Centre - 28th Oct 2018

Circa 2019
First Week of November
The conditions after Diwali are apocalyptic. But miraculously, day after the skies clear and there is a hint of blue up there and sun makes an appearance. You find yourself in the roundabout the next day too. The grass is draped with the pink carpet of the blooms. Up there they twinkle and glow like stars. Delhi, why can't you be like this forever.

Trees of Delhi: A Field Guide by Pradip Krishen
City Improbable – Writings on Delhi edited by Khushwant Singh


  1. Lovely trip to your Pink Paradise! The main thing that had help me survived happily in Delhi was its changing landscape each month due to trees. Now I look forward for several other post about trees, flowers and birds that I have met there in different seasons. When I read this except childhood memory aspect I identify with it as if this was happening to my heart! I was in Amdawad during my childhood and I was too serious a child. I will remind you on changing colours of Delhi, so that you bring us more smiles through your blogs! Thanks again and thank you in advance!

    1. Thanks Krinna,

      Yes Delhi has something for every season. Now that the skies are again gloomy filled with smog, I long for the Delhi of 80s when it was pristine and so liveable. Of course Delhi will survive like it has all through the ages and will continue to delight us and make us proud!

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Spotted Silk Floss trees around Gulmohar Enclave, South Delhi. While searching on google came across your blog post. Nice Post and specially the pics.

    1. Hi Himanshu,

      Yes the Silk Floss trees were a total surprise, though I might have seen them in previous years, but this year they were a pleasant surprise alright.

      That is what I like about Delhi - the city keeps us surprising whether its her monuments, the cultural scene or the flora.

      Thanks for the appreciation!

  3. Very well written ,very good photographs and authentic information..
    Driving across the roads of delhi I often come across flowering trees mostly during autumn and spring time......curiosity evoked in the mind what is this tree called..thank for introducing it to me...Nirdes Singh Ji...
    I just typed Pink Flowefs In October in Delhi...
    got your blog ...read itmAAJA aA GAYA...

    1. Hi,

      Thank you for noticing the beautiful flowers of Delhi when all we are caught up in is the traffic around us and getting stressed. These flowers are the perfect antidote when the air is thick with dust and smog. Yes Delhi has ugly side too during these months.

      Thanks for reading the story and for the appreciation and for leaving comments here.

      Keep discovering Delhi!


  4. You know this is one of my eternal favorite posts of my eternal favorite tree.
    Saw it first time in Delhi and totally fell in love with it. Now that I am not there, your post makes me long to visit one of my most loved [ n lived ] cities soon :)

  5. Were the photographs always this beautiful or am I missing n thus loving them more?

    1. Hi Gits,

      Yes I just went through the post and the photos again and felt so good especially in a month when the air is heavy with dust and smog and mosquitoes and viruses. October is just about the worst month in Delhi and these flowers are like the only bright spot in Delhi's landscape.

      Thanks for all the appreciation and do come back to meet the flowers in person!

      Happy Diwali!

  6. Somply intoxicatingly...exotic a city in full colourful bloom!

    1. Yes isn't it?!

      Silk Floss blooms provide some cheer during these smoggy days in Delhi!

      Thanks for reading!