Photos of the Month - March 2007

By Mymoon Moghul

 From IITM campus




Pictures 1 and 2 Bombax ceilba or Bombax malabaricum


Bombax or Red Silk Cotton Tree is a large deciduous tree that has its origin in the moist tropical forests in Africa, Asia and Australia. Trees grow up to a height of 40 metres and are spiny when young with buttresses when mature. Finger-like leaflets Leaves have 5-7 lance-shaped leaflets arranged like the fingers of a hand. The leaflets are short-stalked, ovate, pointed at the tip and about 3-5 cm long. Large, brilliant, crimson flowers appear near the tips of the branches in summer. The calyx is cup-shaped, usually 3-lobed, smooth outside and white and silky within.

The petals The petals are oblong, re-curved and fleshy and each bloom has a dome-like brush of yellow-anthered stamens with pink filaments. The fruit is about 10-15 cm long, 5 angled, short stalked and black when ripe; and splits open in April-May to reveal silky seeds and disgorge quantities of silky cotton in which small seeds are embedded.

Useful floss. The floss is used for stuffing cushions and pillows and is excellent for making surgical dressings. The bark is covered with conical prickles when young, with ties of whorled branches. Bombax is leafless from December until March. The wood is used for making matchboxes and package cases. Trees grow in fertile, loam-based moist soil in full light and must be watered freely. When leafless the tree must be kept dry. Propagation is by seeds or semi-ripe cuttings. Bombax is grown as specimen trees and to provide shade. It will tolerate hard pruning to restrict size.



A pair of Shikra



Shikra or Accipiter badius badius


South India and Sri Lanka. The adult male is clear grey above, with just a hint of rufous forming a half-collar. Primary flight feathers are dark grey, tipped with black, with white bases on the inner webs, and barred with dark brown or black. Below, the chin and throat are white, with a narrow black streak at the centre. The sides of face and neck are greyish red; the breast and belly are white, finely barred with chestnut. The under-tail thighs are white. The tail is grey, with five dark bars and a dark tip. Underneath, the wings are rufous to buff. The inner lining of the wing quills is grey, shading to pinkish buff, darker towards the tip. The eyes vary from golden to red, the cere from yellow to orange, and the legs yellow. Females are larger and more slaty above. They are also more clearly barred below than males.



“On alert”, A resting chital (Spotted Deer or Axis axis)