Stare in the face of one of the world's largest bat species and gaze at exotic trees on a weekend nature trail in Rani Bagh
Did you know that Veermata
Jijabai Udyan in Byculla, popularly known as Rani Bagh, is home to 853 plant species, including Queen's Flower, the state flower of Maharashtra? Or that a huge colony of Indian Flying Fox, India's largest bat species, resides on the premises?
This Sunday, discover the 154-year-old green lung, covering 53 acres and the only heritage botanical garden in Mumbai, through a Bat And Tree Walk organised by BNHS. The two-hour trail will be conducted by Asif Khan, associate officer - programmes at the organisation. "Originally, the botanical garden was located in Sewri. It was developed by the Agri-Horticultural Society of Western India. Being far from the city, that land was converted into a cemetery, and a new botanical garden was set up in Byculla. Plants were shifted here in 1861," informs BNHS team member Vandan Jhaveri.
ON: May 28, 8.45 am
MEETING POINT: Exit Gate, Rani Bagh, Byculla (E).
COST: Rs 200
NOTE: Carry water in non-disposable bottles. Plastic bags and food are not allowed in the premises
3,213 Number of trees in Rani Bagh
Pics Courtesy/Vandan Jhaveri, Rajdeo Singh, Gargi VR
Indian Flying Fox
At first, they may resemble huge fruits hanging from trees. Look closer and you'll spot the jet black wings, spanning over a metre. The Indian Flying Fox or Fruit Bat is one of the world's largest bat species, and Rani Bagh houses a colony of 500. "You'll spot the most here because Rani Bagh has huge, old trees with wide canopies and the area is comparatively peaceful," says Jhaveri. The nocturnal creatures feed on ripe fruit and flower nectar, and help distribute seeds.
Brownea Coccinea: A small tree, native to Jamaica, with attractive blooms that hang downwards like Chinese lanterns.
Cannon Ball Tree: From Guinea, the tree is named after its fragrant flowers resembling cannon balls. It is commonly known as Kailashpati.
Apta: Considered auspicious as it finds a mention in the Mahabharata, the leaves of this tree are exchanged by the Maharashtrian community as 'sona' during Dussehra. You will also spot its purple flowers in ornamental gardens of Mumbai.
5 must-spot trees at rani bagh
Right at the entrance of the garden are two Baobabs (left). They are also known as Upside Down trees because the branches, stripped of leaves, and arching towards the sky look like they're roots. Native to tropical Africa, and introduced by Abyssinian traders and Portuguese, the tree has a wide girth and white flowers, which attract Fruit Bats.
Associated with the legend of Krishna, it's one of the main attractions at the botanical garden. The child deity is said to have used the tree's distinct cup-shaped leaves to scoop butter from the pots. This tree is a mutant of the banyan tree.
Tree Of Heaven
There are only four of these trees in Mumbai, and Rani Bagh houses three of them. Native to Myanmar, the tree is commonly known as Pride Of Burma. It features beautiful, suspended reddish flowers.
Flame Of The Forest
The deciduous tree derives its name from its red flowers that grow densely and resemble a forest fire. Locally, it's also known as Palas. "Palashi, where the Battle Of Plassey was fought, is named after this tree," adds Jhaveri.
With its soft, peeling bark and pointed leaves, you'd be forgiven for thinking this Australian native is a Eucalyptus tree. However, its leaves don't emit any scent.
Cajeput oil, known as a cure for cold, headache and toothaches, is extracted from it.
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