Trees of Delhi (A Field Guide)

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Item Code: NAG634
Author: Pradip Krishen
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley India Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2006
ISBN: 9780144000708
Pages: 360 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 6 inch
Weight 780 gm
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Shipped to 153 countries
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Book Description



I’ve been walking on the Ridge near Sardar Patel Marg for nearly forty years now. For most of this time, I knew very little about the trees and shrubs that I saw there. The neem was probably the only tree I could recognize at a glance. I learned to tell the flame of the forest in bloom, but would have struggled to recognize it outside the flowering season. To my untrained eye, the Ridge was just a wild-looking place in the middle of the city, with lots of thorny trees and bushes.


Then something happened. It was late winter in 1995 - 16 February, to be precise. I know because I wrote it down. It is a time of year when most shrubs and trees on the Ridge have been bare for many weeks. On this particular day, I noticed that every dry twig had sprouted a tiny, pale green affirmation that it was still alive - little, glinting points of life, especially noticeable when a bush was backlit by the sun. It was like a hidden trigger had been pulled to produce the magic of a fresh shoot, not just on one plant, but everywhere I looked. I felt specially privileged, as though the forest had allowed me in on a secret event in its biological calendar.


Looking back, I am sure this was the exact moment when my interest in plants began. My earliest photographs of Delhi trees were taken in the rainy season of 1997. It must have been sometime just before then that I decided to learn as much as I could about Delhi’s trees and begin the research that led to this book. As I learned more, I began to lead walks on Sunday mornings, exploring gardens and semi-wild places with groups of tree-spotters. And that is how this book slowly gathered unstoppable momentum.


I had no idea, at first, how hard it might be to track down the identity of every tree in Delhi. Native trees and those from other parts of India are not usually a problem. Unlike a natural forest, cities accumulate many ornamental trees from other parts of the world with a compatible climate. Over time, some exotic trees - like the bottlebrush and silky oak - prove their adaptability and ornamental value and become like cliches of the cultivated landscape. No problem identifying those trees.


Others fail to do well or reach full potential and are then discarded. It is these unsuccessful, forgotten exotics that can pose a challenge. I came across a small tree in Sundar Nursery (Nizamuddin) that had me puzzled for years. It had feather-compound leaves with crowded, leathery leaflets and I never found it in flower. I felt certain it wasn’t an Indian tree. But where do you begin to look up the identity of an exotic tree? Without flowers, how do you assign it to a botanical family? Even if you figure out what family it belongs to, which Flora do you consult?


I came upon the same tree accidentally in the Sydney Botanic Garden three years later. The Sydney tree was tall and wide-spreading and bore little resemblance to the runt in Sundar Nursery, but something about its blunt, crowded leaflets was familiar. I brought back a leaf with me to make sure, and it was only then that I knew for certain that the Sundar Nursery specimen was a carrotwood tree from south-eastern coastal Australia.


How did it get there? Was it one of the trees that Percy-Lancaster, Delhi’s Superintendent of Horticulture, planted in the 1940s? Possibly. But it wasn’t the only one. In Sundar Nursery too I found a lone, forgotten specimen of a coca tree from the Peruvian Andes. I found 2 delicate-leaved Brazilian ironwood trees with wonderfully mottled bark; a magnificent khaya or Senegal mahogany; a broadleaved bottle .tree, also from Australia. Each one had to be tracked down and identified.


So here it is, then - the result of a lot of detective work plus some straightforward persistence and foot-slogging. 252 trees in all, plus-minus a few subspecies. Many common ones, a few that are the only representatives of their kind in the city, and a whole lot of trees neither common nor rare. Could I possibly have accounted for every single species of tree there is in Delhi? Probably not. It is more than likely I have missed a few trees skulking in private gardens or out-of-the-way places, and I hope readers will write in and tell me if they know of missing trees that belong in this book.







What is a tree?


Tree Names


The parts of a tree


How to use this book


The leaf scheme


Delhi as a habitat for trees


Delhi’s Natural ecology


Delhi’s micro-habitats


Where exactly is the ridge?


Native trees or the Delhi ridge


19th-century Delhi


Avenue trees in the New capital


The afforestation of the central ridge:



Delhi today


Where to go tree spotting in Delhi



Jamun-like leaves


Peepal-like leaves


Frangipani-like leaves


Chinar-like leaves


Pine-like leaves


Kachnar - or bael-like leaves


Semal-like leaves


Imli-like leaves


Gulmohur-like leaves


Palm-like leaves


Back of the book

Relating to the character, uses or distribution of trees


Relating to the identity, taxonomy or name of a tree


Family names


List of species





Sample Pages

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