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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Has it really?  Here’s what Sikkim’s famous forester KC Pradhan said earlier:  “It is Stenocarpus sinuatus - Proteaceae-from Australia- Firewheel Tree- scarlet (orange-red) umbels of 12-20 flowers arranged like rays of a wheel. Watch the magnificent medium sized tree at Late PS Moktan's house in June or so. I was dazed to see the tree smothered with vibrant scarlet-red flowers some years back. Hope it is still there. It was he who got it planted at the Forest Secretariat. I sourced some 100 plants from LB Pradhan & Sons Nursery at Kalimpong in the late 1970s and asked HC Mukhia to get them distributed. I have two but being in a shady corner fail to bloom though they did well on earlier days. They like open sunny places. All garden grown plants are around 30 ft. height but in its native condition the tree attains as high as 100 feet. I wonder if it does flower at Deorali - looks like it is rather in shady place.  It is mostly grown as a pot plant for its ornamental value. All raised from seeds.”
The photograph is of one of the five young-looking trees planted by Late PS Moktan IFS PCCF/ Secretary Forests behind the Forest Secretariat at Deorali, Gangtok.  Yes, the area does not receive much sun.  However the flowering has happened in August, which seems late.  The unusual and large leaf was brought in for identification by an engineer under the SBFP-JICA project of the department during a survey of the complex last year. It was kindly identified by KC Pradhan.
This species is only one of many exotic (not indigenous) tree species imported to Sikkim to add further glamour to our biodiversity hotspot by well-meaning people. Some are planted along roadsides as avenue plantations by Forest Department and have grown into large stately trees such as the orange-flowered Streculias along NH 31A.  It would be good if a listing was made of others like it so as to spread awareness among the younger generation, during this International Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020.
Anyone with such information is requested to share it along with relevant data like locations, dates, photographs, any interesting observations, etc., so that it can be documented appropriately.

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