Colville’s Glory
From the land of the Baobab, Delonix regia and the Lemurs
There are many of these picture perfect trees in Lalbagh. The tree is named after Sir Charles Colville who was Army Commander-in-chief in Bombay from 1819 to 1825 and subsequently Governor of Mauritius from 1828 to 1834. Bojer, an Austrian Botanist, first found a single cultivated tree in 1824 in Madagascar when he mounted a specimen collecting expedition from Mauritius. Further, he described, in 1829, the flamboyant (Delonix regia or Gulmohur) which also he found in Madagascar. Eight of the ten known species of Baobabs also come from Madagascar. It was from Mauritius that Colville’s Glory and the Gulmohar were disseminated worldwide, including India.
We know that plants from Tenerife, Turkey, Persia, Kabul and Mauritius were brought in by Tipu Sultan to Lalbagh. Tipu had an emissary who spent over 18 months in Mauritius collecting seeds and saplings for planting in India. However, Colville’s Glory was planted in Lalbagh after Tipu’s time.
The genus Colvillea has only one species - Colvillea racemosa which grows very well in Bangalore. Colvilleas have been planted successfully in Bombay, Delhi and elsewhere in India and the tropics. The feathery bipinnate leaves which create a large spreading crown on the tree make it an ideal shade giving tree. The leaf formation together with the hemispherical spread itself would be sufficient reason for valuing the tree. When the tree is not in flower it can be mistaken for a Gulmohur.
However, the bole or trunk is quite different in Colville’s Glory. The trunk is a coppery colour and in certain parts of India parakeets make their nests on the bole, though we have not seen this happen at Lalbagh/Bangalore. The Gulmohur of course, has an entirely different trunk which, as the tree gets older, often has buttresses to transmit the weight of the heavy branches to the ground. The wood of the Gulmohur is weak and this would be a means of strengthening the trunk of the tree. However, the trunk of Colville’s Glory is sturdier and grows straight out of the ground without buttresses.
When in flower the tree is a spectacular sight to behold. The showy flowers in branched spikes held above the leaves droop down in conical racemes. The colour is a lovely ochre orange and the drooping clusters of the buds are an arresting sight. The buds in the racemes diminish in size towards the end, giving the impression of a cone with nuts embedded on it.
Mahesh has taken out a number of photographs of the Colville’s Glory when in full bloom. The tree bustles with life. The flowers have bees busying themselves collecting nectar. It is not merely the bees but also squirrels, kites, mynahs, etc., which come on to the tree when it is in bloom. The photographs with the grand pariah kites on the canopy of the tree and those of the three striped palm squirrel portray this. This Musing is accompanied by many photographs all of which we cannot resist attaching as they are excellent illustrations of the tree, the leaves, the buds, the flowers and the related fauna - the photographs say it all.

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