The Petrea Photobomb
Updated: Mar 18, 2022
Spring has been lazy this year. It is mid-Feb, and the mornings are still cool, and it wants you to stay tucked in bed. The birds are awake, though. The nearby Raintree chirps with parakeets that devour the sweet fruit. A construction site in the back lane starts work at six, disturbing the morning peace. I drag myself out of bed, make some coffee and walk into the garden. The dry leaves from Pongamia and mast trees rustle with the cool breeze. The dust from the construction site has coated the leaves a dull brown. No matter how much water I spray and wipe, the dust comes back with a vengeance. It is one of those days I wish it would rain.
The Petrea Volubilis branch with numerous buds caught my attention. It blooms a couple of times in a year, and it colours the garden with its plush violet blooms for a fortnight. I am thrilled that there is something to look forward to for the next couple of days.
The flowers appear on a racemose spike. They are two-layered. The outer bracts (five of them) are purple coloured soft when they bloom and develop a papery texture as they mature. They change colour from purple to light green, finally to golden, and the seeds are mature by this stage. The bracts dislodge themselves and float in the air to reach the ground. They twirl as they fly and therefore are called the helicopter flowers.
When in full bloom, the 20-30 com long racemose looks like a horse's tail and is consequently called Kudire Bala, Horse Tail in Kannada. The racemose can be bent and shaped into a loop, hence the popular name, Purple Wreath. Inside the bract is the dark purple flower. The bracts protect the flower and also help in attracting pollinators. The leaves are rough to touch, like sandpaper. This and Parijatha( Nyctanthes arbor-tristis, Coral jasmine, Night-flowering jasmine) are two plants I have with this type of leaves.
I wanted to photograph as much as pollinators for record-keeping. During one of those moments, I saw a Mormon butterfly flitting above the flowers for a long time. I took my phone out to capture it, and a sunbird from the nearby bird-bath flew in and drove the butterfly away. It felt like a nice photobomb. I stood still, holding the camera carefully and clicking the camera button. The bird and I were surprised to see each other, and the sunbird took off without a pause.
The flower also attracts various bees; the stingless, blue-banded, and carpenter bees are some I noticed. The flowers fall away late in the evening, creating a purple carpet.
The rough and unruly vine climbs up quickly. Though it might look tough it is one of the easiest plants to grow. Planting the bracts in soil and keeping it moist will help the seed to germinate. You will also find saplings in nearby pots and on the ground if the bracts find a fertile place. Below, you can see the sapling growing from the bract!
Here is a Garden art that I created with the flowers.