The Swiss Connection

On Dassera Day I got a mail from Dr. Sharad P. Kale, Head, Nuclear Agriculture and Biotechnology Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre with a strange request: “Please plant one Bahunia recimosa or Apta tree if it is possible to reciprocate what Mother Earth has given us in the form of Life–gold.”
bauhinia_variegata_leafHe was referring to ‘sona’ leaves we exchange on Dassera day. Every year, a day prior to Dassera, branches of Apta trees in and around Thane are hacked are brought to Mumbai, its suburbs and Thane by the adivasis and sold to the urban dwellers.
At the end of the day the leaves are deposited in the dust bin to be carried away to dumping ground or landfill. Have we ever given thought of planting a apta? It’s very unlikely you will see a Bahunia Recimosa planted on roadsides or parks by the civic body or in housing garden patch.
Of the many Bahunias (there are 200 of them), easily identifiable by their cow-feet shaped leaves, my favourite is Bahunia Purpure or the Purple Bauhunia.
I have always wondered as to how it derived its botanical name, Bauhunia. The credit goes to Bauhin Brothers, Gaspard (1560-1624)and Johann (1541-1613), of Basel (Switzerland), botanist, anatomist, and plant taxonomist. Each wrote classic works on the cultivation, economic uses and nomenclature of plants. In the 18th century, Europeans first discovered a tropical genus of small- to medium-sized trees with twin-lobed foliage. Here were the ideal plants whose twin-lobed leaves would forever serve as a reminder of a brotherly botanical legacy to honour the illustrious Bauhins. And so the genus name Bauhinia was born.
Yes, I do have a Purple Bauhinia, at the edge of my farm.

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