Inhaling the jasmine-like scent last evening walking home it dawned on me how unfair were forefathers were. Because Saptaparni blooms at dusk it has been dubbed as the Indian Devil Tree! Its flowers never get pride of place in a vase or used in any ceremony. Just like the Plumeria.
Interestingly both are great favourites of moths and other nocturnal insects.
The tallest Saptaparni I have come across is in Mumbai’s Byculla Zoo and is identified as Alstonia scholaris. The tree is over 100-year-old, I presume. Its canopy is spread all over and its height reaching the skies. You’re likely to see bats hanging from its branches. On the roadsides of the new housing colonies and even in old neighbourhoods of Thane you’re likely to recognise the Saptparnis when they bloom.
If you want to catch the fragrance of Saptaparni (it’s seven- leafed), now is the time for it. It begins blooming in the third half of September or in the beginning of October and continues to spread its fragrance till November. The fragrance of its yellowish white flowers reminds you of Cestrum nocturnum or Raatraani (Marathi).
In Bengal, it’s known as Chatim. Interestingly, there are scores of Bengalis out there who have adopted its Sanskrit name as their own. You will come across Saptaparni Dey, Saptaparni Ghosh and many others.