Amaltas (Common laburnum or Indian Laburnum), I think, may be the only tree of its kind which flowers and seeds simultaneously. It begins flowering in early March (in Thane): the bright yellow flowers hanging like droplets. That may be the reason it’s also known as Golden shower plant. The cylindrical seed pods, in the beginning, are dark green and slowly with days turn dark brown or black. Sanskrit has four names for it: Aragbadha, Suvarnaka (golden), Rajataru, Nripadruma (royal tree) and kritamla on account of the beauty of the long racemes of yellow flowers. The seedpods have hundreds of seeds; enough to grow a modest forest. Break open the seedpods with a stone and you’re likely to see the seeds neatly stacked—like in a CD rack. The pods contain approximately 30 -100 large hard flat, water-drop-shaped seeds and are light brown in colour.
I came across this translated poem by Maaz Bin Balal which eulogizes the beauty of amalatas, published in Himal.
“As crusts over hearts may bake in this season of amaltas,
Our parched souls, if florid, ache in this season of amaltas.
In that blinding yellow haze, what, did we not rake in those
inflamed passions, the sun’s make, in this season of amaltas?
Delhi’s very own harvest, for the tired lover, what rest?
Crackdowns, protests; what’ll he take in this season of amaltas?
You’re out to pick roses at the time of laburnums, Maaz,
They will know you’re a fake, in this season of amaltas.
And then come the rains:
When unbearable yellow blooms are drenched by the monsoon,
The thirst of Qais’s solitude is quenched by the monsoon.
Did the rain then dissipate what desire did create?
Did water douse raging fires, belched by the monsoon?
It’s thunder, lightning; will the revolution be frightening?
Or will all beauty, romance now be wrenched by the monsoon?
Do think of it again, Maaz, could this be your final stance?
The thick yellow fleece may yet be flinched by the monsoon.”
At times I feel how fortunate we are to have such a beautiful tree around, giving us visual pleasure during the summer months: for its native to South East Asia and also found in Australia, Egypt, Ghana, Mexico, and Zimbabwe.
This is the right time to harvest the seeds of amaltas if you are among those who become rapturous watching the Golden Shower in full bloom. Plant it because it attracts hosts of bees and butterflies.
Having gathered the seeds from pods clean it thoroughly to remove the pulp. Once cleaned, the seeds must be gently scarified and soaked for 24 hours, prior to sowing.