Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Season of Laburnums

It's holiday season. Examinations are over and time to go on a long holiday. In many parts of India New Year is just come and with that a riot of colours. Just like the colours of Holi, spring dabs the world in a myriad of colours. Every tree and plant competes with each other to display its brightest blossom and this is the season for Laburnum.

This tree is draped in yellow blossoms from mid-March to mid-April and is special in Kerala. The flowers are a part of Vishu, Kerala's New Year. Dawn on New Years day in Kerala households have a tradition where we open our eyes to all things nice. The yellow laburnum has the exclusive privilege to be the "flower of the New Year".

The yellow flowers hang in pendulous racemes about 10-30 cm long, and have earned it the nick name of golden-chain tree. However, this is a part I did not know. All parts of the plant are poisonous and can be sometimes lethal. Symptoms of Laburnum poisoning may include intense sleepiness, vomiting, convulsive movements, coma, slight frothing at the mouth and unequally dilated pupils. In some cases, diarrhoea is very severe and at times the convulsions are markedly tetanic.

Despite its lethal nature it is a popular garden plant and is a sight to behold when in full bloom.

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