We were on a nature trail at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park on Sunday morning, when I came across this wierd looking tree with knobbly protrusions all over the bark. What were they, an infestation? An infection? No, said our BNHS guide, they're insurance against dry days. This is the Red Silk Cotton tree and the spines/thorns are how the tree stores water.
We walked a little further, and found another individual of the same species. But I was more interested in the liana twirled next to it. These woody climbers are pretty strong, they grow straight up until they find a suitable host and then start to twine themselves around the host. But why do they do this when they aren't parasites?
Well, in a vine-eat-vine world, it's each vine for itself in the race to reach sunlight. Because in a tropical dry deciduous forest like this one, the tree cover is very thick, especially in the monsoon, and can completely block out the sunlight.
Lianas form bridges between the tree canopy, connecting the entire forest in an intricate network of entangled vines. Fully developed lianas are strong enough to take the weight of arboreal animals like macaques, hanuman langurs and the occasional flying fox. It's easy to figure out why lianas are also called Tarzan Vines!
The Park is very pretty, and we had a nice time there. Did you know that Sanjay Gandhi National Park is supposedly the largest national park in the world within the limits of a city? Check it out some time. BNHS organises great walks every now and then. We certainly enjoyed this one! :)