Travelling back home after work these days has become much more pleasant. The lime like heady scent of the Saton (Alstonia scholaris) fills the air at dusk. The flowers bloom at dusk in bunches and one can see carpets of flowers on beaten tracks and tar roads wherever the tree flowers. Flowering in sync almost throughout the state, one can virtually count the number of trees from the fragrance that fills the air, if one is on a long distance drive. The flowering of the tree also heralds the arrival of the winter. It flowers twice during this time.
Wonder why a tree as graceful and elegant as the Alstonia scholaris is called the Devil Tree. The local name Saton, probably a reference to the leaves which appear in whorls of around 7, is an apt term.
The flowering at dusk is by no means an accident. The scent is meant to attract insects which pollinate the plant. This very scent informed me last year that the trees along the NH-17, on my way home, flowered in the month of November & later in January. This year they flowered in October and now again during Christmas. Does the early flowering this year indicate a change due to the prolonged monsoons? Do we know how these plants behave in the face of eminent climatic change? Do we know how many of these trees are actually present in the first place? Maybe a little bit of citizen science can help us in collecting this ecological information.