City Nature - Pilkhan Trees, District Park

City Nature – Pilkhan Trees, District Park

New leaves.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Today is the holy Holi. This day of colours ends in hours, but some of the colours of Holi shall linger amid the trees of Delhi (even though the season’s red bloom of semal tree is reaching an end).

All you have to do is to next week visit the District Park in Hauz Khas Village. The place has quite a few pilkhan trees, and most are about to dress up completely in new leaves. The leaves will be special— they glow in striking shades of red.

Pointing to a tree, the guard at the park’s entrance identifies it as pilkhan, saying the green leaves will fall any day now. “Naye patte” will be out in 8-10 days, he promises, which will be “laal,” making the tree look “as if it were set on fire.” Those new leaves will glow in tones of russet and bronze, before turning to a firmer red, ultimately becoming pale green.

Pilkhans typically start shedding in February, replaced by a new stock in March. The red of the fresh leaves is sporadically starting to show across the capital—including along Neeti Marg, around Mandi House traffic circle, in Kaka Nagar, and in Gurugram’s Sadar Bazar, close to the area’s Jama Masjid. That said, the most extravagant pilkhan spectacle unfolds here in the District Park. On gazing at the park from a distance—actually from a roof in Hauz Khas Village—the panorama is a green painting with unwieldily daubs of red, which are in fact the new leaves. See left photo. On standing directly under one of these red daubs, it looks like the sunset shade had slyly embedded itself inside the flesh of each leaf. A tall man is trying to touch the leaves. See the other photo.

The red leaves shall come up in the park in much greater numbers after a few days. The sight will be magnificent, like clouds of Holi’s lal-bhure gulal suspended in mid-air. Eventually the leaves shall turn green, losing their transitory magic. Fret not. Delhi is on the cusp of summer. Amaltas trees are to soon bloom with their 2024 crop of brilliant yellow flowers, keeping the Holi’s colourful spirit alive.