Saturday, April 12, 2008

Of Light and Shade

A good tea planter is also a good tree planter! When tea is grown in the plains, shade trees like these are planted to regulate temperatures to around 25 degrees C - the optimum temperature for the tea bush. A first time visitor to a tea garden always asks how trees managed to pop up in the middle of all the tea! A close look at the picture shows how the trees have been planted in rows, and I hope you can see how dense the shadows in the foreground are. The shade is really cool, while it gets very hot under the sun. Most of these trees are bokain, which is a kind of wild neem.

This huge specimen, an Albizia Maranguensis, is about ten metres tall. At its widest point, the canopy measures 10 meters across. The tea bushes in the background grow to about three feet in height. I found this tree growing by the side of the state highway running between Falakata and Birpara towns. Albizias belong to the family of legumes, and they are all mimosa trees. Some varieties produce flowers that look like fragile shaving brushes.


GVK said...

Nice post, giving tea-garden perspective of trees. In Coonoor they plant silver oak.
Link to Dooars is eminently readable, and informative.

Ashwin said...

Although it feels good to see a few trees in the midst of sprawling tea-estates, it is also worth noting the fact that these tea-estates were planted by clearing thousands of acres of rich, bio-diverse rainforests.

Also, decades of spraying pesticides, fungicides and herbicides have removed all traces of bio-diversity from the soil. Not even frogs croak in these forests on a rainy night. Such places, green though they seem, are in fact biological deserts.

Gardenia said...

Thank you for your comments, Mr. GVK and Mr.Ashwin. It is a fact that the tea estates were planted after forests were cleared - almost 150 years ago, before any of us could have a say in the matter.
Tea gardens support a wide and amazing variety of flora and fauna. The management representaives of the tea gardens and the Department of Forests in the region work in close cooperation with each other. Moraghat Tea Estate was the first garden to set up a forest protection committee in the area!

Happy Kitten said...

Only recently did I come to note that people are voicing against Tea Gardens..
while growing up those places used to be so beautiful. But these tea bushes are really pruned trees , which means their roots go deep down and hold the soil from being eroded. Admit that they have taken the place of other fauna and flora but it did bring jobs to many and still does.


Lovely post, with good pictures.

flowergirl said...

Tea estates now cannot be wished away. Biological deserts - a bit extreme, wouldnt you say?
Me thinks they (tea gardens) have created their own eco system now,

It is heartening to see more estates that are also going organic - even if it is being driven by market forces.

Nice pictures Gardenia!

Gardenia said...

Mr.Ali Zaman, a senior planter for over 40 years in the tea industry, has drawn my attention to the website which is an intersting accout of organic tea growing practices in India.