The Golden Shower

The Golden Shower — Photograph: Vikram Nanjappa

The Cassia Fistula, commonly called ‘Kakke’ in Kannada, ‘Amaltas’ in Hindi, Indian Laburnum or the Golden Shower tree, is a beautiful flowering tree with unusual, interesting fruit and significant cultural relevance.

Growing to an average height of forty feet, it flowers in spring when it sheds its leaves and bursts into a mass of long, grape like bunches of golden yellow flowers. The name ‘Golden Shower’ is derived from this spectacular display of flowers. The flowering season extends well into the summer. The flowers are extremely fragrant and attract a large number of pollinators (bees), including a large variety of butterflies.

The fruit of the Cassia fistula are dark brown cylindrical pods that are about two feet in length and hold the seeds. The seeds are housed in cells, each containing one seed. Up to 100 seeds can be found in one pod. The seeds of the tree need to be handled with care as they are poisonous.

The flowers are of ritual importance in the state of Kerala, where they are part of the ‘Vishukkani’ during the festival of Vishu. Its leaves are also used as offerings during religious ceremonies. Besides this, it is the floral emblem of the state of Kerala and the national flower of Thailand.

Cassia Fistula is widely used in Ayurveda and is aptly called ‘Aragvadha’ or disease killer. Pulp from the fruit is considered to have the greatest medicinal value. It works as a digestive and anti-inflammatory agent but is best known as a very safe and gentle laxative. The root is used in the treatment of various skin diseases and the leaves are used in ointments. The strongly-scented seed pulp is added to tobacco in India and smoked.

In addition to its medicinal value, the wood of the Cassia fistula is hard, heavy, reddish in colour and is widely used for cabinet making and inlay work. The bark is used in tanning while the wood ash is used as a fixative in the dyeing industry.

Apart from its various uses, when in full bloom, it is one of the most beautiful trees in the dry deciduous forests of Kabini — its yellow flowers perfectly complimenting the red of the Flame of the Forest.

Described as an interested and well-informed amateur, Vikram’s field of inquiry is ‘Man and Nature: whatever is performed by the one or produced by the other’.

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Vikram Nanjappa

Vikram Nanjappa

Described as an interested and well-informed amateur, Vikram’s field of inquiry is ‘Man and Nature: whatever is performed by the one or produced by the other’.

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