Leaf of the Day:Champaka pod and about Drawing.

On my second visit to Leu this week I was still trying to find inspiration for the next assignment, the botanical study, but keeping me on the straight and narrow when I get to the gardens is just hopeless. I looked at many things, walked for miles and looked again at the soapberry and the tea camellia and am considering the crown flower again, but there are no flowers on the tea at the moment and the soapberry flowers are the tiniest things you can imagine.

So I came to no conclusion but did find these odd little immature Champaca pods. Long ago Pedro gave me an old gnarled spent seed case from this beautiful tree, since when I have been patiently waiting for a new one… for over a year. I think I now know why I can’t find a mature one ..it’s squirrels.. It has to be the squirrels again, they eat all the pods of the other magnolias too. I can never find one with all those lovely red seeds.

I wrote about the glorious scented Champacas last year here and the beautiful big Michaelia alba near the avenue of Camphor trees has just started blooming. The scent is sheer heaven ! I brought one of the little flowers back with me and its perfume has filled the room.
The pods are actually from the Michaelia champaca, the original “Joy Perfume” tree and develop from the cone shaped central receptacle of the flower. This photograph is from the excellent Wayne’s Word site here and shows the flower and the mature seed pod.

If only I could find one. I think I may ask Pedro to put a bag over one for me while it matures. I am sure I read this advice somewhere, given to someone also trying to find an intact un-squirreled magnolia pod.

These are curious things, green with white spots at the moment. The mature ones will blacken and then split. I cut one large pod open and inside were 6 seeds snugly wedged up against each other, completely filling the cavity, again, beautifully designed. As I took them apart, there were the fine white strings that attach the seeds to the case, just like the magnolia.


Champaca Pods

Leaf of the Day: The Joy of White Champaca.

Today I had to eat that last fragrant little guava, it has scented the whole house over the weekend, but I have replaced it with the superb White Champaca blossom. It has been in a container in the fridge for 3 days but as I brought it out , the whole room was filled with the most exquisite perfume. It is quite unbelievable and, it is not only sweet smelling, but beautiful too, the kind of flower I like, simple with slender creamy white petals, most elegant. You just have to keep going back to it for one more noseful of delight. If you live near one, beg a blossom or if your garden is big enough, grow one for yourself. If I had a garden it would be my number one tree. For an artist it is a delight, everything about it is worth painting, from leaves and flowers to the twisted pods with the red seeds and the tree itself.
The White Champaca is the Magnolia (once termed Michelia) alba. It is a tall, evergreen tree with these spidery creamy white flowers and the delicious sweet fragrance which starts early in the morning becoming more intense in the afternoon and filling the air at night. It is Shanghai’s floral emblem and in Thailand the blossoms are hung about the temple altars and floated in bowls of water to perfume the air.