NEW DELHI: While the world associates spring with flowers in bloom and refreshing greenery, Delhi’s season is almost an iteration of autumn. The road littered with dry, brown leaves, however, is a reminder that in the capital, as in much of northern India, a large number of trees shed their foliage at this time in preparation for the harsh months of a hot and dusty summer.
“The perception that trees only shed their leaves in autumn is incorrect,” says Pradip Krishen, author of ‘Trees of Delhi’. He then explains, “Delhi primarily has deciduous tree species and these need to shed their leaves during this period so they can get ready for the dry season ahead. These species, which require less water, are perfect for the conditions in Delhi as the water table is low in a lot of places and the capital only gets rain for a short while.”
Deciduous species like amaltas, chambal, peepal, pilkhan and mahua are among the hundreds of varieties thriving in the capital and the reason for the piles of dry leaves in the season. Those that don’t shed leaves, like the evergreen Arjun and Maulsari, look “pretty”, but says Krishen, they are not suited for Delhi’s climatic conditions. “These consume a lot of water and need a lot of care, especially in the summers. So while deciduous trees may not seem ideal because they shed their leaves, they are still the most suited to Delhi’s ecology and climate,” Krishen asserts.
Experts say during shedding season, a single tree can divest itself of as much as 10 kg of leaves. Multiply that by the number of trees lining Delhi’s roads and colonies, and the municipal corporations certainly have a task on their hands. “Depending on the species, trees shed leaves weighing between 3kg and 10kg,” informs ecologist C R Babu. “True, dried leaves don’t weigh much but certain species can still shed up to 10 kg of leaves per tree.”
Padmavati Dwivedi, a tree activist who has assisted the capital’s colonies in carrying out composting, feels that managing these leaves can actually be an easy task if the residents’ welfare associations take it up. “You get plenty of leaves during this season, and if each RWA steps up to create a composting pit in its colony, you will not only manage the dead foliage, but also produce organic compost,” points out Dwivedi.
Krishen suggests that if the capital was to choose trees that did not get rid of their leaves in spring, they could consider native varieties such as dhau, aamti, palash and anjeeri.