The Golden Shower Tree’s scientific name (The Cassia Fistula) is derived from words Cassia, meaning aromatic bark (like Cinnamon) and fistula, indicating tubular or pipe-like shape, which describes the pods. It is a popular ornamental tree worldwide and has multiple medicinal properties.
It is called ‘Aragvadha’ which means ‘disease killer’ in Ayurveda, and is used to treat several dermal, gastrointestinal and cardiac problems. The Golden Shower tree is a beautiful flowering tree with unusual, interesting fruit and significant cultural relevance. Apart from its various uses, when in full bloom in May and June months, it is one of the most beautiful trees in the dry deciduous forests and street sides of India.
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.
The tree is native to India and other countries in South and Southeast Asia. A variety of local names in different Indian languages demonstrates its widespread occurrence across the country. Common names range from Amaltas in Hindi, Bahava in Marathi and Vishu Konnai in Malayalam. Interestingly, in West Bengal, the Golden Shower Tree’s local name – Bandar Lathi (meaning monkey’s stick) is derived from the supposition that monkeys are particularly fond of the sweet pulp around the seeds and by eating them, help in dispersing them. The Golden Shower Tree is also mentioned in various Sanskrit scriptures and literary works by different names like Karikara, Suvarnaka, Kritmala, etc.
Rarely seen fully grown Ballon Plant tree in Wild near Kumili, Thekkady forest reserve area, Kerala, India.
Gomphocarpus (Asclepias physocarpus) is a plant in the milkweed family (in the subfamily Asclepiadoideae of the Apocynaceae, formerly the Asclepiadaceae) often used as an ornamental for the striking yellowish, ball-like fruits.
Flowers are followed by unusual fruits that look like hairy, inflated spheres. The pale green, soft, almost translucent, bladder- like follicles, covered with soft hair-like spines, swell to up to 3 inches in diameter. The follicles become yellowish, often tinged with red or brown, when mature, and very gradually split open to release the numerous brown seeds. Each smooth, flattened oval seed has a tuft of long, silky hairs (a pappus) at one end which aids in dispersal by wind. Cut long stems with pods to use in fresh and dried floral arrangements.