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There seems to be a strange phenomenon occurring across Bangalore City, in South India. In early October, a number of Mango trees suddenly began to bloom across the city and I wondered, will there be mangoes in December this year? This was because the blooms were just not one stray freak spray of flowers hanging on one branch, but a profusion of sprays across the trees in several parts of the city. Considering the fact that we have finished the regular mango season only a few months ago, where we have been lucky enough to indulge in a really large quantity of mangos at fairly reasonable prices, it was definitely strange to see the trees already in bloom again. Mangos are seasonal fruit and normally found in India only from late April onwards to early June. They are a summer fruit!

On my way to work every day I pass several trees which were very heavily in bloom on Lalbagh Road in early October. It did seem strange because that was the rainy season and I wondered how many of those blooms would turn into fruit? Would there then as a consequence be mangos in December in Bangalore?

Two students Raju Prannoy and Raghunath SR from St. Joseph’s College, travelled to Whitefield in early October and said that they had seen several mango trees along the way. “ Close to the Marathalli bridge there were some mango trees heavy with flowers, and also near Trinity circle we found a few trees with flowers, but in many residential areas there are a lot of trees but no flowers......”

“In my garden my Malgoba mango tree was covered with flowers but my wife was saying that with the heavy rains that Bangalore experienced early October, most of the flowers would fall off,” said VF David who is the proprietor of Fatima Bakery and Department store and who lives on Richmond Road. “ My mother says the tree has been behaving oddly, sometimes flowering three times in the year. Now the tree is copiously covered with fruit, and we are looking forward to them ripening for Christmas!” he adds.

In response to this phenomenon Dr AN Yellappa Reddy, the Former Secretary, Department of Ecology and Environment says,” Temperature is critical criteria for the flowering of mango and maybe with the spurt in vehicular traffic and climate change there are heat islands which have been created in certain parts of the city. These ambient temperature fluctuations could be the trigger. A second reason could be the trees have been affected by chemical shock due to their location close to roads with heavy vehicular traffic. Vehicles idle at signals and during traffic jams, and idle running of engines causes emissions of unburnt hydro carbons. This is a pollutant which is harmful and maybe triggers the flowering,” says Dr. Reddy. “ However, none of these theories are scientifically proven, but temperature is definitely a critical factor which regulates flowering and what is called flower setting in a mango tree. Flower setting is the turning of these flowers into fruit. I wonder if most of them will wither away due to the flowers being unseasonal?” said Reddy in early October to the splash of unseasonal blooms.

Vijay Thiruvady who has been conducting a walk called “ Green Heritage Walks,” through Lalbagh a huge garden in the heart of Bangalore city and is on the board of trustees of the Bangalore Environment Trust says there are two mango trees dating back to the 1780’s in Lalbagh (Red Garden) which give two tons of mangos a year with a cumin flavour. The finest mangoes were developed by Muslims under the Mughals like the Langra and Duseri variety and the Jesuit congregation developed the famous Alphonso mango.

Now at the end of October, VF David’s tree is groaning with rapidly growing mangos! That means the mangos will ripen by the end of November and he will have ripened fruit in December. Is it Climate Change or pollution which is the precursor of this strange change in flowering and fruiting patterns? Is there any reader willing to come forward with a scientific explanation?

Marianne de Nazareth

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