Agra: Passionate tree lovers of the Taj city on Wednesday resolved to turn Agra into the “Bougainvillea capital” of India, in the next few years.
Already large stretches along the MG Road, the Yamuna Kinara Road, and around the grand Mughal monuments are lined up with Bougainvillea vines exploding in a riot of fascinating colours.
The Bouganvillea crusader Mukul Pandya who has organised an exhibition of Bougainvillea plants, close to the Taj Mahal, told IANS that Bougainvillea is ideally suited for Agra, as the vines or bushes are sturdy, suited to the local agro-climatic conditions, requiring very little water and care.
The exhibition is drawing enthusiastic tree lovers who are amazed by the variety and the mesmerising colourful feast offered by the Agra Horticulture Club.
A native of South America, Bougainvillea now finds patrons and lovers all over India. Pandya recounted the love story of a French adventurer and his girlfriend of the same name, who brought the colourful bushy plant from South America in the 18th century.
“Essentially Bougainvillea is a genus of thorny ornamental vines, bushes, and trees belonging to the ‘Four O’clocks Family’, consisting of sepal-like bracts which surround the waxy colourful leaves of the plants that thrive in hot and dry conditions.
Of the around 300 varieties, Pandya has successfully grown 100 varieties. He has succeeded in grafting single plants with several colourful strains.
“Some 50 years ago, I began collecting different varieties and planted them on my terrace which eventually caved in due to the weight of flower pots. Agra has taken a fancy for Bougainvillea.
“Locals are planting Bougainvillea in a big way along boundaries, and open spaces. Several parks in the city have hundreds of Bougainvillea plants.”
Ranjna Bansal, patron of the Club said that their dream is to turn Agra into a Bougainvillea capital.
“A campaign will be soon launched involving green activists, various government departments, NGOs and tree lovers,” he said.
The Bougainvillea Exhibition 2023 was organised for the Horticulture Club of Agra by Lovely Kathuria, Daisy Gujaral, Renu Bhagat. More than 799 specimens of 100 cultivars in the form of vines, shrubs, miniature trees and bonsai, were on display.
Pandya said for the first time B Changi Airport, B Kayata, and Royal Dauphine, were put on display. The jury members included Manashi Ray, Shiv Kunzroo, and Mradul Pathak. The first prize went to Daisy Gujaral, second to Monica Agarwal, and third to Kanchan Ahuja.
Ankush Dave, a specialist in conserving rare species of flora and butterflies, said that Agra’s arid climate makes it an ideal place for propagating Bougainvillea which does not require too much care or water and is safe from marauding simian population.
Raman, member of the Supreme Court monitoring committee on pollution, assured all help and support to popularise planting of Bougainvillea.
Kamal Singh of the Agra Heritage Group said that due to the monkey menace, Bougainvillea has become an automatic choice for tree lovers, as the thorns of this ornamental plant scare the simians.
Over the years, the green cover in the eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone has shrunk. The green cover in the Agra district is around 7 per cent, against the national target of 33 per cent.
“Though the state horticulture department and the forest department have been ritualistically planting millions of saplings every year, the results defy visibility,” said Padmini Iyer of the River Connect Campaign.
But now there was some hope, as the efforts of the Agra Horticulture Club, to popularise Bougainvillea were yielding encouraging results.