Monday, 7 May 2007

History repeats itself, bamboo flowering

The Bowally nullah, showing a bamboo clump to the left in December 2006. In April 2007, this bamboo came into flower again as described below.

Reading the vivid accounts of the campaign's in the Wayanad, I had come across the accounts of Colonel James Welsh. Welsh was an infantry officer who first came into contact with Thomas Hervey Baber in April 1812 during a rebellion in the Wynanad.

One of the most interesting accounts in his book for me, covered the 1812 campaign, and another journey he had made with Mrs & Mr Baber in 1817 when they returned together from Bangalore to Tellicherry. On both occasions he mentioned the bamboos.

The Colonel writing in 1833 described seeing the bamboo in April 1812 in the Wayanad when leading his troops against local insurgents. Later that same year they came into flower in December 1812.

This county, very similar to Coorg, in features and resources, is bounded by a range of Ghauts on the west and the south; by the Coorcher Paad mountains, which separate it from Coorg on the north, and by the Bowally Nullah, and other minor streams, that run into the Cubbany river [1], to the east. Independent of other materials, it’s jungles were at that time, thickened by myriads of enormous bamboo bushes, which rendered it more difficult to penetrate, than any other I have ever seen; nor could one see ten yards in any direction. Since that period, I have twice travelled the same road, and the first time saw all the bamboos in blossom, a very uncommon sight, for they are said to flower once only in every thirty years; at my next visit, the whole were dead, as it were spontaneously, and the country consequently much improved in it’s appearance. We had previously found it very unhealthy from the same cause, as well as from our exposure to the heavy fogs at night.[2]

Later in August 1817 he travelled with my great great great uncle Thomas Hervey Baber from Mysore to Mananthavady.

He observed: -

On the 18th of August, we reached the Post at the Bowally nullah, and found the bridge perfectly repaired: and on the way to Manantoddy, had the opportunity of observing all the bamboo jungle, for about ten miles, dying and dead, which had a most uncommon and dreary appearance; particularly when contrasted with the same plantation in blossom, in December, 1812. This phenomenon proceeded from the trees having blossomed and borne seed this year, when they die immediately; whilst the seeds vegetate and spring up in their room, forming, in due time, a fresh and thicker plantation.[3]

Now history repeats itself. As Deepu George writes in his blog at the bamboo is flowering again.

In the Wayanad I had asked about this phenomenon, only to receive blank looks, but then I suppose it is such a rare and unusual event, that nobody likes to predict when it will next happen.

[1] Kabani River today.
[2] Colonel James Welsh, Military Reminiscences. Volume II page 12.
[3] Colonel Welsh Volume II pages 66 & 67.

Copyright Nick Balmer May 2007


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