Uttarakhand’s state flower Burans has made an appearance at least a month earlier than usual this year flowering in the hills of Garhwal and Kumaon in February instead of March when it generally blossoms. While experts evaluate the long-term implications, those engaged in its plucking and processing are keeping fingers crossed that business is not affected due to the early flowering.
“Till about 2-3 years back, we had good sale of Burans products. But last year, the flowers came early and they were not so juicy and this impacted sales,” said Rakesh Tewari, who stocks Burans squash and juices at his shop in Almora. He adds that this year too, may see a similar trend.
Global warming, say horticulturists, is largely to blame for this shift in flowering patterns. Manisha Joshi, horticulture officer, Pithoragarh district, said that the Burans flower has had to bear the brunt of shifting weather patterns. “The flowers that came last year weren’t juicy at all due to lack of rain. This year, too, the blossoms have come early and may miss out on good continuous rains which are required for healthy flowers.”
The bright red flower whose scientific name is Rhododendron Arboreum, is found in several areas of the hill state. During season, villagers engage in plucking and extracting juice from its petals. Buransh juice is believed to have high medicinal properties and is widely sold across the state and outside generally in the form of processed squash.
The early flowering and poor quality has also led to fluctuation in prices of the collected flowers submitted by villagers to processing units. “The flower collection has fallen by at least 25% in the past five years. Now, people who collect the flowers sell them for at least Rs 20 per kg which is up from Rs 15 per kg till a few years ago,” said Rakesh Gairola of a Chamoli-based NGO that is involved in working with villagers to make products like jams, squashes and pickles from local produce.
Meanwhile, the only silver lining is that schoolchildren and tourists are making the most of the early blossoming. Visitors to Mussoorie are being greeted by the sight of the blood-red coloured flowers. Also, village children are making some extra money by selling flowers to tourists. “Our schools will open in March after the winter break. So we are able to pluck the flowers and sell them to tourists. I have made some money already and will buy myself a new pair of shoes,” said Ayush Nautiyal who has spent a good number of days of his winter vacation to collect flowers from Khatta Pani village and the area near Char Dukan in Landour.