Flame of the Forest (Butea Monosperma or 'Palash')
This is popularly called the 'palash' tree in Hindi and Sanskrit. It is small to medium sized deciduous tree with a crooked trunk and branches and is found in most parts of India. It seldom rises beyond 6 m in height. The leaves of 'Palash' are trifoliate. The flowers are large, some times as large as an adult human thumb. Densely crowded on the leafless branches are several flowers on the swollen node of young branches. The flower stalks are velvety and dark olive green in colour, sometimes very dark, almost black from February to March when the tree is completely leafless.
The Flame of the Forest is found all over India up to a height of 100 m. It is also common in the dry deciduous forests of central India. At the end of February or the beginning of March, when it is in full bloom, one can appreciate the beauty of tree and know from its vermillion bloom amassed together, the reason it is called 'Flame of the Forest'.
The 'palash' tree is seldom cultivated in gardens or along the streets of towns. The tree looks very wild and rugged except when it is in full bloom. Many parts of the tree are used for the cultivation of lac. When the bark of the tree is cut or scratched, it gives out a reddish juice, which when exposed to air, hardens into a glassy ruby-red-gum. Commercially this gum is known as Bengal Kino. The leaves of the 'palash' are made into platters, cups, etc.