The figures waving at us from way up in the lush hills before us appeared only a few millimetres tall and that was my first moment of realisation that we had somewhat (?) fallen behind the rest of the ten, 15-to-50s friends headed due north-northwest trekking along the Duke’s Nose trail from Kurvande village, Maval. The “we” were Junior and me; he exhilarated being on his first moderate climb and I delirious being on my first getaway from a virulent world in nearly a couple of years. The “why” was obvious (if you know me well) – who in the right frame of mind would hurry along a trail with boulders harbouring a treasure trove of mosses and bryophytes, and the muddy slopes covered with thickets of pteridophytes? Not that we could ID several of the species, but observable features were noted, probabilities discussed and pictures clicked with my mobile camera – all in all for this duo it could well have been an expedition into the Amazon!
As the spiritedly gesticulating forms disappeared behind a curtain of wispy clouds, I calculated our odds of catching up with them by slogging through an odd shallow valley and over a couple of minor hills, and the sum total did not look too encouraging. Moreover, there were numerous trails running in the general direction of the targeted peak and for once the omnipotent GPS lady refused to co-operate in her monotonous drone. Just then a small team of rock-climbers, ropes and other paraphernalia peeping from their backpacks, overtook us and the adventure spirit soared in our solitary souls. Following their lead, trudging up one slippery trail after another and climbing through footholds between moss-laden rocks, we reached the penultimate plateau pretty soon.
Just as we were about to commence the last leg of our ascent, casting a casual eye to the left, I stopped dead in my tracks. There, beyond a small patch of lush, dew laden grass, the terrain dipped gently into a valley which seemed to exude a bewildering vivacity with a profusion of greens. And dotting the herbage were intermittent splotches of whites and yellows – wild blossoms of the monsoon! Such was the allure of this vibrant valley that the object of my trek stood altered and literally went downhill that instant. Dragging befuddled Junior with renewed vigour, I started making my way down the slopes through the dense vegetation, one keen eye on the blossoms. Luckily we managed to reach a couple of blooming inflorescences before the thickets became impenetrable. Crouching there in the humid undergrowth amidst a swarm of buzzing flies we managed to take some notes and a few pictures of these beautiful flowers which were among the most beautiful we had ever seen [I later identified it as the Konkan Pinda (Pinda concanensis) and have described it at length below].
Having soaked in the delights of the bounties of Mother Nature, and a mild drizzle, we climbed up the slopes following a troupe of bonnet macaques to a nearby hillock and sprawled out upon a rocky outcrop, content and momentarily satiated, awaiting our friends on their descent. We did miss out on the pinnacle by a few metres but took home a wealth of knowledge and a bouquet of fragrant memories!
[Pinda concanensis (family: Apiaceae), commonly known as Konkan Pinda, is endemic to the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, and is mostly seen in the elevated plateaus and grasslands, often among boulders and on edges of cliffs around Kaas Plateau Satara, Kalsubai, Prabalgad, Rajmachi and Lohagad.
Belonging to the same family as carrot, celery and parsley, this umbellifer is an annual herb with tuberous roots. The short branched stems have pinnate leaves which are ovate, toothed, with three-lobed leaflets. Flowering around August to November, the white flowers are arranged in compound umbels, petals of the outer flowers larger, obovate and 2-lobed.
Previously named Heracleum concanense, it was shown to have neither a close affinity to Vanasushava nor to belong to Heracleum, but to constitute a distinct monotypic endemic genus Pinda, as described by P.K. Mukherjee & L. Constance; Kew Bulletin, 41(1): 223-229 (1986).
A new species, Pinda shrirangii was recently reported by Gosavi & Chandore, Nordic Journal of Botany, 38 (7), (2020): n. pag. from a high-elevation region of the northern Western Ghats. The new species is closely allied to this only other species in the genus, Pinda.]
– Narendra Nayak © 2021