Exploring the nature in the Nilgiris is tremendously exiting for me. I have hardly been out in the forest at all but since everything from plants in the office campus to bugs and birds in my back yard are new acquaintances I have a nature experience everyday. In the Keystone campus there is always someone close by with a book on the endemic birds of the Nilgiris or stories of encounters with some of the local mammals. My knowledge of my surroundings is humble but thanks to all the knowledgeable staff of Keystone I’m learning bit by bit. Another source of information is the Newsletter of the Nilgiris Natural History Society.
In the first week in Kotagiri I read a piece written by Anita Varghese, working with the conservation programme at Keystone in the issue from June 2014. It was centred around trees and plants whose young leaves are red. In tropical climate the young leaves of plants are often red while turning green when aging. In temperate regions it is the other way around, the new leaves are green while the old ones turn red in the fall. The text described how the red colour works as a protection against animals that would want to eat the new leaves. You see, the red pigment makes the leaves less tasty for insects. Also, the insects cannot see colours in the red range of the light spectrum which would make the red leaves appear as dark or dead. After I read this article I see trees with young red leaves everywhere (and photo document every one of them naturally). I’m not sure why I find this particular little piece of the plant cycle so fascinating. Perhaps because the process is seemingly reversed from the deciduous trees of my native habitat.