There is a unique plant among the variety of plants that the people in Zhemgang grow. As the plant grows into a tree, it flowers. The tree is a night bloomer. The flower of Oroxylum indicum, the people in Zhemgang believe, is the most elusive of flower that a very few people get to see, and a few birds and insects get to enjoy its nectar. Hence, it is considered purest of all flowers, not defiled by any creature.
Known as Tsampaka Meto in Dzongkha, or Namkaling in local dialect, the flowers grow abundantly in many forest areas in Zhemgang. It is usually known to grow in the abandoned areas after the shifting cultivation is done.
There are also many English names for the flower, it is often called the ‘Midnight Horror’, the reason for tagging it with such name is not known. Yet another name for it, which isn’t any better, is ‘Broken Bones Tree’, and ‘Indian Trumpet Flower.’
A78-year-old Ap Chodhan of Wangling village in Zhemgang is proficient in his knowledge about the tree. He can easily qualify as the local botanist due to his vast indigenous knowledge about the plants growing in the village and forest areas.
He says the tree (Oroxylum indicum) usually grows to a height of some 12 metres, is mostly bare with not too many leaves, and it bears a long and elongated fruit pod. The fruit pod is collected by the people and taken home. Once at home, it is hung on the ceiling to dry. The dried fruit contains many fluffy seeds of paper texture which are used during rituals as an offering to gods.
Does the tree ever bear flowers? Nowhere in the description of the tree by Ap Chodhan, is the flowering stage mentioned. He must surly know about the flowering stage of the tree to get the fruit, but unfortunately, he has never seen the flower of the tree in his life. Hence, he knows nothing about the flower. All he knows is that the fruit is considered as the most appropriate offering to gods.
Some of the villagers say the tree is known to bloom in a secret time. That is, when all creatures are asleep in the night. Hence, people there say, no human, birds and insect can feed on its nectar. The bloom is over at dawn.
According to the text book description, the tree grows large leaf stalks that wither and fall off to the base of the tree, making it appear like a pile of broken limb bones. Hence, the name Broken Bone tree is derived. The tree fruits enormous seed pods that hang down from the bare branches. The long fruits curve downward and resemble the wings of a large bird or dangling sickles or swords in the night.
The tree also is known to have medicinal properties to cure certain diseases. For instance, the decoction of the bark is known to cure gastric ulcer while the paste made of the bark powder is applied to cure diseases such as mouth cancer, scabies and other skin diseases in certain part of the world. People also apply the paste in the neck and throat area for quick relief of tonsil pain, and it is also applied on the wounds of animals to kill maggots.