Wildlife: Captivating cosmos
Many of you will be familiar with this pretty garden flower, which is popular from one end of the country to the other as it is so easy and undemanding to grow. But you may not be aware that it likes Pakistan so much that it has, in certain areas, jumped over the garden fence and gone wild.
Pretty in pink, white, carmine and the occasional bi-colour, cosmos bipinnatus — or just plain cosmos as it is more generally known, is a tall growing, up to a monstrous five feet and sometimes more depending on localised soil and climatic conditions, annual flowering plant which was probably introduced sometime during the 1800s when Pakistan, India as it was then, was part of the British Empire so the species has had a long time to adapt to this part of the world and, whilst not indigenous at all, it is most certainly right at home!
Cosmos seed is very tough and tolerates long periods of intense heat, cold and drought without any visible problem and, as soon as conditions are suitable, the seed germinates, seedlings quickly pop up and, before you know it, the feathery leaved plants are shooting skywards and making flowers as they go. The seeds, they are formed in the flower head as its petals finish and fall, are long and thin and pointed at the end. This shape means that they easily stick in animals hair, on bird feathers and on clothing, etc., so that they are then transported and spread around from place to place.
In this simple manner cosmos escaped from gardens in places like Nathia Gali and Murree and has, over the years, naturalised on sunny slopes, on forest edges and in forest clearings, plus, alongside road verges too. Cosmos has also run wild in empty plots in many cities and towns throughout the country and, as it is a valuable bee, butterfly and insect flower, its presence is welcomed — unlike the advance of some other introduced species, troublesome paper mulberry trees are a prime example, which do more harm than good.
In cool regions of the country, hill stations for instance, cosmos germinates in the spring and flowers all summer long and into late autumn in sheltered spots. In hot places it prefers to germinate in the autumn and then blooms throughout the cooler months of winter and on through until rising temperatures burn it up. In the hills where children traditionally weave garlands from wild daisies, it is now quite the ‘in thing’ to add cosmos flowers to the garlands to brighten them up and to bring a better price when the garlands are sold to passing tourists.
Drifts of cosmos flowers really brighten up places such as rocky slopes and unused inner-city land and the sight of these deceptively fragile looking flowers dancing in the breeze makes them a delight indeed.