Primavera Trees in Bloom
Herald of Tropical Spring: Primavera Trees in Bloom
by Tara A. Spears
One criticism that I hear from no rthern latitude folks is that the tropics don’t have seasonal changes- not true. Presently in the Riviera Nayarit we are rewarded with the gorgeous riot of pink and yellow blooms on the primavera trees, members of the Bignoniaceae and Tabebuia families. The clusters of flowers are in stark contrast with the bare branches that will leaf out after the blooming finishes, usually in the rainy season.
These tropical trees originate in South America where it is the national flower for Brazil and Venezuela. Primavera is a large rainforest canopy tree, sometimes reaching to 100 feet (30 m) in the natural rainforest, with a straight clear bole up to 3 or 4 feet in diameter. It has relatively smooth whitish bark and showy pink or yellow flowers in large panicles-clusters. Primavera is often considered the bat-flower family because many of the plants have large showy flowers that are pollinated by bats.
The beautiful flowers grow in clusters of 1 to 3 inches (3 to 8 cm) wide, becoming larger and more profuse as the tree matures. These are large trees that require full sun and plenty of space from tall buildings or other trees that might shade them, therefore primavera is an excellent specimen tree for landscaping tropical yards or boulevards as in Guayabitos. They attract bees as well as several species of hummingbirds. The light colored wood of the primavera tree is often referred to as ‘white mahogany’ and is prized for making fine furniture, according to Wood Magazine. It is very strong, has a medium texture and a very straight grain. Carpenters and finishers call it the perfect wood to work with. As with any tree, the harvesting for lumber is best accomplished when the sap is low, which is easy to determine in northern latitudes with a winter dormant season. But how, in the tropics with continually mild weather, can they tell when the sap is low? It’s simple enough to foresters: They watch the moon. Like ocean tides, the sap of the primavera tree follows the phases of the moon. When the moon is on the increase, the sap rises. In the dark phases of the moon, it falls. So that’s when the harvest of this unusual tree begins. Another interesting fact is that the primavera tree has no insect pests, a rarity in climate zones that host the majority of insect species.
The indigenous people use the bark of some species of Tabebuia trees for medicinal purposes. The bark is dried, shredded and then boiled to make a bitter, sour tasting brown colored tea. This herbal remedy is typically used during the cold and flu season, as it is a good expectorant. However, not all species are medically beneficial so one needs to be careful when selecting the bark.
The primavera tree is used in hot weather gardens around the world, especially in regions that have a definite division between dry and wet seasons. One of the earliest spring bloomers, hence its name, primavera bloom time is followed by the magnificent blue jacaranda tree flowering. The primavera tree bloom, just like the northern appearance of tulips, heralds the coming of spring.