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Tabebuia sp. Gomes ex DC. 1838
pronounced: tab-ee-BEW-ee-uh species
(Bignoniaceae — the jacaranda family)
common name: Pink Trumpet Tree
Tabebuia is from the Brazilian Indian name for a species in the genus. There are approximately 100 species, and I have not been able to establish which one this tree, well-represented on the island, is. Being evergreen, it is not the spectacular sight that the deciduous members of the genus are, those who lose all their leaves before blooming, and become completely covered in blossom.
The species range from northern Mexico and the Antilles south to northern Argentina and central Venezuela, including the Caribbean islands of Hispaniola and Cuba. They are large shrubs and trees growing anywhere from 5 to 50 m tall, depending on the species. Many are dry-season deciduous, but some are evergreen. The leaves are opposite pairs, complex or palmately compound with 3–7 leaflets. Our species has three leaflets.
Tabebuia is a notable flowering tree. The flowers are 3–11 cm wide and are produced in dense clusters. Many of the species, including this one, have 5-lobed flowers. The colours vary between species, and range from white, light pink, yellow, lavender, magenta to red.
The fruit is a dehiscent pod, 10–50 cm long depending on species, containing numerous seeds, which in some species are winged. These pods often remain on the tree through the dry season until the beginning of the wet season. Some species are important timber trees, the wood being used for furniture, decking, and other outdoor uses such as boardwalks, being insect resistant and durable.
These trees, especially the deciduous ones, are widely used as ornamental trees in the tropics in public squares and to line streets. The flowers are very popular with bees as a source of nectar, and also with humming-birds.
The bark of several species has medicinal properties. It is dried, shredded and then boiled, to make a bitter or sour-tasting brownish-coloured tea, used for flu and colds, and for easing smokers’ coughs! It apparently works as an expectorant.
Logging these trees in the Amazonian rainforest, to supply a seemingly insatiable demand for the wood in the USA for use as decking, has been a large contributor to deforestation of the Amazon basin. They are found in the forest at only a few trees per hectare, so enormous areas of rainforest have to be denuded to keep up with the demand. More of the trees are now being grown in plantations. Boardwalks of this timber typically last about 25 years before they need to be replaced.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2009, 2011
Page last updated 23rd February 2017