Published Friday, February 19, 2021
Trees and me
By Victoria Torley
Every now and then, you probably need to go to San José. Us? We live 3.5 hours away. This is on a good day with no traffic. Still, CIMA is in San José so off we go and stay overnight in the hills above the city.
If you have to go to the city, now is a good time because every tree that can produce flowers is currently in bloom. They are called the árboles mágicos or the magical trees of Costa Rica.
I happen to like pink (Metric Man is not so inclined), so I love the roble sabana, the Tabebuia rosea, also called the pink trumpet or savanna oak. They are in bloom all over the central valley right now. Mine, sadly, is at a lower elevation and doesn’t bloom every year but it is a lot taller than the puny trees in the central valley, standing at about 100 feet tall – about 30 meters. The truth? We can’t enjoy the blossoms when they are open, the tree is just too tall. Ah, well.
Metric Man also sneers at the pink-flowered madero, the Gliricidia sepium. This is a great shade tree, often used to shade cocoa plants. Because the roots provide nitrogen they also help feed the cocoa plants. The flowers are edible and parrots love them.
Moving on to something ‘not pink,’ we find the Cortez amarillo, Tabebuia ochracea, with its bright yellow trumpet-shaped flowers. The color is intense – but only for two or three days – then the ground is covered with fallen yellow blossoms. Fortunately, the tree blooms two or three times a year.
Competing with the Cortez amarillo is the saíno, the Caesalpinia eriostachys with its yellow orchid-like flowers and a great attractor of hummingbirds. You are less likely to see the tree in San José, because this is a tree of the Guanacaste province. Once the flowers have fallen, the tree puts on another show as the new leaves unfurl in a reddish flush. A two-for-one tree.
Of course the thing that makes these trees stand out is that they flower in profusion on bare branches. These trees are, for the most part, deciduous, dropping their leaves before bursting into bloom which makes them all the more eye-catching. Fruiting trees, like the nance (nancite), the Byrsonima crassifolia bloom while fully leafed out. A pity really, because the small flowers, which grow in clusters, vary from vivid yellow to a deep red-orange and they are lovely. The tree also produces a fruit that feeds birds and monkeys and provides flavoring for beverages, including one called “vino de nance,” a potent mix of gauro and the ripe fruit.
So, look around as you drive and enjoy our brightly flowered trees. There are many more, including those imported from other countries and now wild everywhere in Costa Rica. More on them another time.
Plant for the Week
The Guanacaste tree is the national tree of Costa Rica and prized for its beautiful wood. You can often see the tree grown in a field where its seeds provide food for cattle. The flowers, however, are a pale green and insignificant, out-shown by the beauty of the tree itself.
For more information on this article Ms. Victoria Torley, gardener columnist, can be reached at email@example.com