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What’s Blooming in Paradise?: Silver Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia aurea)

By Staff | Mar 30, 2011

First impression: Trumpets of Windsor yellow blooms exploding with color. What a large, tortuous tree — shaped canopy — with a deeply grooved silvery gray trunk. Its winding and weaving shape looks as if it has been around since the time of kings and dragons. Its loss of leaves adds to the days of Camelot look, which draws your eye in for a second glance — a lot. Follow the shower of shimmering blossoms in full bloom at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Our Tabebuia star hails from South America and is kin to around 100 different species of varying sized shrubs and trees. Here in paradise, we have several tree varieties of yellow bloomers and one that blooms pink. Our yellow blooming aurea has the habit of leaf loss about one month before she starts to amass her beautiful blossoms. The dense leaves singularly are matte greenish gray and oblong. These soft leaves are a great contrast to the gnarly, deep grooved bark of shimmery gray. What’s really cool is… as the trumpet tree matures, its bark develops a cork like texture. Maturity also brings the tree to exaggerated zigging and zagging of the trunk, branches and stems. This labyrinth of a canopy makes this tree a great day-dreaming-the-day-away tree.

Okay, I can’t discount the flowers. When they bloom, everyone is snapping pictures. Sunny, yellow, funnel-formed petals with a large flared lip, covering the tree and the ground below in profusion. This small flower has a short blooming period, so pollination is important. Look closely for the etched deep crimson veins inside the flowers. These color cues are guides for our pollinators. The nectar guides show pollinators where to look for food/nectar. Some nectar guides may be visible only under ultraviolet light, which bees and insects can utilize. The guides will lead them to the sweet reward and their pollen-laden bodies to the flowers carpel. Viola! pollination! Isn’t Mother Nature the smartest lady you know? Flowering is very intense in the spring and less intense in the summer.

After the flowers, round seed capsules form filled with papery winged seed pods. These seed-a copters are blown by the wind and dispersed for new trees to begin. Mature size is 40 feet with a natural asymmetric growth habit and canopy. It is great for our tropical climate — salt and drought tolerant, with little known pest and disease. If you are a connoisseur of flowering trees, this one has your name on it!

Pros: Pretty flowers with lots of blossoms – Drought tolerant – Attractive when blooming or non-blooming – Easy to maintain/prune – Salt tolerant – Looks better with age – Brings out your hidden medieval dreams – A very unique tree texture and silhouette – Flowers bring in the bees.

Cons: Is brittle in strong winds – Non fragrant – Flowers bring in the bees – Seed pods and flowers are plentiful and messy – Will tire of telling neighbors what the trees name is – Non-native.

Conclusion: Where is the knight in shining armor or the damsel in distress? Just look under the silvery tree with the days of ole golden trumpets, who knows whom thee will find, in a tropical eye-catching garden.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!