Gardening Articles by Russell Fransham

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Tabebuia chrysantha or Golden Trumpet tree - Scene Magazine February 2005

If colours were sounds, I imagine yellow would be the loudest.

And by that token, the flowers of the wonderful Tabebuia chrysantha or Golden Trumpet tree from Venezuela would be deafening.

In flower it is one of the most spectacular of trees and it thrives here in our climate.

The name itself sounds rather interesting so I looked it up and found that the word 'tabebuia' is the South American Indian name for it and chrysantha is Greek for 'golden flower'.

The golden trumpet tree grows usually to four or five metres with hairy, olive-green, compound leaves. The profusion of flowers appears on bare branches in repeated bursts through Spring. This flowering period coincides with the tropical dry season just before the midsummer monsoon whose drenching warm rain would germinate the ripe seed.

The long, bean-like seed pods are covered in highly tactile velvety green fur. When ripe, in dry weather, the pods split to release hundreds of tightly-packed paper-thin seeds that float away on the breeze. They lie on the ground like shreds of tissue paper until the rain moistens them when germination takes only about three days.

They grow fast if they have plenty of water and rich soil but are also tolerant of dry conditions once established. In fact they flower best in a dry year. I suspect any threat to its health is likely to stimulate reproductive panic in case death is imminent. This seems to apply to most plants.

Tabebuias can be grown from seed or cutting readily and need a moderately sheltered sunny position to do well and will flower within two or three years.

The Tabebuias are a big family of about a hundred species of very colourful flowering trees spread all across South and Central America. Many of them are yellow but some are pink, red or white. They belong to the Bignonia family which includes the jacaranda and many trumpet-flowered vines such as our rare native Tecomanthe and the Australian Pandoreas. Their timber is a highly prized hardwood which has led to serious destruction of forests in some areas to extract it.

Another yellow Tabebuia species, called T. chrysotricha also does well here although the flowers are much smaller than T. chrysantha.

I have a beautiful pink-flowered species called Tabebuia impetiginosa growing well but it hasn't flowered for me yet. So far sadistic threats and improbable promises have had no effect but I live in hope.

But of them all, Tabebuia chrysantha is my favourite and it has always puzzled me that it is not grown more here, because its brilliant flower display is just as dazzling as the jacaranda and happens simultaneously.

Indeed, to extend my fanciful metaphor with a nod to Lyn of Tawa, imagine what a symphony in blue and gold the two could make together.