Since the dawn of time, Panama has been related to nature. For example, Panama was the word used by the natives to say that there was an abundance of butterflies, gathering of fishes or the name of a tree called Panama. The jungles of Bocas del Toro and Darien are still intact. Wildlife, botanical plants and trees are so exotic in these areas, that many species have not yet been discovered by modern scientists.
A tree that stands out in Panama and other Latin American countries is the Guayacan tree due to its stunning beauty. The botanical name is Tabebuia guayacan (Bignoniaceae). You can find it around Panama City, specially in the neighborhood of Betania.
The Guayacan tree and flower is symbolic in Latin America. For example; Tabebuia chrysotricha is the national flower of Brazil. Tabebuia rosea is the national tree of El Salvador and the Tabebuia chrysantha is the national tree of Venezuela. As a matter of fact, on May 29, 1948, Tabebuia chrysantha was declared the national tree of Venezuela due to its extraordinary beauty. Its deep yellow resembles the Venezuelan flag. It is one of about 100 species of Tabebuia.
The Guayacan tree is widely used as an ornamental tree in the tropics in landscaping gardens, public squares, and boulevards due to its impressive and colorful flowering. Many flowers appear on still leafless stems at the end of the dry season, making the floral display more conspicuous. They are useful as honey plants for bees, and are popular with certain hummingbirds.
Tabebuia guayacan usually produces big yellow flowers in March or April, with the first rains at the end of the dry season. It is a notable flowering tree. The flowers are 1 to 4 inches wide and are produced in dense clusters. Corolla colors vary between species ranging from white, light pink, yellow, lavender, magenta, or red.
During the dry season, Guayacan sheds its leaves, turning rapidly green again at the start of the rainy season. The beautiful yellow, trumpet-like flowers generally open up around February/March, making the tree one of the most beautiful in the jungle. The tree normally bears fruit at the end of March. Approximately 10-23 inches long, green and a bit uneven, the fruit resemble bean pods. Inside the fruit, the seeds have small wings.
They shed their leaves in January, and then bloom with intensity and yellow brilliance demonstrating the magic of Mother Nature from February to April. Sadly the show is a brief one, between 3 to 5 days. As the flowers fall to the ground, they form a beautiful carpet that lasts much longer.
The Guayacan is not only beautiful but also offers relief for several health problems. Tea made from the flowers treats urine and kidney trouble. The flower tea has also been used to treat tuberculosis in Latin America.
Its wood is considered among the strongest and finest in the world. Proof of this are the timber frames in the ruins of the Panama Cathedral, which are still strong after more than 400 years.
Below are several photographs of two Guayacan trees which I found within the premises of Banco General in the neighborhood of Hato Pintado. They looked majestic.
The Spanish Conquistadores didn’t find much gold in Panama, but who needs gold when we have trees like these. Do you agree? Good Day.