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What’s in Bloom: Trumpet Trees – March

Tabebuia spp. (Bignoniaceae)

Trumpet trees (Trumpet Tree family)

Origin: tropical Americas

Bign Tabebuia aurea_500x400We have featured a couple of Tabebuia species in this feature before, and we will certainly feature more in coming years. This time around we’re going to focus less on a species and more on a concept: bloom triggers.

Usually, by the end of February, all of the silver trumpet trees (Tabebuia aurea) around town have dropped their leaves completely, and many are showing off their gold flowers. The combination of Florida’s dry winter season and winds in early spring cause many of our native plants to lose last years’ leaves and push new growth (think sea grapes, oaks, etc.) in what we have called “Fall in Florida.” Most years, the trumpet trees have also dropped their leaves with the others. The impressive difference from most of our native trees (especially the oaks) is that the flowers which the trumpet trees push before their new leaves are large and colorful, creating show-stopping displays of all-pink or all-yellow, leafless trees.

This year was different. Many of the silver trumpet trees are still holding on to last year’s leaves, and either have yet to bloom at all or are blooming sporadically. They’re not stopping any shows, at least not yet. Now that the rains have slowed that might change. The tabbies doing the best in town are smaller trees, especially younger Tabebuia chrysotricha and Tabebuia impetiginosa trees which are planted in parking lots. The more paved surface around the tree’s root system, the more intense the blooming.

This past winter the country experienced unseasonably wet weather as an extended El Niño system passed through. Sarasota had much more rainfall in December through February than we usually get, and plants like tabebuias, which depend on a dry season to trigger their bloom cycles, just didn’t bloom very well this year, or are blooming later than usual. The trees whose root systems are confined or growing in soil with an impermeable surface above them receive less rainwater and are less affected by the wetter season than trees planted in the open. Trees near swales or drainage areas are most affected.

Tabebuia chrysotricha and Tabebuia impetiginosa trees, as well as many Tabebuia heterophylla are blooming all over Sarasota right now. At Selby Gardens, we have several species of Tabebuia planted around the grounds, including some impressive young Tabebuia chrysotricha trees planted at the very northern end of the Gardens along U.S. 41.

Text by David Troxell