Landscapes in San Diego are awash in pink right now and it has nothing to do with breast cancer awareness. It’s from a tree. Looks like this:
That picture was taken yesterday as I was traipsing around the new sections of the expanded and expanding Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park.
I have been enamored of the tree for several years but it doesn’t seem to be stocked by the plant nurseries, and I never could find out the name of the tree….
The tree was everywhere, and everywhere I saw one, I would stop to see if there was a nameplate nearby. Finally, in an odd location in Balboa Park, I found a dying tree with a few flowers on it, and a nameplate at the base.
The nameplate reads Pink Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia impetiginosa).
However, with the advent of genome tracing and such, apparently this tree has been reassigned to the Hydroanthus genus and is now considered to be Hydroanthus impetiginosus. It’s still a pink trumpet tree, though!
The pink trumpet tree ranges from northern Mexico (which could include southern California!) south to the northern part of Argentina. It is believed to be indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago.
Unfortunately, the pink trumpet tree is a major cause of deforestation in the Amazon. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s wood is popular for flooring and decking but it does not grow in concentrated stands, tending to be scattered throughout the forest. Thus, in order to get to individual trees, logging roads have to be built long distances through prime rain forest. Once the pink trumpet tree is harvested, the logging roads make great roads for others to come in and clear the forest for agricultural uses. Computer modeling predicts that the pink trumpet tree is headed for extinction in the wild.
Other facts about the pink trumpet tree:
► It is the national tree of Paraguay.
► The inner bark is dried, shredded, and boiled to create a bitter herbal tea known as lapacho. The tea eases coughing for those with a cold or the flue, as well as “smoker’s cough.”
► Recent research indicates that the main active ingredient in lapacho is toxic enough to kill fetuses in pregnant rats in doses of 100 mg/kg of body weight.
► Lapacho induces clastogenic genetic damage in rats, meaning that it causes chromosome sections to be deleted, added to, or re-arranged, leading to mutageneis, carcinogenesis, and cancer. Known clastogens which you might recognize by name include benzene and arsenic.
But it’s so pretty….
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