Curaçao is turning dry once again, the rainy season is behind us and the Island’s nature seems to be in autumn style. Leaves turn yellow and red, and fall from the trees in record time. The ‘mondi’ is gray and drab and appears to die as a result of the lack of rain. The drought, dried out vegetation, harsh ‘kuaresma’ (Lent) winds and associated Sahara sand (all the way from Africa!) in the air result in a depressing atmosphere. Any unexpected burst of color in the landscape is then not only striking and attractive, it also might cause neck strains and crazy maneuvers with the car.
The same thing happened this morning. On our way home we passed through the area of Marchena / Wishi. There are some trees growing at the corner near the gas station, and especially 2 of those we already noticed before, because they are quite rare on the Island. The Bonchi di Kabai or Bonchi Kabai (Erythrina velutina) as the species is known in Papiamentu is special. Most of the year the tree is bare, a response to the dry conditions that usually prevail in Curaçao. When the rains start the tree develops a full canopy of diamond shaped leaves. In its bare condition the most striking features of the tree are the woody thorns that can be quite large, and the striped bark of the trunk. According to Arnoldo’s Zakflora the tree occurs in Aruba, where it is quite rare, and it has run wild in Bonaire and Curacao. The book Native Trees of Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba by J. de Freitas states that it seems to have been introduced.
On Curaçao the tree also occurs in the wild. That is, it used to occur in the wild in the area known as Wechi. About 5 majestic Bonchi Kabai trees used to grow there, all more than 5 meters high. What we have left of these trees, are only a few poor photographs of the trunks. The trees, all of them probably older than 150 years, are no longer there, ruthlessly felled by people who wanted to avoid the discussion if Wechi should have been declared a conservation area or not. All under the command of a former deputy who assisted in destroying a piece of history while waving wildly and smiling broadly.
The same thing happened with the solitary Bonchi Kabai which used to cling to life at the edge of the road alongside the development area at Veeris where a new shopping mall is being built. The pride with which this tree had survived the times was also to no avail. Of the hundreds of meters where the entrance to the mall could have been projected the designers chose exactly the spot where this tree was still standing brave. And now this tree is also history.
How special the Bonchi Kabai is was proven this morning and was the reason of our neck sprain and weird car maneuver: the tree in question that nobody really pays any attention to was actually flowering: ten bright orange flowers in the top!. Flowers that we had never seen in reality, and therefore had no photographs of. This gap in our collection has been eliminated today!
The special feature of the flowers is the fact that they appear in the dry season in the months of February and March, and show their beauty like an oasis in the dry season. An unexpected orange beauty in the dried out environment. A bright spot indicating that what seems to be dead, is not dead at all!