Kibrahacha – A yellow world of fairies

This post is also available in: Dutch, Papiamentu.

After being n the tree for a couple of days the flowers fall off and serve as food to many other animals.

Heavy rains in the middle of April. Not even a week later, all the Kibrahacha trees in the area where the rain fell, start their magic. A yellow extravaganza of flowers, an oasis in the dry and gray forest (mondi). A pot of liquid gold for all nectar feeders such as hummingbirds, bananaquits, trupials, bees, wasps and more. And a visual expression of color we can only gape at. And it only lasts a couple of days.

However, after gaping at the flowering trees, don’t forget to take a look down to see the amazing carpet of golden flowers on the ground, where they will lead a second life, as food to ants, lizards, cottontails and even white-tailed deer!

The Kibrahacha (Tabebuia Billbergii) is a very popular tree on the island of Curacao because of its (short) flowering power. The name Kibrahacha is the local Papiamentu name for ‘ax breaker’, as it produces a lumber so hard it would supposedly break an ax trying to cut it down. As the local Yellow Poui, as the tree is often called in English, will only flower for short bursts in the first half of the year, and usually doesn’t flower more then once a year, non-native Yellow Poui trees have been introduced in landscaping along streets and in parks. These can be recognized as the trees with flowers and leafs at the same time.

A treasure trove in the middle of the dry forest. All pictures: Michelle Pors-da Costa Gomez

Local Yellow Poui will be totally bare in the dry season with no leafs and only (!) the start of flower buds on the end of the twigs. And this is the secret behind the trees being able to flower so immensely fast after a good rain shower. The start of the flower buds are in a kind of sleep mode, waiting for the rains which will give the tree the power to develop the flowers in full strength. And then the tree will invest a lot of energy in producing the next generation by flowering an producing seeds. And it is only if the rain continues to fall, that the plant will also invest in leafs. If the rain stops, the tree will go back to sleep mode until the rainy season starts and energy can be spent on leafs. As most flower buds have already developed earlier in the year, a bloom like the ‘spring’ blooming period will not happen again until the new flower buds have developed.

It is a ‘smart’ thing to flower in the dry season, as these trees will literally be the golden oasis of nectar in a dry desert situation, attracting all the necessary pollinators to the tree, without much competition in the field.

The trees are now loaded with flowers.

Michelle da Costa Gomez

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