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Photographer's Note

This is my first post and I am beginning with a contemporary shot, taken with my little Sony, to celebrate Spring and a new start.

The Poui (Tabebuia aurea) is one of the most beautiful flowering trees native to Central and South America and the Caribbean. Some time in late March or early April, the little trumpet-shaped flowers suddenly burst forth from bare branches. For a few days – rarely more than a week, Kingston is lit up here and there by breath-taking clouds of brilliant yellow. Then, almost as suddenly, the color is gone, but for the carpet of fallen blossoms on the ground.

This all happens around the beginning of exam season in Jamaica and I have heard students say that you’d better finish preparation before the Poui flowers fall or risk failing. For my part, I nearly missed capturing this delight. I saw the tree on my way to a meeting—without my camera (lesson here). Two hours later, having collected the camera, I sped back to get the picture, hoping the strong wind had not removed too many flowers in the mean time. Although the light wasn’t quite as good, the “breeze,” as Jamaicans call even a hurricane, had been merciful.

Note: Also known as Ipê, trumpet tree and pau d'arco, the Poui is one of the largest and strongest of tropical forest trees, growing up to 150 feet tall with a base that can be 4 to 7 feet in diameter. Poui has multiple virtues. The bark has medicinal properties and the flowers are useful for bees and popular with humming birds. (The "big bang" flowering strategy ensures attention from pollinators and success in reproduction.) The wood is prized for its stability, durability, strength and natural resistance to decay, wet conditions, insect infestation and fire. It is used for furniture and outdoor installations such as decking (the Atlantic City boardwalk, for example). Since the 1960s, growing US demand led to increased logging in the rainforest. However, by 2007, FSC-certified ipê wood from cultivated trees had become readily available and now supersedes timber extracted from the wild (although certificates need checking for legitimacy).

Despite its properties and value as a timber tree, Poui is still mainly used as an ornamental tree in the Caribbean. Planting Poui needs to be seen as an important source of revenue. Then perhaps we shall rejoice in acres, not just splashes, of yellow during one week in April.

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Additional Photos by Mary Kenning (akm) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 197 W: 119 N: 240] (1216)
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