Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The purple tree of Lent

Drive through the Mata Atlantica at this time of year and you will see a hundred shades of green, but also trees drenched in purple - the Quaresmeiras.

Actually, there are several different Quaresmeiras, all members of the Tibouchina genus. One of the commonest is Tibouchina granulosa, found from Bahia down to Parana in the south of Brazil. It's evergreen, or at least semi-deciduous, depending on the location, and about medium height, 8-12 m. The flowers which are so distinctive can appear from January to April, or June to August, but they are traditionally associated with Lent, or "Quaresma", hence Quaresmeira. In contrast, the seed pods are small, about 12mm, and brown, whilst the seeds themselves are tiny.

One problem T. granulosa does have is that it is susceptible to Cryphonectria canker - and so are Eucalyptus trees. Extensive planting of Eucalyptus plantations in the Mata Atlantica, and Quaresmeiras as ornamental trees around the world means that it still isn't clear which has spread the disease to which! On the other hand, their wood is fairly useless, which for such a conspicuous tree is probably a good thing.

Use in landscaping, like several trees from the Mata Atlantica, has also been good for T. granulosa, spreading far beyond its original range so that it is apparently quite common in Florida and Hawaii, even South Africa. It's pretty, not too tall, and easy to grow So easy to grow in fact that it can be used to revegetate degraded areas and it will tolerate poor soils. It can also tolerate cool temperatures at night, which means that it grows quite happily in the hills, and provides a lot pleasure to the people there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful picture! Beautiful tree!