Producing a resplendent display of showy, trumpet-shaped flowers when in bloom, the white cedar (Tabebuia heterophylla) is a distinctive inhabitant of many islands in the Caribbean region. Also known as the pink trumpet tree because of its characteristic flowers, the white cedar is an evergreen to semi-deciduous tree with furrowed bark and an irregularly shaped crown (2)(3)(4). It has leathery green, oblong- or oval-shaped palmate leaves with blunt tips, which grow in opposite pairs (3)(4)(5)(6).
The conspicuous trumpet-shaped flowers of the white cedar are often pink, although they may also be white, cream or light purplish-grey, appearing in clusters throughout the spring and summer. Flowering is followed by the production of long, slender green to dark brown seedpods (3)(4)(5)(6)(7).
In Puerto Rico, the white cedar is reported to flower in the spring, when the tree may completely drop its leaves. It also reportedly flowers sporadically at other times throughout the year. The fruits of the white cedar are produced in May and June, becoming ripe from July through to September. Often mature fruits are found on the white cedar all year round (2)(4).
The elongated fruit pods of the white cedar measure between 8 and 20 centimetres, and contain many winged seeds. When the fruit is ripe, the capsule splits along two lines and the seeds are dispersed by the wind. The seeds may be carried more than 100 metres away from the adult tree, where they germinate in open areas to form dense stands of white cedar seedlings (2)(4).
The white cedar grows on any well-drained soil type, being found predominantly in areas where the annual rainfall varies between 100 and 250 centimetres (2). However, it is absent from high elevations and is intolerant of freezing temperatures, but is capable of withstanding drought for short periods (2)(7)(8).
The white cedar is native to the Caribbean, where it is widely distributed across most of the islands in the region, including the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla. The white cedar has also been planted in southern Florida, and has been introduced to islands throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans (2)(4)(7).
Gilman, E.F. and Watson, D.G. (1993) Tabebuia heterophylla: Pink trumpet tree (ENH-774). Environmental Horticulture Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Available at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/st616#FOOTNOTE_2
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