Chicalá Brightens the Landscape Around Bogotá

tecoma-stans-chicala-flowers2With bunches of bright yellow bell type flowers the chicalá trees are easily spotted around Bogotá. Visitors find them in town squares, lining the medians of streets, surrounding parking lots and bringing color to the surrounding hills. Considered a shrub the trees can grow to about 7 meters (20 feet) or more.

Known by other names including tecoma stans, ginger-thomas, yellow trumpet bush, yellow trumpet flower, yellow bells and yellow-elder the plant grows mostly in Central and South America. In fact the tecoma stans is the official flower of the U.S. Virgin Islands. However the plants are also found in Africa and Australia. Basically it cannot survive in sustained cold temperatures.

How the flowers grow is fun to watch. They start out as stems with green nubs. Then a yellow protrusion forms It looks like a star shape from the front view. Soon there are many more and they burst into trumpet shaped yellow flowers with red lines.

tecoma-stans-budstecoma-stans-chicala-beeBees, hummingbirds and butterflies love the flowers. It is not unusual to watch a bee disappear inside one of the flowers then back out.

There are medicinal uses associated with the chicalá. lists the plant as a highly effective diuretic. has an abstract showing tecoma stans effective in treating cancer.

Some reports state that the flowering shrub is just now starting to get the recognition it deserves. Others have stated the plant to “serve no economic purpose and possess characteristics that are harmful to humans”.

Propagation is by mostly by seed. Long green beans grow in bunches. These turn brown then split open. Inside is a center piece sporting seeds on both sides. With papery wings they stick close. But soon, when the wind blows they spread everywhere. Rooting is also possible but you have to use the young stems. Neither the old brown branches nor the young green ones will sprout roots.

tecoma-stans-chicala-seedsWe have several of the trees around our house and enjoy them all year round. It is enjoyable to sit outside with a coffee to watch the hummingbirds and butterflies drawn to the chicalá trees. Yellow flowers against dark green leaves provides not only beauty but also an excellent barrier to neighboring yards. Visitors to Bogotá are often seen taking photos of the plant as it grows around the city.