The Local Cherry Blossom Tree: Tecoma


A local ‘Cherry Blossom’ tree stands at Jalan Pending. The Tecoma tree is best for roadside landscaping.

RECENTLY after a dry spell, the trees along the highways and parks in Kuching City began to bloom — the locals called them ‘Cherry Blossom’ trees.

The actual tree is the ‘Tabebuia rosea’ from Costa Rica, and it is the national tree of El Salvador, where it is called the ‘Maquilishuat’.

The history of this tree being brought to Sarawak might have been lost, but it must have been brought here by the early botanists, meant for town-landscaping in the 1960s.

I remember there was the call to ‘make the city green’ and all officers from various departments participated in the ‘Tree Planting Day’ – it was a Saturday and all of them went out to plant Tecoma trees along Jalan Simpang Tiga near Kenyalang Park in Kuching.

Now these trees are blooming profusely at times when the weather is right.

There are many more roads being lined with Tecoma trees, such as near Jalan Mashur and Penrissen Road.

Lately, more people are become interested in planting them.

What is the tree exactly? The common names are the ‘Trumpet Tree’, Tecoma and ‘Pink Poui’ – all belonging to the ‘Bignoniaceae’ family.

In Singapore, it is also known as the ‘Sakura Tree’, owing to its resemblance to the Japanese ‘Cherry Tree’, its seasonal flowering characteristic and the soft-hued colour of the blooms.

The tree is an angiosperm, a ‘Dicotyledonae’ big tree over 30m in height, with a conical canopy. The palmately-compound leaves are oppositely arranged, with five leaflets on each stalk.

The important character is the showy, large flower that is trumpet-shaped, with five petals measuring 5cm to 8cm in length.

Being capable of blooming profusely, especially when the leaves are deciduous, the whole tree would appear violet-pink, and the petals being blown in the wind depict such a lovely sight. As the flowers fall, it creates a rich purple-red carpet over the ground – a scene that would catch the attention of many a driver along the roads.

Fruits are formed and then, they would split open and disperse the seeds that have winged features.

The tree is best for roadside landscaping. Propagation is via seeds, with stem-cutting nursery and cultivation in big polybags for field-planting.

A sunny condition, with intermittent rains like our weather, is suitable for its growth without even needing fertilizers. The tree grows vigorously in our soil, as long as there is good drainage.

Where to plant this tree in our garden? Provided that we have a large area not used for other plantings, then I would suggest you plant it near the corner to provide shade – it can be coupled with other shorter shrubs below the canopy to save you some space that it would take up upon reaching maturity.

Obtain a good seedling or rooted cutting for easy uptake. Dig into the ground a sizeable planting hole of one-by-one foot square for small seedling. Have the compost-mixed top soil if the ground soil is poor, in the sense that it is sandy or not good for vigorous growth of the tree.

Give it a good mounting and add in some mineral nutrients to boost growth. A well-fertilised plant may start blooming upon the age of six to eight years. Pruning of unwanted branches and canopy is best done before the tree gets too tall to handle, probably after five years.

In our climate, rainfall should be sufficient for normal growth.

What other shrubs can be planted near the Tacoma, you may ask. For landscape purposes, companion plants such as lower shrubs are best if sunlight is less of a problem for flowering. Go for yucca, cambogia, gardenia or foliage-display greens such as the ‘Mother-In-Law Tongue’ or agave.

Some even go for orchids and vanilla plants as these are low-light intensity plants.

It would be best to use pot-planting system with good medium for different plants and ease of weed control or application of fertilizers.

It also allows for an opportunity to use hanging baskets for displays, with careful selection of colourful blooms.

I am sure with some trials and errors, one could get the scene beautified according to one’s own taste.

Happy Gardening!