The floors at our Panama resort are all-bamboo, but we didn’t bother with carpeting — the island seems to be doing a beautiful job of that all by itself.
Green season is freshly upon us at Isla Palenque, and by the beneficence of a few evening showers last week, deeper hues and denser growth already reawakening in our island wilderness: moss appears between the volcanic rocks in the shade of the coastal frangipanis, and the leafy detritus of a dry season nearly over damply decomposes on the forest floor…
But the island really rolled out the red (er, purple) carpet with the blooming of the jacarandas. Last Saturday, we rounded the bend in one of our little “busitos” transporting new arrivals and their luggage to the Estate Rooms and heard a chorus of breathtaken sighs at the beauty of these blueish-purple flowers floating down from the tall jacaranda trees lining the road.
49 different species of jacarandas exist worldwide as part of a plant family native to Central and South America. One of these species, Jacaranda arborea, is endemic to Cuba and at threatened status on IUCN’s Red List as a result of habitat loss. Their relatives, Jacaranda mimosifolia, thankfully thrive on our island in the 220-acre nature reserve.
The pale brown trunk of Jacaranda mimosifolia spreads upwards into a light crown, usually reaching a height of about 15 meters. Decorating its boughs are the characteristic bell-shaped, blue-violet flowers that attract hummingbirds and other pollinating species. But, as with so many of Isla Palenque’s native plants, jacaranda’s beauty is much greater than meets the eye:
Its soft, workable wood becomes beautiful carved bowls…
Preparations made from its bark and roots can cure syphilis, and its leaves can be used to make a wound-healing poultice…
Extracts from the leaves have potent antimicrobial properties, in some cases proving more effective against Staphylococcus aureus and E. coli than the most common remedies.
Jacarandas seem to know how special they are — as greedy feeders with a high water intake, they make it difficult for other plant species to survive in the vicinity, thus maintaining their spotlight as the prettiest plants around.
The jacaranda’s beauty and mystique is the stuff of legends in Argentina. In a book by Alejandro Dolina (an Argentinian broadcaster, actor, and writer, among other things), a giant singing jacaranda tree in Buenos Aires’ Plaza Flores figures into one of the tales in his collection of the Crónicas del Ángel Gris. Protagonist Angel Grey navigates his Buenos Aires neighborhood encountering two opposing camps of supporting characters — the “Sensitive Men” and the “debunkers”, or the fools who demand rational, scientific explanations for everything. Between the ethereal beauty of purple blossoms floating down from the heavens and the numerous practical applications for this tree, the jacaranda could probably satisfy both.
These Spring flowers endure until June, or longer — so stay with us at Isla Palenque during these months to ensure you get the purple-carpet treatment!