Plant Common Name
Snakewood, Trumpet Tree
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Beautifully exotic, hand-like leaves catches the eye of most plant lovers when seeing the trumpet tree. An upright, rarely-branching, fast growing, broadleaf evergreen tree, it's native across the Caribbean Basin: the West Indies and Mexico southward into northern South America. Known as a pioneer tree, it quickly germinates and forests cleared areas and vegetates waste areas alongside roads or abandoned lots. This species' foliage is the primary food source for tree sloths.
The leaves of this Cecropia are among the easiest to distinguish, as they are not larger than dinner plate-sized, rounded and with short lobes. Leaf undersides are a lighter green and broken petiole stems will exude a gooey sap. The tree's stem is smooth, grayish white and hollow, often infested with ants that protect the plant from hungry animals, although the sloth does not mind their presence! Flowering anytime the weather is warm and moisture ample, long banana-like buds that are ivory-green protrude from the stems just below the leaves. Trees are dioecious, either being fully male or female in floral gender. The light golden flowers are held in a mophead of pendent catkins (finger-like clusters). The flesh around the seeds in each female catkin tastes of banana and sweet custard, relished by bats and birds that end up spreading the seeds across the rainforest.
Grow trumpet tree in full to partial sun in any variety of soils, from well-draining to somewhat wet, in a frost-free location. Loving heat and humidity, it can grow upwards of 7 feet (3 m) each year. Protect this plant from damaging tropical storm winds. It's foliage is a reason to include this tree in the tropical garden, as well as trying the sweet fruits. Use the fresh or dried fallen leaves as floral ornamentation.
This tree may be regarded as undesirable or invasive in tropical areas outside of Central America. Its fast growth can make it relatively short-lived in comparison to other hardwood tropical trees.
Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Edible, Feature Plant, Fruit / Fruit Tree, Mixed Border, Shade Trees, Tropical
Sharp or Has Thorns