QUITO – The first rains of winter have transformed a dry forest in the southern Ecuadorian canton of Zapotillo into a “golden” treasure house with the blooming of uncounted yellow “guayacan” flowers.
The explosion of life and color in the 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of the forest each year, which lasts for a maximum of only eight days, captivates tourists and artists, and Zapotillo authorities have prepared tourist routes, cultural fairs and business promotion activities to take advantage of the brief event.
After the blooming of the flowers around the end of each year, the golden mantle covering the local trees then becomes a yellow carpet as the petals fall, another spectacle that enchants visitors.
Animals living in the region – including goats, cattle and others – also get a windfall, feasting on the blooms.
According to Zapotillo municipal authorities, thanks to the rains, now the guayacanes “will be like a year-end gift.”
“At the beginning of this year, the guayacanes bloomed, and 2018 is closing with another similar spectacle. It’s rare to have two bloomings in the (same) year,” they said.
With the scientific name of Handroanthus Chrysanthus, the guayacan is a tree that is native to the intertropical zone in the Americas and common all over Ecuador between the altitudes of 200 and 1,200 meters (about 650 and 3,950 feet) above sea level.
Although guayacan trees grow in the Ecuadorian provinces of Esmeraldas, Manabi, Guayas, Los Rios and El Oro, Ana Maria Chalan, an official with the Zapotillo Tourism Unit in the province of Loja, told EFE that the most noteworthy blooms occur in the parishes of Bolaspamba, Mangahurco and Cazadero.
During nine months of the year – the dry season –, the mature trees, which stand about 15 meters high, lose their leaves as a survival mechanism giving them a somber and mournful appearance.
Zapotillo is located near the border with Peru and about 320 kilometers (198 miles) from the city of Loja and the canton is part of the biosphere reserve established by UNESCO in southern Ecuador in 2015.
Visitors may camp, bike and ride horses in the area and even “sponsor” a guayacan tree. Tourists can also visit the business fair, where products from the dry forest, crafts and locally brewed beer are displayed and sold, Chalan said, adding that last year some 10,000 people visited the area to admire the blooming trees.