Bottle or potbellied trees, a very peculiar Amazonian species

ceiba speciosa

The tree species known as Ceiba speciosa, also known as drunk tree or bridge tree, is a plant native to the tropical and subtropical rainforests of South America. It is a member of the Ceiba genus and shares its family with the baobab and ceiba trees. This particular species has several local names, including drunken tree, bottle tree, toborochi, wool tree, pink tree and female lupuna in Peru.

In this article we are going to show you the characteristics and curiosities of these bottle trees, as well as their legends.

Key features

bottle tree flowers

This deciduous tree can grow to a height of 10 to 20 meters and sometimes even exceed 25 meters. Its trunk, which widens towards the base, acts as a water reservoir during periods of severe drought. The trunk is protected by robust cone-shaped spines. In its early stages, the trunk has a green hue, attributed to its abundant chlorophyll content, which allows it to carry out photosynthesis in the absence of leaves. As the tree matures, the bark becomes rough and develops a network of grayish-brown cracks.

Covered in stingers, the branches of this plant generally spread horizontally. Its compound leaves consist of five to seven leaflets that are usually closed. The flowers, which resemble hibiscus, have five petals and a creamy white center with a pink outer area. These flowers, which measure between 10 and 15 cm in diameter, are very attractive to hummingbirds and monarch butterflies, which play a crucial role in pollination.

In the southern hemisphere, its flowering period extends from January to May. The fruit of this plant is an ovoid pod with a woody texture 20 cm long. Inside the pod are seeds reminiscent of black chickpeas, surrounded by a loose mass of cottony fiber, reminiscent of cotton or silk.

The native range of this species covers the eastern Bolivia, northeastern Argentina, northern Paraguay, southern Uruguay and southern Brazil. It shows a remarkable ability to resist both drought and moderate cold. Furthermore, under optimal conditions, it shows rapid growth.

Attractiveness of bottle trees

drunk stick tree

Grown primarily for its aesthetic appeal, this particular species thrives as an ornamental plant. It is commonly seen lining the streets of urban areas in subtropical cities in Spain, South Africa, Argentina, Australia, northern New Zealand, and southern regions of the United States.

This particular tree is frequently found in the regions of Valencia, Málaga and Cádiz, where the climate is warm and the winters are mild without frost.

Native to the lush jungles of South America, the Toborochi tree, also known as the drunkard tree, bottle tree or wool tree, has a distinctive and captivating peculiarity. As winter comes and other trees lose their foliage, these trees bloom, adorning themselves with vibrant pink flowers that serve as a delightful herald of the arrival of the cold of fall.

The legend of the Toborochi trees

potbellied tree

The legend of this tree is as captivating as its beauty. According to Bolivian folklore, in ancient times, when deities walked among mortals, malevolent spirits known as Aña inflicted great suffering on the Guaraní people. They took lives and kidnapped women mercilessly, causing unspeakable devastation.

Within a picturesque town lived a captivating young woman named Araverá, known as "Flash in the sky", for being the daughter of the esteemed Chief Ururutï Cóndor Blanco. Having recently married the Hummingbird deity, he had aspirations to quickly have a son who would eventually become the most skilled Shaman in the entire area, possessing the power to conquer any malevolent entity.

Upon receiving the news, the Aña made the ruthless decision to eliminate Araverá. Mounted on their winged, fire-breathing horses, they set out for the town. However, Araverá, who quickly recognized the imminent danger, managed to evade them by rising to the farthest corners of the cosmos in the enchanted flying chair that her husband, Colibrí, gave him.

Araverá was pursued relentlessly by Aña, who seemed to follow her every move, whether submerged in the depths of the water, hidden beneath the earth, or even beyond the vast expanse of the stars. When the flying chair could no longer support the weight of Araverá and her precious offspring, they descended to the ground and sought refuge in the protective embrace of a Toborochi tree, known as Samou.

The Aña passed by, His search was in vain as he failed to discover his hidden sanctuary. Deep within the confines of the tree, Araverá gave birth to her son, who would grow up to seek revenge against the malevolent Aña. However, her mother remained trapped within the Samou's womb, captive to her protective branches, even to this day.

According to legend, it occasionally transforms into a dazzling flower, attracting hummingbirds with its sweet nectar.

Growth of Toborochi in cities

In most cities around the world, winter means a period when the urban environment becomes dull and lifeless, covered in monotonous gray. However, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the onset of the cold season brings a vibrant transformation when five different species of toborochis bloom, adorning the streets with an impressive array of colors including yellow, pink, gold, variegated and white.

After a meticulous documentation process, a group of biologists successfully distinguished five different species of toborochis within the city of Santa Cruz: the renowned pink toborochi (Ceiba speciosa), the vibrant yellow variety (Ceiba chodatii), the map (Ceiba Samauma), the marbled guy (also known as Bolivian Ceiba), and the white variant (called Ceiba SP, without further specification).

In light of climate change, researchers issued a warning statement about the altered flowering patterns of these tree species. Previously, these trees flowered once a year, but now they experience flowering events two to four times during the year. Additionally, the volume and height of its flowers have decreased due to the effects of "water stress" or insufficient water supply.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about bottle trees and their characteristics.

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