Information about plants & gardens for Brisbane & Qld
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Trumpet trees in Queensland

Tabebuia and Handroanthus species, hybrids and cultivars

Family: Bignoniaceae

Originating in Central and South America, there are about 100 species of Tabebuia (some now reclassified as Handroanthus). This page will concentrate in those grown in South East Queensland and trying to sort out their true identities, which is easier said than done for this very confusing genus.

Handroanthus heptaphyllus(?)

Common name: Pink Trumpet Tree

This one is a real head-turner. It's fairly common in Brisbane, and recognisable by the big display of pink bloom in winter or early spring. The individual flowers are distinctly pink and have a yellow throat, They are borne in in ball-shaped clusters.

Locally this tree is usually known as Handroanthus impetiginosus or one of its synonyms (Tabebuia impetiginosa, Tabebuia palmeri, Tabebuia avellanedae, Tabebuia avellanedae). In the past it has been erroneously called T. rosea as well. T palmeri seems to have stuck the most strongly and it is still being sold in Queensland under this name.

However, trees growing in California that were long believed to be H. impetiginosus (=T palmeri were discovered to actually be H. heptaphyllus. Comparing the information and pictures in an 2015 article about the issue [1] as well as a Brazillian botanical website [2], it appears we have similarly misnamed these trees in Queensland. This is not surprising if the nursery stock was originally imported from the USA.

However, all nurseries will be carrying it as Handroanthus impetiginosus or Tabebuia palmeri some combination of those names, so that's what to look out for if you're trying to buy one here.

Tabebuia impetiginosa street tree Tabebuia impetiginosa flowers Tabebuia impetiginosa flower cluster
Tabebuia impetiginosa leaves Handroanthus impetiginosus Handroanthus impetiginosus
Handroanthus impetiginosus Handroanthus heptaphyllus Handroanthus impetiginosus
Handroanthus heptaphyllus Handroanthus heptaphyllus

Handroanthus heptaphyllus Handroanthus heptaphyllus Handroanthus heptaphyllus
These leaves were photographed in Brisbane. Serrated leaf edges are one of the key features identifying the trees as H. heptaphyllus.

Tabebuia pallida

Common names: Cuban Pink Trumpet Tree, White Trumpet Tree, Pink Trumpet Tree

Locally, the other pink tabebuia that's seen the most is the one known as Tabebuia pallida. Brisbane City Council has the species it's planting in the streets listed as such. The flowers are a much paler pink than the above species and are scattered in smaller clusters over the tree, which tends to retain more of its leaves while blooming. The leaves themselves are quite glossy with almost rounded tips and smooth edges.

There is a great deal of confusion between this species and Tabebuia heterophylla - whether they are the same thing or whether one is a subpecies of the other. In the USA, a common trumpet tree they call Tabebuia heterophylla looks very similar according to published information. It's quite possible that we have the same thing that just got a different name attached to it when it was imported.

Tabebuia pallida Tabebuia pallida

Tabebuia aurea

Common names: Silver Trumpet Tree, Caribbean trumpet-tree, Tree of gold

Past scientific names include Tabebuia argentea and Tabebuia caraiba. This one has bright yellow flowers but the common name silver trumpet tree and the synonym T. argentea both refer to the silver of the leaves. Apparently there are two different types in cultivation, one with quite silvery leaves and another with green leaves. All the local ones have an olive-green appearance so would appear to be of the latter type. This would explain why they don't look as silver/grey as many of the trees seen in pictures.

The tree is quite small (good fro small gardens) but tends to grow quite crookedly without intervention.

Tabebuia aurea Tabebuia aurea Tabebuia aurea
Tabebuia aurea Tabebuia aurea Tabebuia aurea
Tabebuia aurea

Handroanthus chrysotrichus

Synonyms: Tabebuia chrysotricha
Common names: Golden Trumpet Tree

Another "golden trumpet tree" with yellow flowers. Not widely planted, but the tree below was spotted in Brisbane, so there may be a few around.

Tabebuia Tabebuia
Tabebuia August 2012 Tabebuia October 2012

Unknown species

Also spotted growing in Brisbane, this tree is yet to be identified. It has flowers that are similar to T. pallida but the leaves are different.

unidenified tabebuia unidenified tabebuia unidenified tabebuia

More information

This genus contains many species of trees which produce spectacular flowering displays. While they are valued elsewhere for the timber and medicial products derived from them, the tabebuias are primarily grown in Queensland as ornamentals.

Although not uncommon in Queensland, this group is not as widely grown or as well known as the poinciana or jacaranda. Given that these latter two aren't well suited to the restricted space of modern suburbia, perhaps it's time for lovers of tropical flowering trees to explore the tabebuias, especially the smaller-growing species.

What's more, the tabebueas tend to flower in winter or early in the spring, providing colour before the many of the other of the tropical flowering trees. The pink-flowered species can even be considered a tropical substitute for the flowering cherries of the northern hemisphere.

Nomenclature of the tabebuias was confused enough given the number of names that individual species have been called over the years and the similarity of some names. Furthermore, several species look very similar and are variable, making it difficult to simply distinguish between various species by sight, even when in flower.

This was further complicated in 2007 when many Tabebuia species were moved into the genus Handroanthus and two others into Roseodendron. The changes are gradually starting to permeate horticultural literature but in the trade this whole group is still best known and mostly still sold as Tabebuia.

The common names are also very confusing, with vague names like "Pink Trumpet Tree" and "Golden Trumpet Tree" being applicable to several species. A huge number of common names are applied to individual species in various parts of the world. In the Americas, members of the genus or its timber are often called "ipê".

A limited number of species are commercially available In Australia. Importation and trials of other species may increase the options with respect to tree size and form, flower colour and cold tolerance.

However, it seems that there's been relatively little selection, hybridisation or breeding of Tabebuias for ornamental use done at a commercial level anywhere in the world. There has been at least some work done in the U.S.A., but there appears to be much untapped potential for developing new cultivars with desirable growth forms, increased cold tolerance, different flower colours or even repeat-blooming.

One named cultivar that is sold in Australia is T. impetiginosa 'White Beauty" (listed as T. palmeri). It has white flowers instead of the usual pink.

Some people have expressed concerns over the weed potenial of some Tabebuia species. Low seed-set or sterility (possibly through hybridisation) would be a therefore be a worthwhile criteria of any breeding programme in the future.

Links to other information

Note that many of the American pages discussing H. impetiginosa are probably talking about misidentified H. heptaphyllus
Tabebuia impetiginosa - Pink Trumpet Tree includes some good photos Trees of Santa Cruz County (California)
Tabebuia palmerii in flower on a Townsville street. Graeme Cocks' Plants of Townsville
Pink Trumpet Tree Handroanthus impetiginosus Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute, California
Tabebuia impetiginosa Purple Tabebuia. University of Florida (PDF)
Tabebuia impetiginosa - the Dwarf Pink Trumpet Tree "My Dry Tropics Garden" blog, Qld
Tabebuia impetiginosa (amapa, amapa morada) Research and Conservation in Southern Sonora, Mexico. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Tabebuia impetiginosa University of Florida (PDF)
Tabebuia impetiginosa (=T. palmeri) Department of Botany. University of Hawai`i at Manoa
Tabebuia impetiginosa, Pink Trumpet Tree. University of Florida
Purple Tabebuia (Tabebuia impetiginosa) Online Manual of Subtropical Landscaping Plants, Palm Beach Community College, Florida
Tabebuia avellanedae Bureau of Street Services, City of L.A.
Tabebuia heptaphylla Pink Trumpet Tree. University of Florida (PDF)
Pink Trumpet Tree Handroanthus heptaphyllus Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute, California
Handroanthus heptaphyllus - The Correct Name for the Pink Trumpet Tree in Southern California Useful information on how to tell the difference between H. heptaphyllus and H. impetiginosus. Hodel Palms and Trees, Univ. California
Tabebuia pallida (White trumpet tree) James Cook University, Qld
Tabebuia pallida Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk
Tabebuia heterophylla University of Florida (PDF)
Tabebuia heterophylla (DC.) Britton Silvics of North America, United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service
Cuban Pink Trumpet Tree Tabebuia heterophylla. Flowers of India
Tabebuia heterophylla (DC.) Britton (in Spanish) United States Dept Agriculture Forest Service, USA (PDF)
Pink Tabebuia (Tabebuia heterophylla) Online Manual of Subtropical Landscaping Plants, Palm Beach Community College, Florida
Pink blossoms of Tabebuia pentaphylla Forest Research Institute Malaysia
Pink Trumpet (Tabebuia pentaphylla) - ipê-Rosa Includes pictures of a handsome specimen in leaf and in flower. Leaves and Grass (Blog)
Tabebuia heterophylla Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk
Tabebuia aurea James Cook University, Qld
Yellow Tabebuia, Silver Tabebuia (Tabebuia aurea) Online Manual of Subtropical Landscaping Plants, Palm Beach Community College, Florida
Tabebuia aurea Lee County Extension, Univ. Florida (PDF)
Tabebuia caraiba: Trumpet Tree University of Florida (PDF)
Caribbean trumpet-tree (Tabebuia aurea) Dendrology at Virginia
Tabebuia - Often Overlooked Flowering Trees (Mostly discusses T. argentea) Hendry County Extension Service, Univ Florida
Tabebuia aurea Aquatic, Wetland and Invasive Plants, Florida
Tabebuia aurea (paratodo) Natural History Museum, UK
Tabebuia rosea (Pink Trumpet Tree) James Cook University, Qld
Tabebuia rosea Trees of Miami, Florida, USA
Pink trumpet tree Tabebuia rosea Flowers of India
Tabebuia rosea  AgroForestryTree Database
Tabebuia rosea Ecocrop database, FAO
Tabebuia Rosea - Almost Like A Cherry Blossom Season On the Green Side of Life (blog), Malaysia
Tabebuia rosea (Bertol.) DC. Especies de Costa Rica
Tabebuia chrysantha (amapa amarilla) Research and Conservation in Southern Sonora, Mexico. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Tabebuia chrysotricha - Golden Trumpet Tree Graeme Cocks' Plants of Townsville
Golden Trumpet Tree Tabebuia chrysotricha. The Florez Nursery blog, NSW
Tabebuia chrysotricha - Golden Trumpet Tree Trees of Santa Cruz County (California)
Golden Trumpet Tree Handroanthus chrysotrichus Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute, California
Tabebuia chrysotricha City of Los Angeles Street Tree Selection Guide
Golden Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia chrysotricha) Online Manual of Subtropical Landscaping Plants, Palm Beach Community College, Florida
Tabebuia chrysotricha Bureau of Street Services, City of L.A.
GRIN Species Records of Tabebuia Germplasm Resources Information Network, USDA
Sorting Tabebuia names Multilingual Multiscript Plant name Database, University of Melbourne
35. TABEBUIA Gomes ex A. DC., Biblioth. Universelle Genéve n.s. 2, 17: 130. 1838. This document includes keys to species of Tabebuia in the Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana based on flowering and vegetative characteristics. (Missouri Botanical Garden)
Taxonomic Revisions in the Polyphyletic Genus Tabebuia s. l. (Bignoniaceae) The 2007 paper proposing the change from Tabebuia to Handroanthus (PDF)
The Genus Tabebuia (Discusses Florida a hybrid) Gardening in the Coastal Southeast
More on Tabebuias Describes some of the variation amongst cultivated Tabebuias in California and the seedling selection being undertaken by Monterey Bay Nursery
Arvores do Brasil Mostly in Portugese, but plants are identified by scientific name. Go to (Lista cientif) so you can view the photographs of several Tabebuia species.
Ipê (Tabebuia spp.) Discusses overharvesting of these timbers in their native habitat. Rainforest Alliance

Possible misspellings: Tabebuea, Tabibuia, Tabibuea

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