The first winter rains on a dry forest in the canton of Zapotillo, in southern Ecuador, encourage the emergence of the yellow flowers of hundreds of guayacanes, turning 40,000 hectares into a golden color that captivates thousands of tourists and inspires artists
This explosion of life and color normally occurs once a year and lasts a maximum of eight days, so the authorities of Zapotillo have prepared routes for tourists, cultural fairs and take advantage of the occasion to promote ventures.
After the flowering at the end or the beginning of the year, depending on the date of the fall of the first rains, the gold-colored mantle that covers the trees is transformed into a yellow carpet with the fall of the bell-shaped flowers, another spectacle that captivates the visitors
… And what feeds, because after the relentless summer, the flower on the floor is the first thing that goats and cows eat, among other animals in the sector.
According to the City Council of Zapotillo, thanks to the rains, now the flowering of the guayacanes "will be as a gift at the end of the year".
"At the beginning of the year there was already the flowering of guayacanes and this 2018 closes with another similar show, there are few times where there are two blooms in the year," he said.
Scientifically known as Handroanthus Chrysanthus, the guayacan is a tree native to the intertropical zone of America and common throughout the Ecuadorian geography in the range of 200 to 1,200 meters above sea level, so it is the son of warm regions.
And although there are guayacanes in the Ecuadorian provinces of Esmeraldas, Manabí, Guayas, Los Ríos and El Oro, Ana María Chalán, technician of the Tourist Unit of the Municipality of Zapotillo, in the province of Loja, explains to Efe that the most striking flowering it occurs in the Bolaspamba, Mangahurco and Cazadero parishes.
Of two kinds (the common and the lion's ear, which differ in the stem and the intensity of the color of the flower), the guayacanes bare their leaves to require minimum amounts of water as a survival mechanism before the dry season, which lasts about nine months, so the forest offers a lugubrious appearance most of the year.
With a strong, compact, cylindrical trunk, about 60 centimeters in diameter on average, the guayacán is a kind of slow growth, and for a tree to reach 15 meters, it requires up to 200 years, according to the Ministry of Environment.
With a brown, blackish and scaly bark and a large and deep radicular system, the guayacán is the focus of attention these days in Zapotillo, near the border with Peru and about 320 kilometers from the city of Loja.
Zapotillo is one of the southern cantons of Ecuador that are part of the biosphere reserve declared by Unesco in 2015 and although the guayacanes have been there for many years, it was from 2012 that tourism began to be boosted by the spectacular massive flowering of the millennial species.
Now, visitors can even camp in the area where there are toilets and showers, ride bicycles, ride horses and also "sponsor" a guayacán in Zapotillo, where, in addition, the visitor's retina is conquered with its colorful crafts, and its palate with typical dishes, such as the hollow goat, a name that inherits from its way of preparation.
Among other activities in the area, tourists can visit the entrepreneurship fair where they exhibit and sell dry forest products, such as honey, personalized crafts and craft beer, according to Chalán.
According to her, last year 10,000 people visited the area to admire the flowering of guayacán, a tree that due to its singular beauty is used as an ornament in parks and gardens.
Although now it is more protected, its sturdy wood is appreciated for carpentry work, interior decorations and construction in general, "but this species is more valued if it is not harvested, so that it is enjoyed by several generations," says the Ministry of Tourism.