Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cat's claw

As the promise of rain grows, heavy as the clouds overhead, more trees and plants are flowering.  Late season yellow Pouis dot the northern hills. Pink Pouis are celebrating pagwah all over again. Pommerac flowers, jacaranda, and cassias paint the forests. And the blue bunches of Petrea are more to be enjoyed coming at the end of this dry dry season. Some of the most luxuriant specimens can be seen around the Savannah. Look out for the shower of gold cassias in the botanic gardens.

The flowering vine that channels pure sunshine in these pre-rain days is the Cat's claw. Bunches of yellow blossoms drape the uppermost branches of tall trees, and this is just about the only time you may see the vines during the year.  The Spanish called the plant Una de Gato, the Indians Vilcacora. Uncaria tomentosa, or Uncaria guianensis, has been used by South and Central American tribes to treat a variety of ailments including gastric ulcers, tumours and rheumatoid arthritis.

The vine is characterised by small hooks at the bases of the leaves; these hooks resemble cat's claws and enable the vine to climb walls and very high trees. 

One thing that I wonder about amid this annual flowering: is it the end of the dry season that prompts the blooming? Or is it the onset of rain that does it?

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