Yellow Elder
Tecoma stans

Common Names: esperanza, yellow bells and Ginger Thomas

Yellow elder is the official flower of the U.S. Virgin Islands. This Central and South American tree bears 2 inch, trumpet-shaped, yellow flowers. Like a rose, Tecoma stans blooms in flushes throughout the growing season.

Tecoma stans Flowers

Yellow elder flowers, yellow bells ,, Tecoma stans

The blooms appear in dense clusters which may contain as many as 60 individual blossoms. These eye-catching flowers draw the attention, not only of 2-legged passers-by but also of butterflies and hummingbirds.

The bright flowers drop before they wither and form pretty yellow pools on the ground beneath the trees.

The champagne fragrance of the blooms attracts honey bees.

It's an interesting fact that the honey produced from the pollen of these flowers is toxic.

There is also an orange-flowered type called 'Sunrise' available.

The bright orange blooms of Tecoma alata 'Sunrise'.

The flowers are followed by seed pods with papery wings.

The unripe seed pods of Tecoma stans look like green beans.

When ripe, the pods will turn brown and dry.

The seed inside them will then be ready to harvest.

The tree's dense foliage is evergreen in the tropics, deciduous in cooler climates.

A tea made from the serrated leaves is used to reduce fevers and is said to strengthen a woman's body following childbirth. The same tea is also commonly used in Latin America to treat diabetes.

Yellow bells can be found growing throughout the West Indies, Mexico, South America, South Florida, Texas and Arizona where it may be grown as a landscape shrub or a 20 foot tree.

yellow elder tree, yellow bells

When trained as a tree, yellow elder's trunk can swell to a foot in diameter. The surface of the tree's gray bark becomes crazed with age.

Don't we all.


Growing Tips for Yellow Elder

The above ground portions of yellow elder are hardy to 28 degrees F. though the roots may survive temps a few degrees colder. There are a couple of named cultivars which are more cold resistant:

The deciduous shrub T. stans var. angustata is hardy to 10 degrees F. The orange flowered T. alata is root hardy to 6 degrees F.

This tree likes a full sun exposure. It can be grown in a pot as long as the pot is kept dry when the tree is not actively growing. Its prolific flowering habit makes it an ideal patio plant.

Tecoma stans is drought and salt tolerant but performs best when water is regularly supplied.

To propagate Ginger Thomas, take semi-woody cuttings in the summer or sow fresh seed in the spring. It will germinate quickly and easily.

To train Ginger Thomas as a tree: stake young plants until a strong trunk develops. Then, nip out the growing tip to encourage the production of a bushy crown.

Plants grown as shrubs may need to be cut back hard in late winter for the first few years of their lives in order to achieve an attractive shape. Without this early training, they may develop a sparse, rangy appearance.

*Tecoma stans is moderately invasive in Florida but has become a problem plant in French Polynesia where it is choking out other species.



Other Ornamental Trees:

Aangel Trumpet Tree The foot-long pendant blossoms of the angel trumpet tree are only fragrant at night but they are showy round the clock.

Ylang Ylang Tree Cananga odorata is a tall, fast-growing tropical tree prized for its Chanel Number 5 scented flowers. The Ylang Ylang plant is easy and rewarding to grow in the home landscape.

Buttonwood Tree The buttonwood tree is commonly found in tropical wetlands. It displays a sprawling growth habit. The trunks and larger branches typically arch in every direction.

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