San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Pink trumpet tree, for beauty and the bark

Over the past few months, I’ve been highlighting ornamentals that bring beauty to your home garden and provide natural medicine, too. This week I’d like to introduce you to the pink trumpet tree, one of the most spectacular ornamental trees in Costa Rica and a source of beneficial natural medicine for the family. Known as roble sabana in Spanish, this native tree is now found around the world in tropical regions and is considered a world-class ornamental for landscaping.

It is easy to spot them lining avenues or parks in many cities and suburbs, and they are particularly prevalent in the Pacific region and Central Valley of Costa Rica. During the dry season, these trees drop their old leaves and bloom with profuse, pastel-pink, trumpet-like flowers. The spectacle lasts several weeks, providing a visual banquet during the hot dry season when the landscape is brown and barren.

Homeowners who have sufficient space can include the pink trumpet tree into their landscape design in areas such as lawns or as a transition tree between forest growth.

Pink trumpet trees can be started at home by planting seeds in plastic nursery bags or recycled containers. Alternatively, young branches, 100 centimeters long and 5 to 10 cm in diameter, can be planted directly in the soil about 30 cm deep. Select sites for planting that are sunny and have good soil drainage.

During the first year of growth, keep your new trees weed free and watered once a week during the dry season. Once these hardy trees are well established, little care is needed. An annual application of organic fertilizer around the base of the trees will help keep them growing well.

The inner bark of the pink trumpet tree has been used for centuries in folk remedies in the tropical Americas. It is reported to have been the sacred tree and medicine of the Maya. This powerful botanical medicine is known for healing a wide range of illnesses because of its ability to restore the immune system. Traditional use of the bark has been reported to help with the following health problems: anemia, arteriosclerosis, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, boils, cancer, candida, colitis, colds, constipation, coughs, cystitis, diabetes, diarrhea, emphysema, dysentery, eczema, fevers, flu, gastritis, gall bladder problems, infections, liver problems, lung problems, leukemia, pain, parasites, prostate problems, pyorrhea and wounds. No wonder the native indigenous people considered it a sacred tree.

To utilize the bark, carefully cut the outer bark from a mature branch down to the cambium layer or cortex. Next, slice off the cortex down to the wood of the branch. These strips of inner bark can be cut into 2 to 3 cm pieces on a clean cutting board and then dried quickly in a hot, dry place. Store the processed bark in an airtight container. To make a slightly bitter, woody-tasting tea, boil 1 to 2 grams of the bark in one cup of water for 10 to 15 minutes. The dosage can range from 1 to 3 cups per week to prevent health problems to 1 to 6 cups per day for acute or chronic illnesses. The dried bark can also be ground in a blender to a dry powder and placed in empty gelatin capsules. Take three to six capsules per day for acute or chronic illnesses.

This year, I collected pink trumpet seeds and would like to offer them to readers. To obtain a gift pack of seeds, write me at

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