Leaf of the Day: The Tipu Tree

Today has been dull and rainy and cold. It was the sort of Sunday that you dread as a child, confined to the house with homework to do. So apart from watching endless Election coverage on the TV it was a good opportunity to get on with some computer filing. I have been trying to make a list of all the plants I have photographed so far at Leu. There are many, many, more than I have drawn. My choice of which plants to draw is completely random, and haphazard. I walk a different way every time I go. The changing light over the months highlights different things and of course the gardeners rearrange things too. I get occasional prompting from Pedro or Susan who tell me to go and look at this or that but otherwise it is just what comes my way that day. Sometimes I have wanted to ask for a plant list to see what they really do have, but this is far more enjoyable way to discover things and I really never know what I will find from one day to the next.

I found the seeds I have drawn today, on the ground last week and now, at last, can identify the mystery trees which were planted around the side streets of San Pedro seafront, where we lived in Spain. They are from the Tipu tree, Tipuana tipu. I had taken this photograph in July in Spain just over a year ago, so these are the young seeds developing.

Here they are looking beautiful and golden in the Mediterranean evening sun! They are lovely things when young, with a sort of waxy feel to them. They were smallish street trees in Spain but at Leu the Tipu is tall and set back from the avenue of stately camphor trees.
The interesting thing about the tipu is that it does not have the usual “pea” pods of the legume family, but develops these single winged seeds which are known as samaras. They have a great whirling helicopter action and I spent a happy few moments of displacement behaviour throwing these up in the air, discovering just how well they do spin.

The term samara is given to a winged seed, we would call them keys too in the UK. Maples, ash and sycamores have samaras and to be even more correct they are really winged achenes, as the seed is contained within the outer husk the achene. The seed can be positioned in the middle of the wing, like the hop or at one end.

The tree is native to Brazil and Bolivia and is also called the Pride of Bolivia but now happy in many other climates and was certainly very happy in San Pedro. It is also known as the Brazilian rosewood, its timber being used as a substitute for real rosewood.
The flowers of the Tipu come in long loose sprays of orangy yellow blossoms, they are very pretty and the compound leaves are light and airy. I didn’t have time to draw the leaf today but may get round to it later this week.

Tipu Tree

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  1. I really like your drawings. Botanical art has always been a favorite of mine. Very straightforward and scientific, yet beautiful just the same. The flowers on the Tipu Tree are very pretty.

  2. Is Leu a botanical garden where you are working?

  3. Your work is fabulous… love the restraint here.

    Cynthia Padilla, international botanical arts instructor.

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/botanicalart Join an international forum dedicated to the realistic portrayal of plants, flowers and natural science subjects.

  4. Thanks Cindy and Patient Gardener I think I have replied to you both via your blogs … and thanks to all for your very kind comments. Cynthia I will try to reply to you personally .. how interesting you are an instructor. I have so much to learn!

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