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Sunday, December 4, 2022

Spring has sprung bright pink in Yucatán

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

It would seem that after a particularly benevolent “winter,” the heat has returned to Yucatán. This of course means several things, among them getting more use out of your pool, outings to the beach, and many cold drinks to try to keep sweat at bay.

Bright beautiful pink flowers can be found everywhere in Yucatán, even on the surface of the water, especially during spring. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

While some may smirk at the idea of seasons in Yucatán, they are in fact much a real thing beyond cycles of heat and even worse heat —  though there is some truth to that. Beautiful flowers can be seen all over Yucatán throughout the year, but it’s with the coming of spring that ratchets things up to 11.

Desert roses do especially well during the hottest months of the year and require little water. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht. 

Blues, yellows, purples, and reds suddenly seem to be everywhere, as the intense sunshine beats down upon the heat-loving flora of the Yucatán, contrasting with the Peninsula’s clear blue skies. 

After a couple of rains and days of intense heat, Yucatán’s flor de Mayo — the May flower tree — have begun to bloom once again. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

One of the most striking flowers to make its appearance during this time of year is the flower of the pseudobombax ellipticum, known locally as the amapola, pelo de angel (angel’s hair) or chak k’uuyche in Yucatec-Maya. 

Amapola flowers typically bloom by the dozens on large trees which can grow to well over 40 feet tall. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

This spectacular flower native to Yucatán and Central America makes its appearance in gardens and avenues across the Peninsula starting in late February and tends to stick around until late May. 

An amapola flower is in full bloom in Garcia Ginerés, Mérida. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The amapola is often used during Easter celebrations to adorn churches and altars but is also said to have medicinal properties. 

A common use for the amapola in the Yucatán Peninsula is soap production. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht 

In Central America, the amapola is said to be fermented to produce a spirit which I once heard a friend from El Salvador describe to be among the most coma-inducing he had ever tried. 

Religious, practical and libatious uses aside, amapolas are also important when it comes to pollination, as they are particularly favored by several species of insects. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Aside from bright pink, amapolas also come in white, but this variety appears to be less common in Yucatán. Photo: Wikimedia Foundation

Another variety of commonly seen pink flowers is the Bauhinia variegata, known in Yucatán as falsa orquidea, or false orchid. 

Common names for this species in the English-speaking world include orchid tree and mountain ebony. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

These false orchids have edible buds which can be collected and are used in traditional Indian cuisine, including Kachnar curry.

It’s not only people who enjoy eating false orchids.  Hummingbirds are also particularly fond of them and can be seen buzzing around or resting on their branches once they have had their fill. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Despite the fact that all true orchid species are transplants from abroad, with a little care, even store-bought orchids can be nourished to bloom again and again in Yucatán.

Some people, my father included, seem to be extremely skilled when it comes to caring for orchids, as evidenced by this bright pink beauty which just this week flowered again for the fourth year after being received as a gift years ago. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
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