March 31, 2009

Tipa Trees

I first noticed these crazy beautiful trees upon our arrival in Buenos Aires in November 2006. As we would walk underneath them we would get dripped on. It took me a while to figure out that it was these trees. I still don't know why they "spit" in the spring. It's a bit disconcerting when you first encounter it. The drops feel like water and not like sap, so either it's from the leaves or flowers or the sap that it is leaking is highly viscous. They only pretty much "leak" in the spring and early summer. I wonder if it has anything to do with their flowers.

The Tipa trees Tipuana tipu are native to Argentina, but not so much to Buenos Aires. In English they are called "Rosewood Trees". Sr. Carlos Thays planned the planting of trees throughout the city and mostly used native Argentine trees for the job. Tipa trees line many of the broad avenues where they grow full and broad - Av Bullrich, Av Las Heras, Av Alem and Paseo Colon for example. However, when they line narrower streets, like Honduras and others in Palermo, they tower and meet in the middle. You can imagine yourself inside a cathedral with high vaults and arches as the light streams through small openings, much like the stained glass.

These trees also remind me of the respiratory system in the lungs. The branches twist and turn as they grow as most trees do. However, they turn when they don't "have" to, at forks and so the branches are not straight at all. The dark brown trunks spread out and up and diminish as the branches, well, branch off. The dark wood contrasts intensely with the light green leaves, especially when they are backlit. The similarity to the respiratory system doesn't end just in appearance. If you think about it, trees are the lungs of the earth - inhaling carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen. It is awfully nice of nature to make such beautiful "organs" of this body we call Earth. It's a shame that Sr. Thays never got to see his work as we see it now. He got the immediate joy of seeing his parks and gardens sculpted in place, but the trees that line the streets of Buenos Aires were small and nowhere full grown when he died in 1934. His legacy lives on in full glory. I'm glad he had such forethought.

Further reading in English and Spanish:

Tipa in Palermo (by blmurch)
Tipa in Palermo, originally uploaded by blmurch.

Greens (by blmurch)
Greens, originally uploaded by blmurch.

Congreso and the Tipas (by blmurch)
Congreso and the Tipas, originally uploaded by blmurch.

Snowfall of Tipa Flowers (by blmurch)
Snowfall of Tipa Flowers, originally uploaded by blmurch.


Katie said...

Ah, so that's what those trees are called. :) I admired their curving, elegant form when I saw them in Buenos Aires, but I had no idea what they were. Beautiful photos to accompany the post, as always. The photo of Congreso in silhouette is particularly nice.

Julie said...

Did you notice that one tree never touches other tree's branches?

Beatrice M said...

Thanks Katie! Their curves trip me out so much.

Julie, I hadn't noticed, I'll check it out next time I'm near where they grow close to each other.

Sandra Gutrejde said...

Hi Beatrice
I have just discovered your blog and I think it's great, congratulations.
I also love tipa trees. You have to visit Melian avenue in Belgrano R, one of the most beautiful avenues in BA covered by a dome of tipas.
I understand that tipas spit due to a kind of fungus or parasite that sticks to their bark.

Beatrice M said...

Thanks so much Sandra. I'll have to do more investigating as to why they spit and why they only spit in the late spring, early summer. I'll check out Melian ave in Belgrano.

katy said...

I loved reading about the trees of Buenos Aires on your blog! I'm actually studying abroad in Buenos Aires and hoping to learn some tree history. Do you research online or know any good books I can check out?

Beatrice M said...

Hi there Katy,

Glad you like the blog. :D Best of luck with your studies.

I do some research online and also have some books. One is called Arboles Rioplatenses by Hector Jahitte, Julio Hurell, Paula Haloua, Leandro Jankowski and Manuel Belgrano. This book is in both Spanish and English. The other is one I can't find at the moment, but I bought it in the bookstore in Village Recoleta - it was a fairly small book in English about trees in Argentina.

Meet and Chat BA said...

Beatrice, Beautiful photos! One does not stop to see, in the hurry of everyday Buenos Aires, and does not value enough these trees that have been with us all our lives.
But, I have some bad news...
And I regret to confirm the the Tipas "spit" the watery excrement from a bug or harvest bug that parasites the branches and sucks the sap producing bubbly suds that covers the bug and protects it.
As suds enlarge they drip the excess on your head, car an so on. In spring-summer is when these bugs develop. See the link.
Keep up the photography!
Kriss (arquitecto)

Beatrice M said...

Kriss - I did a bit of research and it turns out that this bug is actually responsible for the trees branches twisting as they do, which is what initally attracted me to them. When I was in Los Angeles last year, I saw these same trees, but their branches were all straight because the bug hadn't infected them.

Ricardo said...

Hola Beatrice, llegué a tu blog porque dejaste un comentario en una nota sobre lluvia de tipas en LN. Felicitaciones por el blog, siempre estuve orgulloso de los árboles de mi ciudad y me creía muy original por tener la idea de hacer algún día un blog sobre ellos. Me encanta que hayas sido vos, una "expatriada", la que me haya ganado de mano. Ya lo he compartido con otros amigos.
Ricardo de Palermo

Beatrice M said...

Gracias Ricardo! Espero que podrías venir a la inauguración el sabado al Jardín Botánico.

morganya said...

I loved the tipa trees of Paraguay too! An amusing anecdote: a spring some years ago, children in Paraguay were given a representational cognitive test in which they were asked to draw a tree. Normally children were scored on how closely their trees resemble a "typical" tree with a trunk, branches, and green leaves. But the proctors noticed that quite a few children who otherwise drew excellent trees colored them orange, yellow, purple, pink, and white. It was because that time of year, the tipas, lapachos, and jacarandas *were* those colors!

Anonymous said...

Your photos are absolutely stunning. I've just come back from Iguazu and apparently rosewood are the tallest of the jungle.

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