The remote town of Mangahurco, in the Ecuadorean province of Loja, a few kilometers from the border with Peru, was a few years ago, completely off the tourist map. Now, about 10,000 people a year visit Mangahurco, where the resident population does not exceed 600 inhabitants.
The reason for this tourist influx is the blossoming of yellow flowers from Guayacán trees (Tabebuia chrysantha).
Part of the beauty and mystique of the place comes from the mix of colors.
The contrast of yellow flowers with dry, red soil leaves no one indifferent. Another important factor is the size of the forest.
There are about 40,000 hectares of Guayacán trees that surround the cities of Mangahurco, Bolaspambas and Cazaderos.
Often, all these trees bloom almost at the same time, painting the landscape with solid yellow lines that extend throughout the valley.
Guayacán is the common name of a series of species of trees that belong to the Bignoniaceae family.
Tabebuia chrysantha (araguaney or yellow ipê), known as Guayacán in Colombia, as Tajibo in Bolivia, and as ipê-amarelo in Brazil, is a native tree of South America forests above the Tropic of Capricorn.
These trees can grow to a height of 20 meters and are better adapted to the warm climate and well drained soils of Ecuador’s dry forest, as well as in certain areas of Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil and Peru.
The short flowering season of the yellow ipê is part of its adaptation to the dry conditions that are felt in the region during most of the year.
To conserve water, these trees are completely leafless during the dry season. After the first rains, the trees bloom.
The extent of the flowers of these trees changes from year to year.
If the rains are weak, or if they start and stop, the trees will blossom at intervals.
Some earlier and some later in the rainy season. But if it rains heavily for a short time, the whole forest will be painted yellow in three or four days.
After a few days of rain the trees reach their maximum flowering point and the flowers begin to fall on the ground soon after.
Fallen flowers form a yellow carpet around the base of each tree – but many are quickly eaten by the hungry goats wandering the grazing area.
For tourists, the flowering of the Guayacan forest in Mangahurco is a dazzling event, but the people who live there didn’t think about it until the campaigns of the Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador began to attract tourists in the last 10 years.
Most of the families living in the region earn a living caring for herds of goats and cows and through farming.
All pictures from Ministerio de Turismo Ecuador flickr