YELLOW ELDER (Tecoma stans) is a flowering perennial shrub of the trumpet vine family. Common names include Yellow Trumpetbush, Yellow Bells, Yellow Elder, Ginger-Thomas, and Esperanza. Tecoma stans is the National Flower of The Bahamas.
The plant is cultivated as an ornamental and blooms throughout the year. It has characteristic sharply-toothed, lance-shaped green leaves and large bright yellow trumpet-shaped flowers. It is drought-tolerant and grows well in warm climates. The flowers attract bees (nb see below), butterflies and hummingbirds. Yellow Elder produces pods containing yellow seeds with papery wings. The plant is apparently desirable fodder in fields grazed by livestock. It also readily colonises rocky, sandy and cleared land, occasionally becoming invasive.
The leaves and roots of the plant contain “bioactive compounds which may have medicinal uses” (unspecified – more research needed?). Honey bees are attracted to the flowers but “unlike most flowering plants, the honey produced from Yellow Elder’s nectar / pollen is poisonous”.
[rh note – so many questions arise here: Poisonous to the bees? Can the bees tell? What if they mix it up with non-toxic honey back at the ranch? Can the beekeepers tell if their product is toxic? How? Do they bother? Why not? What are the effects? What’s the antidote? What “medicinal use” can there be? Is there a PhD for someone in this: “An impact survey into the effects of pollinic toxicity in honey derived from Tecoma Stans“?]
Selection of the yellow elder as National Flower over many other flowers was made by the vote of members of New Providence’s garden clubs of the 1970s: the Nassau Garden Club; Carver Garden Club; International Garden Club; and YWCA Garden Club. Other flowers – such as the bougainvillea, hibiscus, and poinciana – had already been chosen as the national flowers of other countries. The yellow elder was then unclaimed (although it is now also the national flower of the United States Virgin Islands).
Photo credits as shown + RH