ALL PHOTOS BY RITA MENDES-FLOHR.
The Gum Tree grows a massive reddish trunk made up of soft, almost leathery wood. In fact, donkey saddles were made of it back in the day, hence its Papiamentu name: Palu di sia (Saddletree). The ‘white’ Gum Tree (B. bonairensis) is indigenous to the ABC islands and has a much lighter colored trunk.
The outer layer of its bark flakes off in a paper thin film, appearing as if the tree is continuously shedding its skin. It does particularly well in drought-prone climates as it’s one of the first to drop its leaves. Hence its South and Middle American name: “The Naked Indian”.
Leaves or no leaves, this tree is a sight to behold: her long, graceful sinews evoke a school of dancers blowing in the wind.
Source: de Boer, Bart. Nos matanan i palunan Onze planten en bomen Our plants and trees. Curaçao Bonaire Aruba. Curaçao, 1996.