BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
Did you know that there’s a tree that produces flowers that resembles the delicate hummingbird? Katuray (Sesbania grandiflora), popularly known as a vegetable hummingbird, fascinates gardeners because of its distinct blooms that come in pink, white, and red.
At first glance, the flower clusters look similar to a group of fluttering hummingbirds hovering around a tree. It brings a vibrant addition to any landscape and will capture the attention of onlookers.
Katuray is a fast-growing tree that can grow five to 12 meters high. They are widely distributed in the Philippines and usually found in backyards and roadsides. The prolific trees attract birds and pollinators and provide shade for low-growing plants at their base.
The trees thrive in both dry and moist areas. It grows in low altitudes and propagates through seeds or cuttings. Katuray trees, if grown from seed, need to be first germinated in plots and boxes. Transplant the seedlings to a larger area once they are 75 to 100 centimeters high. But if grown through cuttings, gardeners must select straight branches with a diameter of at least three centimeters or more. Immediately planting the cuttings will keep them from drying out.
Planting the trees during the rainy season is advisable since they grow fast under these conditions, but they also need to be located in an area that receives full sunlight. Katuray trees don’t tolerate cold conditions well but can resist prolonged drought.
Vegetable hummingbird trees prefer fertile, well-draining soil. But it also thrives in light sandy, medium, heavy clayey, and low fertility soils. Another thing to note about the tree is that even though it grows fast, it has a lifespan of only 20 years.
Katuray trees only need watering during their initial planting period; once they’ve established themselves, the trees can be left to grow by themselves. Adding fertilizer like compost or complete fertilizer can also aid in the growth of katuray trees.
Edible and medicinal
Another name for katuray is vegetable hummingbird because of the edible pods used in various dishes like salads, soups, and stir-fries. These pods are consumed in a similar way to string beans. Different parts of the tree also have some well-known medicinal properties.
For instance, the roots of katuray are juiced and drunk to cure a cough with phlegm. Meanwhile, boiled katuray bark can treat chickenpox or smallpox.
Its leaves are no exception to medicinal use. People suffering from itchy scabies can make a poultice from crushed or minced katuray leaves. The leaves can also be boiled and drunk as a cure for constipation. Its flowers can be juiced to create a natural remedy for a runny nose or severe colds.
There are several reasons why vegetable hummingbirds are a pleasant addition to any garden. The trees add biodiversity and provide shade to low-growing plants. Plus, gardeners can not only enjoy looking at its distinct hummingbird-like flowers, but they can also consume different parts of the plant either for pleasure or medicinal purposes.