Finding the Tree—A Treasure Hunt

Northeast Journal Treasure Hunt

Editor’s Note: This is the corrected version of the Treasure Hunt story with all of the clues to help you find the mystery tree.

There is a famous tree in the Old Northeast that most everyone knows. It usually blooms in February when nothing else does, so that makes it really stand out. It is on the main street along Coffee Pot Bayou, which also helps it gain fame. It is a really big tree – as tall as the many oaks in the area. There have been photos of it in the Northeast Journal, the Tampa Bay Times, Facebook and even YouTube!

Typically, all the leaves fall off in January and the pinkish purple, yellow-centered trumpet-shaped blooms begin to open in February, staying on the tree for most of the month. Do you think you have seen it? Maybe you have, but did you know there are at least four others in the Old Northeast? Do you know where they are?

Welcome to the hunt! The first person that can come up with the name of the tree and the correct spelling, as well as finds the location of all five trees, wins the contest! The prize is your photo in the next issue of the Journal. Of course, we will print the answers too, so you can go find them all in case you didn’t the first time.

Now, here are the clues for the five specimens of the tree. Only the first three of the five trees have bloomed so far and even the mature ones may not be blooming when you first get the paper, so be patient! Apparently the tree has to grow up somewhat (five to seven years) to show off!

  1. The famous Coffee Pot tree, which is 60 – 70 feet tall with a similar width. (Hint – it is north of the Snell Isle bridge.)
  2. The really large tree behind an animal “business” on the east side of Fourth Street NE. It can only be noticed when in bloom. The video-lighted sign by the street side of the building detracts from the beauty of the hidden tree. But, the tree is there and can also be viewed from the alley.
  3. The medium sized tree on the west corner of Beach Drive and a teen-numbered street. It is planted between the numbered street and the sidewalk. These are slow growing trees so this will be taller in the next five or ten years.
  4. The smallish tree, grown from a seedling of the “mother” tree, hasn’t bloomed yet – but maybe this year? It planted five years ago in a conspicuous and roomy area of a local garden. There is a fee to see this public garden, which is one of the oldest roadside attractions in Florida – so a perfect place for our wonderful tree!
  5. The really small tree (another seedling from the mother tree) planted in a neighbor’s yard three years ago. Unless it is blooming this year, it will be tricky to find but it is not far from its mother. While admiring the mother tree from Coffee Pot, walk south, turn right at the next street, go half a block (just one house), and then turn right again at the busy road. Walk west, staying on the north side of the road and cross the alley. Then keep looking, more at eye level – not up, and you will spot the tree standing proudly in the side yard of an historic Mediterranean home.

Speaking of seedlings, one was given to a neighbor who potted it, coddled it and enjoyed the blooms for several years. When it needed to go into the ground they donated it to the City of St. Petersburg. It was planted in a nearby park with a lake and bloomed for several years. It was visible even from busy 22nd Ave. until, sadly, one day a windstorm toppled it. So now it cannot be on the tree treasure hunt. However, there are numerous seedlings in the Old Northeast and more have been planted elsewhere in St. Petersburg, Tampa and beyond!

The species originates in South America, particularly in Brazil. But, it has been spotted even in Chile, as evidenced in a photo sent by a friend from that country. It does only grow in warm climates, so forget trying to plant it up North! The “owner” or caretaker of the tree readily hands out seedlings to anyone interested.