In November 2018, Fabrice Ivara, co-founder of Cap Karoso, sent me a photo of a beautiful pale pink and crimson flowering tree located in what looked like an African desert location. He asked me, “Will this grow at Cap Karoso?” And I thought, “Here we go again, another client asking the impossible”. “That looks lovely,” I replied, as I considered how to dodge this diplomatically! But then Fabrice said: “THESE TREES ARE IN EAST SUMBA, Anton!” And so there started a dream of what might be found in the east of an island that I was yet to explore.
THE QUEST the Sumba Sakura
Finally, in early August of this year, I got my opportunity to turn the dream into reality. With the assistance of a local guide, I set off on a horticulturalist’s quest to find the exotic local Lontar palm tree Borassus Flabellifer, natural dye plants, and, of course, that fabled pink and crimson tree, the Sakura Cassia Javanica.
“Mr, it’s hard to find the Sakura now, it’s not flowering, you won’t see it”, the guide cautioned. But I was determined.
Our journey started with a hike into the hills above Cap Karoso. And as we climbed, we left behind the dry coastal plains, and found, to my surprise, a cooler climate and lots of vegetable crops being farmed. Then on we climbed: up and over the mountain pass towards central Sumba.
As we saw less and less people and cars, I really felt that an adventure had begun. At the mountain’s peak we found a semi-tropical rain forest with ferns growing out of the rock faces, a huge contrast from the Oceanside flora. And as we descended the other side, we came to what felt like a lost land of great open plains and rugged valleys; a landscape more like the Grand Canyon than anything you’d expect to see on a volcanic Indonesian ridge island.
As we reached the north-east coast, leaving the great rift valleys behind us, I was rewarded with my first sightings of the fan-shaped leaf heads of the Lontar tree, standing high, rising heads-above the rest of the scenery. And then Date Palms, Acacia species, and Bougainvillea were yet more signs of a new climate and soil, different, once again, to those we had discovered on the west of the island.
And then, finally, we had our first sighting of the Sakura tree – a humble street tree with flaky bark, just sitting on the edge of a road-side drain, with dark feathered leaves casting elegant shade below. Looking around, we saw more and more of them: seedlings sprouting on the ground. But as I looked, all I could think was, “What should I do? Dig a whole tree and run away? Scavenge from the small baby seedlings?” It seemed impossible. And then, as our eyes adjusted to what we needed to see, we looked up, and Eureka! There hung the Holy Grail…….long, dark brown, cylindrical SEED PODS.
Today, those seed pods have transformed into small 20cm saplings that are growing steadily in pots at our tree nursery, so that one day, the beautiful pink blossom of the Pink Shower tree, or the Rainbow Shower tree, or the Wishing tree, will cover Cap Karoso.