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I always thought that the Ceibo (Erythrina Cristagalli) was an ugly tree. At some point my husband even wanted to pull down the one we have. Why on earth did the Argentines name this their national tree? I truly wondered. We were told that the flowers are spectacular, but last year (because of the drought I suppose) they were all but impressive. But then after a nice wet winter, the Ceibos were ready to show off with their clusters of carmine red flowers, and now I understand why this is the Argentine national tree. They look absolutely stunning!

The one we have is quite small, but they can grow up to 20m high. The clusters of flowers grow on the new green branches. Before it opens it looks like a cockscomb, and the color is of an amazing deep red. That is where it has got his Latin name from. (Ery-ter = red; crista galli = cockscomb).

Although this tree grows best close to a river or a lake, it is very popular in cities because of its red beauty in spring.  Generally the tree is not exploited, although in some provinces they use the bark for tanning leather and wood. The Indians produced rafts with this wood.

There is a legend about this tree, better known as the legend of Anahi.

Anahi was the only daughter of the chief of the Guarani. Guarani are an indigenous race, with their own language and script, that still live in the north west of Argentina, mainly in Missiones and Corrientes. They live in the area that used to be called Chaco.

When the Spanish came to conquer the land, the chief was killed while defending their land. His daughter Anahi then took over the lead and attacked the invaders causing many casualties among the enemies. She was the bravest of all. At some point she got caught by the Spaniards, and was tied to a pole. But with her natural skills she managed to escape, killing a soldier on her way. She ran away and hid in the trees, but quickly the Spaniards caught her again. She was sentenced to be burned at the stake to set an example to her people. She was tied to a tree with her feet in fire-wood, and when she caught fire, she started to sing. With a sweet voice she sang to the forest and to the land. With her song she shook the night away and the light of the new day extinguished the flames and made her beautiful brown body change into a bunch of red, hitherto unknown red flowers.

Since that moment the Guarani believe that the soul of Anahi lives on in the Ceibo fower.

On dec 2 in 1942, the Ceibo was declared the national tree of argentina (decree 138474/42)

This is a Guarani song about Anahi :

ANAHI

Canción Guaraní

Letra y Música: Osvaldo Sosa Cordero

Anahí,

ARPAS Las dolientes lloran arpegios Hoy

Que Para Ti hijo.

Anahí

Acaso recuerdan tu bravura INMENSA

guaraní reina.

Anahí

indiecita fea de la Voz tan dulce

COMO EL Aguaí.

Anahí, Anahí

raza tu no ha muerto, fueros SUS perduran

en la flor rubí.

Defendiendo altiva tu tribu Indómita

Prisionera fuiste;

condenada una Muerte, ya estaba tu Cuerpo

envuelto en la hoguera,

y en Las Llamas Lo Tanto Esteban Quemando

en roja corola Se Fue Transformando.

La noche Piadosa cubrió tu dolor

y El alba asombrada

Miró tu martirio Hecho ceibo en flor.

Anahí,

ARPAS Las dolientes lloran arpegios Hoy

Que Para Ti hijo.

Anahí

Acaso recuerdan tu bravura INMENSA

guaraní reina.

Anahí

indiecita fea de la Voz tan dulce

COMO EL Aguaí.

Anahí, Anahí

raza tu no ha muerto, fueros SUS perduran

en la flor rubí.