Monday, June 8, 2015

Royal Poinciana Tree

Fig. 1   Royal Poinciana (picture taken at the Mauna Lani Bay)


Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia)
Family: Fabaceae
Adaptation: Tropical- sub-tropical regions
Common Names:  Flame Tree; Flamboyant Tree;
                          Peacock Flower; Gulmohar

One of the trees that caught my attention during my (and my daughter's) recent trip to Hawaii Island is the Royal Poinciana Tree.  It has a spreading habit which becomes more pronounced as the tree matures (Fig. 1).  In some cases the width of the canopy is greater than the height of the tree. Delicate fern-like leaves cover the arching canopy.  Once a year, the tree puts on a show of bright red-orange flowers that come in huge clusters.  At the peak of the blooming season the tree is covered with massive blossoms at which point the foliage becomes insignificant.


Fig. 2   Large pods hang beneath the canopy of Royal Poinciana

After the colorful show, some of the flowers develop into large pods - characteristic of the fabaceae family (Fig. 2) - which contain the seeds.  At this stage, the flamboyant inflorescence of the tree is taken-over by the interesting appearance of black pods that are supended under the canopy.


Fig. 3   'Royal Poinciana' in the tropics.

I have seen Royal Poinciana trees in the Philippines, Belize and even in the warmer coastal areas of California but I'm sure that I will never see it flourish in my own garden.  The winters here - although relatively mild - will not agree with the tropical requirements of this tree (Fig. 3).  However, I have read that its smaller cousin, the Dwarf Poinciana (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), can tolerate colder temperatures. Hence, I might still have hope. :)

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