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What's Blooming in Paradise: Royal Poinciana Tree (Delonix regia)

May 12, 2011
By Anita Marshall
First impression: Four vibrant, deep orange long frilly petals that remind me of fancy sugar spoons. A larger fifth petal is colored in white, yellow with dark orange spots. Several long slender filaments are nestled in the middle of the bloom, and terminate in five orange bracs. The feathery light green leaves are just emerging with the blossoms. The density of blooms makes gazing at this flower laden massive tree quite breathtaking. Architecturally gorgeous bones with grand-girthed limbs and a substantial trunk ending with a cavernous root flare. The bark is smooth and wrinkled in a cement gray color. Take a step back and look up, you can help but swoon over the creme de le creme of tropical flowering trees in full bloom at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Delonix includes approximately 10 species of showy flowering trees. Our Royal Poinciana is a non-native species, whose origin is from Madagascar and is considered the quintessential of flowering trees. It is a super large tree that can reach the height of 40-50 feet. Its natural umbrella like crown even at a distance will draw your eye to it. Our star is one of those deciduous trees that loses its leaves in order to bloom. Winter is its dormant stage and it’s completely bare for about 3 months. During this time I am constantly informing people that yes this tree is alive. The leaves and flowers will begin to emerge at the same time in the spring. Even without blossoms, it’s an attractive tree with light green fern-like double pinnate leaves contrasting the soft gray smooth bark. The bark actually reminds me of an elephant’s hide. It has wrinkles and angles that taken out of context would make you think you were looking at a pachyderm. The trunk is grand in girth and is supported by a very unique and tentacle-like root system. I detect no fragrance from the individual flowers, which are breath taking. Unusual, with four spoon-shaped sizzling orange petals and one upright slightly larger petal colored yellow and white dappled with dark orange dots. Look closely at this larger brighter petal (sometimes called the peacock feather) for the etched yellow veins. These color cues are guides for our pollinators. These nectar guides show pollinators where to look for food/nectar. Some nectar guides may be visible only under ultraviolet light, of which bees and insects can see. The guides will lead them to the sweet reward and their pollen laden bodies to the flowers' carpels. Viola’- pollination! Isn’t Mother Nature the smartest lady you know? The seedpods also add to the interest in this tree. They are extremely long (24 inches) and flat in a dark chocolate brown color. Interesting trivia: They are often referred to as mother in laws' tongues, because they are noisy and long. Gee, mother in laws is very misunderstood! They are also used for their rattle as musical instruments. A little impromptu music and dancing may be just what you need in your garden.

Pros: Huge flowers with lots of blossoms - Drought tolerant - Attractive when blooming or non blooming - Massive size will fill a large space - Salt tolerant – May inspire you to join a musical band with your

avant-garde (cheap) instrument – Full Sun - Blooming brings in the pollinators - Fast growing.

Cons: Daily clean up flowers and seedpods which are messy and large - Non Native status –

Small Poinciana’s are plentiful from seed pods and need to be removed - May grow tired of ooh’s and aah’s outside your window – Roots are shallow and wide spreading - Blooming brings in the pollinators – Not cold hardy - Non native.

Conclusion: Everyone falls in love with our three Royal Poincianas; do you need a little love in your life?

No need to recharge your pacemaker, just come on down and revive that little thump in your heart. You got to see this one of a kind floral display in a tropical eye catching garden location.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!

Article Photos

Large seed pods



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