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DELONIX regia

Image of Delonix regia

Carol Cloud Bailey

Family

Fabaceae

Botanical Name

DELONIX regia

Plant Common Name

Flamboyant Tree, Flame Tree, Royal Poinciana

General Description

Often called the most beautiful flowering tree in the world, royal poinciana fills its spreading, handsome branches with feathery foliage and flamboyant scarlet-orange blossoms in late spring and early summer. A semi-deciduous tree native to the island of Madagascar, it is drought and salt-tolerant, making it among the quintessential trees for tropical landscapes, rivaled for its fame only by the coconut palm.

Typically without leaves in the dry winter months, the tree buds with the return of warmth and summer rains. The foliage is feathery and finely textured, with bright-green, doubly pinnate leaves – as many as 1000 leaflets making up one of the leaves. Simultaneously with or prior to the emergence of new leaves, the branches blaze with masses of large orange-red flowers with four mushroom-shaped petals and one more that is slightly larger and often speckled with dots of another color. When in bloom, the mounded canopy can be a solid cloud of red, orange or yellow-orange. Large seed pods follow the flowers, which are pollinated by insects and birds.

The royal poinciana must be grow in a well-drained soil that is fertile, near the coast or further inland. It is important to fertilize the tree in very sandy or highly alkaline soils during the growing season. Do not situate this surface-rooting tree too closely to pavement or building foundations. The gray trunk is often quite short at the point of the first large side branches. In fact, the tree attains its most magnificent parasol shape if given full sun with lots of room. In humid tropical regions the tree may retain leaves in winter if it is warm and there is timely rain; however, a marked dry period is needed to ensure the renowned explosive flowering once the rainy season begins. Also note that artificial light, such as urban street lamps, can inhibit the natural formation of flowers on branches illuminated at night.

Royal poinciana's wood is considered brittle and can readily break in strong windstorms, and is seemingly favored by termites. Use this “beyond beautiful” tree as a seaside specimen or space-requiring street tree near the beach or inland. It may also be trained as a bonsai. The natural variety flava is scarce but has golden yellow flowers with the fifth petal marked in red and white.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 9

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    20'-30' / 6.1m - 9.1m

  • Width

    20'-40' / 6.1m - 12.2m

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Madagascar

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Pollution, Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Spreading

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Red, Orange Red

  • Flower Color Modifier

    Multi-Color

  • Fruit Color

    Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Semi-Evergreen

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Shade Trees, Street Trees, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds, Hummingbirds, Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes