Thursday, July 28, 2011

Peltophorum pterocarpum

Common Names: yellow poinciana, yellow flame tree, copper-pod, yellow flamboyant tree
Family: Fabaceae/Leguminosae (bean Family)

Yellow poinciana is a very showy flowering tree up to 50' tall, with wide-spreading branches that form an umbrella-like crown up to 25' across. The stems and twigs are rusty-red tomentose (fuzzy). The leaves are bipinnate (twice compound), about 2' long with 8-20 pairs of 3/4"-long oblong leaflets. The fragrant flowers are clustered on upright stalks (racemes, actually) about 18" long. Each flower is about an inch and a half across with translucent yellow, strangely-crinkled petals. The flowers have conspicuous orange stamens and each petal has a reddish brown mark in the center. They are followed by purplish brown, flattened, oblong seed pods, 3-4" long, which remain on the tree until the next flowering season.

Yellow poinciana is native to coastal areas from Sri Lanka through the Malay archipelago and Indonesia to northern Australia. It has escaped from cultivation and established itself in disturbed areas in southern Florida and Hawaii.

Light: Does well in semi-shade, but can tolerate full sun if well-watered.
Moisture: Needs moist, but well-drained soil.
Propagation: Propagation of yellow poinciana is by seeds that must be treated before they will germinate. In nature, the seeds would have passed through the gut of a bird or mammal before germinating in a pile of rich "compost." We simulate that process with scarification (use a file or sandpaper), or a two-minute immersion in dilute acid or boiling water.

Yellow poincianas are usually planted as specimen trees or as shade trees. They are used as street trees in tropical cities, and commonly planted for shade in tropical and subtropical gardens. They are fast-growing and vigorous, but they cannot tolerate frost.

The name poinciana also is used for three other showy subtropical trees or shrubs in the bean family: Royal poinciana (Delonix regia), also called flame tree or flamboyant tree; dwarf poinciana (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), also called Barbados pride or peacock flower; and another dwarf poinciana (C. gilliesii), also called bird-of-paradise bush.