St. Thomas — All around the tropics, one special tree is in full bloom. It goes by many names — flamboyant tree, Royal Poinciana, Delonix Regia, and flame tree. Originally from Madagascar, the tree has spread throughout the tropics, avoiding environments that regularly experience frost or temperatures below freezing. Flamboyant trees on St. Thomas alone, are numbered in the hundreds.
1. They can thrive in drought conditions
Observing a flamboyant tree in full bloom, it’s easy to assume that it requires a lot of water to grow. Sunlight is perhaps the most important source of energy for these trees. Flamboyant trees do well during dry conditions on tropical islands.
It may seem odd that flamboyant trees are sometimes the only flowering trees during a period of mild or severe drought but these trees actually suffer from root rot if their foundation is submerged in water for an extended period of time. The roots can also survive salty conditions.
#3 explains how flamboyant trees weather droughts and changing conditions
2. Mature trees are normally wider than they are tall
With beautiful flowers that cascade over cliffs and hilltops, flamboyants have a common shape. The tree has a noticeable crown, with many healthy trees growing wider than they are tall. Wide roots allow flamboyant trees to remain grounded when winds are high or tropical cyclones make landfall.
Their wide canopy also makes great shaded areas and also prevent other trees and plants from growing below them. Their monocultural nature means that they don’t play well with competing trees and are strong enough to uproot pavement and damage concrete structure and ordinary homes if planted too close.
3. Flamboyants are deciduous, shedding their leaves in the winter months
Flamboyant trees are deciduous, meaning they shed their foliage annually to prepare for drier and cooler conditions.
It also sheds its foliage again in the spring before it blooms. Although these trees change with the seasons, it’s not unusual to observe a single flamboyant tree producing blossoms during the winter months or experiencing a completely different cycle than surrounding flamboyant trees. Indoor flamboyant trees do best when they are watered less during the drier winter months.
4. It’s possible to bonsai for indoor decor
It’s possible to bonsai these trees. It’s actually possible to bonsai just about any tree — even palm trees and mango trees. Noted for its fern-like leaves and flamboyant display of flowers, flamboyant trees can grow into majestic works of art with the right care.
Flamboyant trees take roughly five years to bloom for the first time, a miniature flamboyant placed indoors would have all the characteristics of a flamboyant tree in the wild — it will even follow seasonal changes indoors!
5. The flowers make iguana droppings bright orange
Not all iguanas on St. Thomas include flamboyant tree flowers in their varied diet and the same goes for mangoes since they are so plentiful and common. But those that do consume them, produce droppings nearly as bright orange as the flower. The same may be true if the yellow variety of flamboyant trees is consumed but that hasn’t been observed.
When seeking shade under flamboyant trees, check the canopy for any reptile friends first. 😉
6. Their root system is wide and sophisticated
The roots of the royal poinciana are wide-spreading which do not allow any other tree to grow under its canopy. A wide root system (versus a deep one) allows them to stay grounded and weather strong storms. All around the Caribbean they are revered for their beauty and notorious for damaging cisterns and other manmade structures with their strong roots.
Flamboyant trees do well in open spaces where they can receive large amounts of sunlight and rain. If there are flamboyant trees blooming in your area, we’re inviting you to share them in the comments of this article on our Facebook page.