Flamboyant tree
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Sunday August 31, 2014

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Flamboyant tree (or "Flame tree") in Ranchito Village

Flamboyant Trees in Belize

The flamboyant tree has been described as one of the loveliest and most colorful trees in the world. With a blaze of yellow to crimson red blossoms and delicate fern-like leaves, the magnificent flowers grace Belize from April until September in Belize and all around the earth in tropical climates. Flamboyant trees belong to the family Fabaceae/ Legumiosea, sub-family Caesalpiniodeae. In addition to being a joy to behold, flamboyant trees also have healing properties and may be a source of revenue for Belize farmers and growers.

Flamboyant trees, Delonix regia, have been grown primarily as ornamental shade trees since at least the 17th century. The tree is indigenous to Madagascar. Since the 18th century Flamboyant trees have been widely cultivated in most tropical regions. Other common names for the tree include: flame tree, fire tree, peacock tree, arbol el fuego. The tree was previously considered to be in the genus Poinciana and was known as royal Poinciana.

Flamboyant trees are recognized by their brilliant, exuberant clusters of flowers which range from tree to tree from yellow to orange and all shades of orange-red to crimson and vermillion red. Yellow flowers are the rarest. Each individual flower has four spoon shaped petals which are approximately three inches long with one slightly longer petal which is often spotted yellow and white. The long delicate bi-pinnate fern-like bright green leaves of the tree grow to be about one to two feet in length and about five to seven inches wide with hundreds of small leaflets. Trees grown in Belize start flowering during the dry season months of April and May and continue flowering through September. Once the trees have flowered, they produce bright green pliable pods which are about twelve to twenty inches long and about two to three inches across. The pods eventually turn dark brown and are filled with approximately fifty dark brown to black seeds approximately 1/3 to inch long. When planted the seeds become fast growing deciduous trees which generally grow to be from twenty to forty feet in height with an umbrella shaped canopy. Flamboyant trees can easily grow five feet or more in one year. The trunk of the tree has a smooth graybrown bark.

This photo by Lebawit Lily Girma

Flamboyant trees are very hardy and pest-resistant and grow well in a wide variety of well-drained soils from acid to alkaline and from loamy to gravely and, if managed well, even in the dark clay-like soil in parts of Belize. The trees are tolerant to draught and may be grown close to the sea, but not right on the beach. Flamboyant trees are not able to survive in zones that go below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. In windy areas, trees are susceptible to branch breakage.

It is easy to plant a flamboyant tree. Start with a closed pod, open the pod and remove the seeds. The seeds have a high germination rate for several years. The seeds grow faster when they are either nicked with a knife or rubbed for about fifteen seconds with sandpaper then soaked overnight. Alternatively you may place the seeds in a pot of water, bring it to the boiling point, remove the pan from the heat source, and leave the seeds in the water until it is cooled. Once the water is drained the seeds are ready to plant; plant them in a location that receives full sun. Plant three or four seeds per tree and thin to the strongest one once they have sprouted. Trees may also be grown from branch cuttings of the tree. It is advised not to plant flamboyant trees close to sidewalks as the shallow roots may protrude through the sidewalk and present a tripping hazard.

In addition to providing delightful dappled shade all year and a profusion of flowers for almost half of the year, the bark and flowers of the tree are rich in phytochemicals and flavonoids and contain antimicrobial, antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties and have been used for hepatic protection and as a treatment for diarrhea. The dried pods on the tree produce a nice crackling sound in the wind and are easily gathered on the ground to be used as a fuel for fire.

Check under flamboyant trees after the pods are on the ground and you may also find seedlings ready to plant which will grow to be the same color as the tree the pods and seeds fell from.

Enjoy and spread the profusion of flamboyant trees in Belize by planting more trees along roadways and in gardens and parks and, if room allows, in your own backyard.

Photograph by Corozal Daily

Text by The Belize Ag Report

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