The flame tree, also known as royal poinciana or flamboyant, is a member of the bean family (Leguminosae) and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful tropical trees in the world (2) (1) (3). This aptly named tree produces striking flame-like scarlet and yellow flowers in spring before the leaves emerge (2) (3). As the trees mature, they develop broad umbrella-shaped crowns, and are often planted for their shade-giving properties (2). The delicate, fern-like leaves are composed of small individual leaflets, which fold up at the onset of dusk (2). This tree produces brown, woody seed pods that reach lengths of up to 60 cm (2) (3); they turn reddish-brown to almost black when ripe (4).
- Also known as
- flamboyant, royal poinciana.
- Poinciana regia.
- Height: 10 - 15 m (2)
- Leaf length: 30 - 50 cm (2)
Flame tree biology
The beautiful flowers of the flame tree are pollinated by birds (2). The flowers are produced in spring and summer and the leaves are shed in the dry season (2).
Flame tree range
This tree is native to west and north Madagascar (1), but it has been widely cultivated elsewhere (3).
Flame tree habitat
This tropical tree can grow in a wide range of habitats, including disturbed sites (3). It grows in full sun and can tolerate sandy, loamy, clay, acidic and alkaline soils (5).
Flame tree status
Classified as Vulnerable (VU B1+2c) on the IUCN Red List 2003 (1).
Flame tree threats
Habitat destruction has been particularly severe in Madagascar. Most of the human population of the island are found in rural communities dependent on the resources of the forest for survival (6). Since humans arrived on the island around 2000 years ago, a staggering 80% of the forest cover has been lost (6). The major native populations of the flame tree which occur around Antsiranana are found in areas greatly threatened by charcoal production (1).
Flame tree conservation
Although widely cultivated around the world and widely loved for its dazzling display of flowers in spring and summer, unfortunately the native populations of the flame tree are classified as globally Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List (1).
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- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2003 (March, 2004)
- Beese, G. and Lötscher, W. (1983) Collins Photoguide to Tropical Plants. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
- Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk - Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry (March, 2004)
- Forest Biology and Dendrology Educational Site (March, 2004)
- Gilman, E.F. and Watson, D.G. Delonix regia – US Forest Service Fact Sheet (March, 2004)
- Garbutt, N. (1999) The Mammals of Madagascar. Pica Press, Sussex.