Friday, May 21, 2010

Gulmohar - The Flame tree

Come summer, and in India a common sight is the Gulmohur tree. I had all along thought it was called the Flame of the Forest, but much to my surprise, some googling revealed I was wrong. Its botanical name is Delonix Regia and it is the Flame Tree! (On a side note, the Flame of the Forest also had red flowers, but they are shaped quite differently). Every summer the dry landscape of India is brightened by the appearance of the gorgeous red flowers that cover the trees exuberantly. Often grown as an ornamental tree and known for its fern like leaves and flamboyant display of flowers, the tree is also called Flamboyant. The species was previously placed in a genus Poinciana, named for Phillippe de Longvilliers de Poincy who is credited with introducing the plant to the Americas.

The street I live on is lined with these beautiful trees and sadly I do not have one in my garden. We had plenty of these in our yard and on the street we played on when I was growing up, and every time I smell the flower, the fragrance takes me back to my childhood days. We do now have a tree right outside our house, and very often after a windstorm or heavy rain, our front yard is littered with the seed pods, which our dogs love, for the rattly sound they make as well as for their heavenly chewy texture! Yesterday some people came by to cut many branches off the trees because they were interfering with the power lines, so I quickly ran outside, and gathered up as many branches with flowers as I could. So now my home is full of these lovely flowers.

Here is some interesting trivia on this tree:

In Vietnam, this tree is called "Phượng vỹ", or phoenix's tail, and is a popular urban tree. Its flowering season is April - May, which coincides with the end of the school year in Vietnam. Because of this timing, the flower of Poinciana is sometimes called the "flower of pupil", and often generates strong emotions among graduating high school pupils, as the Poinciana bloom when they are about to leave their school and their childhood behind.

The seed pods of the Royal Poincianas are used in the Caribbean as a percussion instrument known as the shak-shak or maraca.

The Poinciana is also the national flower of St. Kitts and Nevis

Enjoy these lovely pictures of the Gulmohar tree.


Usha Raman said...

The gulmohar is what makes the heat of the summer bearable...along with amaltas, the lovely Indian laburnum which blooms very briefly. I'm often distracted from work because I can see about four flaming gulmohars from my window and they take me, like they do you, back to my childhood... nice post, Kamini! and lovely pictures!

Kamini said...

Thanks Usha! It must be lovely to be able to look out and see them.