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PlantFiles: African Tulip Tree, Flame of The Forest, Fountain Tree, Firebell
Spathodea campanulata

Family: Bignoniaceae (big-no-nih-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Spathodea (spath-OH-dee-uh) (Info)
Species: campanulata (kam-pan-yoo-LAH-tuh) (Info)

Synonym:Spathodea nilotica

21 members have or want this plant for trade.

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)
over 40 ft. (12 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)
10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)
12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)
15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Late Fall/Early Winter
Blooms all year


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
This plant is suitable for growing indoors
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season
This plant is fire-retardant

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From herbaceous stem cuttings
From softwood cuttings
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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7 positives
10 neutrals
6 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Lightray On Aug 12, 2013, Lightray from Carlsbad, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

My Spathodea campanulata has grown well in coastal San Diego, CA. I have a nearby neighbor who has grown one with great success here as well. They are a good deal of work, with the profuse orange flowers when they bloom, so consider where you want to plant it and what will be underneath it. Its a moderately fast grower here but doesn't get as outsized as they get in true tropical climates (such as Hawaii); nor have I seen sprouts from the seeds and my tree has been in the ground blooming for over a decade now. It is deciduous in winter here and old smaller branches often die below the new canopy every year. These old dead branches require some pruning, but the new canopy provides nice summer shade. I have not seen the mass die off of bees some describe, so our local variety of bees must tolerate it well. We also get at least one humming bird nest in the tree annually, and they feed on it regularly when in bloom.

Neutral huachinango On Apr 7, 2013, huachinango from La Paz
Mexico wrote:

How much water should the tulip tree get? There are many healthy ones in my city but mine is pathetic. Dead branches, yellow leaves and very short flowering time.

Negative askelena On Nov 9, 2012, askelena from Londres de Quepos
Costa Rica wrote:

Gosh these trees are beautiful. in Costa Rica the Ticos do a "chop and drop" and then next year each trunk has 20 new trees. I have heard the tulips trap and kills bees. The story is Palma Tica brought in the trees to kill the bees and protect the workers from bee stings. Does any one know this for sure?

here is one post I found, but it says the nectar kills certain bees.
Trigona bees died in the calyx water and nectar and were consumed by visiting birds. Wiki: Others plants which have toxic pollen are Spathodea campanulata and Ochroma lagopus

IF they do kill bees, then we sure don't need any more of 'em.

Also is there any use for the wood? a large 20 meter tall tree went down in last storm. Some people use them for drums. any ideas?

Neutral samm5155 On Oct 21, 2012, samm5155 from Puriscal
Costa Rica wrote:

Has anyone had the problem of the tree losing all of it's leaves? Here in Costa Rica it is an evergreen. It gets leaves then in a couple of weeks it loses them all. There's no sign that it's the leaf cutter ants. I planted the tree about 2 years ago. It has tripled in height. It is still alive.

Positive dj63010 On Jun 18, 2012, dj63010 from Islamorada, FL wrote:

Is it possible some of the commentors here are confusing this plant with Poinseanas or Flamboyant Trees? From a distance the flowers look very similar. Or maybe the Poinseana is the same tree?

Negative amygirl On Jun 18, 2012, amygirl from Miami, FL wrote:

It is very invasive in south Florida. It is brittle and breaks up easily in hurricanes. It is somewhat cold tender and can suffer extensive cold damage. I would not recommend its use in home landscapes.

Positive johnchen99 On Mar 15, 2012, johnchen99 from Livermore, CA wrote:

With a little protection, African Tulip survives in Livermore Valley, CA. A fast growing tree in the summer time. Will lose all leaves during first freeze. Update: very exciting news! My african tulip tree is having flower buds and will post pictures when it flowers!!

Negative justpalms On Oct 18, 2011, justpalms from banora point
Australia wrote:

yes it is indeed a beautiful tree when in full bloom, it does grow pretty big here in Queensland but it is also noxious as it has the ability to pop up anywhere and especially in native rainforest remnants and can take over very quickly if not controlled. there is also a yellow flowered form quite stunning.It thrives when grown in deep volcanic red soil and forms impressive butresses but in coastal areas and in the sand it only reaches a medium size and is quite manageable.

Negative Frangipaniannie On May 23, 2011, Frangipaniannie from Gold Coast
Australia wrote:

In Queensland, Australia this tree cannot be sold in Nurseries anymore, apart from being invasive it kills the stingless native bees. They are drawn to the beautiful flower but it is killing them off so good gardeners are either not planting or are cutting down this tree.

Neutral Kiyzersoze On Mar 23, 2011, Kiyzersoze from Coral Springs, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

I have had this tree for 2 years. I live in South Florida Zone 10b. It barely made it through both winters. It started to bud this year but the cold killed them. The one 20 minutes South of me at Flamingo Gardens had a little more natural protection and in much older than mine and did very well through the winter. I guess a couple of years and a few degrees makes a world of difference.

Neutral eliasastro On Feb 17, 2011, eliasastro from Athens
Greece (Zone 10a) wrote:

Very impressive and fast growing tropical tree.
Blooms even when it is 3 feet (1m) tall, in a container!
The blooms are astonishing and it is not a coincidence that it is considered as one of the most beautiful tropical trees.
It looks more cold tolerant as i thought, even the seedlings survived my cool winters. It only gets damaged with prolonged near freezing or below freezing temperatures. This year i placed it indoors as i saw the first flower bud in late November and it would be impossible to bloom outdoors in the winter.
I moved the large flowerpot inside the house, in a south facing window that allowed for some direct sunshine. It took 3 months for the inflorescence to fully grow and start blooming. Fabulous floral show!!!

* UPDATE May 2, 2012. This last winter proved fatal for the small tree. Some prolonged cold spells and near freezing temperatures killed it unexpectedly. Even Papayas survived, but they were in a more sheltered position. I agree with Kiyzersoze (comment above). Position and even few degrees (near freezing) are crucial.

Positive Cixi On Jan 30, 2010, Cixi from Addis Ababa
Ethiopia wrote:

There are 2 of these trees, currently 7-8 metres tall, in my garden. In the 6 months I've lived here they have flowered profusely and I haven't had the kinds of problems with them that others have noted below. They have interesting kind of twisty branches and create a nice shade for my hammock (in which I'm lounging as I write this) and a rest stop for birds. There's an owl that comes and sits in the upper branches of one of them for hours at a time.

Negative park28r On Jan 18, 2010, park28r from Dubbo
Australia wrote:

I must agree about the messiness of this particular tree. Beautiful though it is in flower, I am about to remove a very large old specimen close to my house. As I rely on rainwater collection from the roof, I am constantly cleaning out the gutters and downpipes because of the large leaves which fall throughout the year, especially if there is a prolonged dry period or a sudden cold snap.

Can anyone tell me if the sap or leaves are poisonous to humans or livestock - I have a flock of Angora Goats which could use the additional feed if it is safe.

Positive mrao77 On Apr 21, 2009, mrao77 from Plano, TX wrote:

I have never grown this tree , but remember seeing it lining several streets in the city and was used a a shade tree(where I grew up in India). The tree is a beautiful sight as many have described, and the seed pods open up into 4 boat shaped woody structures. As kids we used these as boats to sail down steams of rainwater duirng the monsoon! Wonderful memories, it kept us occupied all evening!
I am however unaware of the smell that some folks have commented about, the trees were so huge and we never got close enough maybe?

Negative AfricanBlueSky On Mar 5, 2009, AfricanBlueSky from Tzaneen
South Africa wrote:

Please think twice before planting this HUGELY messy, stinky, pain!
I have 4 huge ones on the borders of my property, and have to sweep my driveway daily. On the gravel path each dropped, ant infested flower, seedpod or twig has to be picked up individually!
lf these trees were on my property, l would CUT THEM DOWN!

Neutral htop On Mar 7, 2008, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I have not grown this tree; however, I have observed it growing in Maui, Hawaii. It has been naturalized in Florida, the Hawaiian Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Neutral lauraroxie On Jan 22, 2008, lauraroxie from Saint Petersburg, FL wrote:

9B Saint Petersburg, Fl/ So far so good. I have a two year old specimen about 25 feet tall! It is probably 10 inches in diameter, but has a branching nature rather than one large trunk.

I am excited to report that it survived temperatures as low as 26 degrees this winter. After the freeze, the tree began to defoliate (from base to tips) from all branches/trunks. I was concerned this might be the end of my tree that is certainly a stretch in 9B. Instead the defoliation stopped about 1/3 of the way out and seems to have recovered.

No blooms from this tree yet and very few branches on the main trunk. My nursery expert has recommended topping the tree to induce branching and it sounds like this might be a good plan to limit growth though i'm hoping the cold snaps here will assist with that too.

Neutral wkeen27913 On Feb 15, 2006, wkeen27913 from Glendale, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

A beautiful tree that initially grew to 10 ft, and bloomed. Froze to the ground during the winter here in Glendale AZ. Removed it from its original home in dappled shade and planted in full sun, seems to have survived the winter but no leaves as of yet.

Neutral jungleboy_fl On Oct 20, 2004, jungleboy_fl from Naples, FL wrote:

The African Tulip Tree is an awesome sight when in bloom, to say the least. However, as a homeowner, I feel it is important to inform gardeners of the high maintenance nature of these gorgeous trees. Here in south FL, they must be pruned annually to restrict the rapid growth, and to keep them tidy. These trees have a tendency to become enormously tall, with a very open canopy. Due to it's ultimate size, this tree is much too large for the average urban lot, and is better in a large public park. Also, these trees are prone to breaking apart during high winds, and can pose a real hazard to nearby structures. I don't think I've ever seen a large Spathodea in Florida without a number of large broken limbs- even before the dreaded hurricanes. There is an issue with the near constant litter produced by larger trees- leaves, twigs, and of course, winged seeds galore. Finally, those gorgeous blossoms don't smell as nice as they look. In fact, they have a skunk-like aroma, which is in odd contrast to their extraordinary beauty.

Neutral foodiesleuth On Apr 30, 2004, foodiesleuth from Honomu, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

This tree is considered VERY invasive in Hawaii. Though they are beautiful to see when they are all in bloom (like right now) giving a lot of color to the landscape, any place where one of their little windblown papery seeds fly will be a host for the plant. They grow to tremendous heights and do look beautiful in gulches and areas where erosion might be a problem.

I can look out my windows at this very minute and see some near, some far across the gulch....but at least 3 dozen or more trees in bloom.

The most common ones are a redish, flame orange. You do see some with saffron yellow blooms from time to time, but not often.

The blooms attract a lot of I learned when I tried to use them in flower arrangements. The canoe shaped seed pods are used by some crafters in their artwork, sometimes incorporated into wreaths.

Positive Monocromatico On Dec 2, 2003, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

This tree is largely used here in Rio de Janeiro. You can distinguish from a fair distance this tree when its blooming. The flowers are great, its resistant to insects, atracts bees, produces lots of seeds, and is not invasive. A great tree for warm climates.

Neutral palmbob On Aug 2, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

My own experience with this tree in Thousand Oaks, north of Los Angeles has been sad. Can't survive out winters. But I saw them all over Hawaii and they are simply incredible. Not native, howver, they are now considered a serious invasive weed on Hawaii. The seeds float gently on the breezes and little trees pop up everywhere. Oh, if our weeds here in Southern California could look so nice.

Positive kika On Aug 6, 2002, kika wrote:

Hello! I'm new here. My experience with the African Tulip Tree is very present. I'm portuguese, live in Lisbon (Europe zone 10). This summer (July) I went to Dominican Republic on holidays. I saw that beautiful flowering and quite big tree in Princess Bavaro Resort, Punta Cana, under the tree I found several boat like pods and near lots of small paper like winged seeds. I collected several. At home, around a week ago I soaked 6 in water for about 8 hours, then I have sown 2 directly in bonsai mix soil mixed with very small pebbles ( aquarium use)and beach sand (dominican sand mixed with coral, that I brought with me), in a small bonsai pot,1 of the 2 germinated 2 days ago, is now a seedling with 2cm high and two cotiledones only, the other 4 that I also soaked in water for several hours, then put the seeds on a wet cotton pad inside a small perspex box, 2 already germinated and are now in another bonsai pot with the same mixed soil. Lets hope they can succed the next winter and go strong. I live in an apartment, no garden, patio or balcony, only my kitchen as a greenhouse and the window sills. By now I think you understood that I love bonsai and that i intend to grow them to be small bonsai later in time. I also collected Delonix Regia (Royal Poinciana) and Caesalpinia Pulcherrima (Dwarf Poinciana ou Pride of Barbados ) seeds, I follow the same steps and also have seedlings growing, this ones with cotiledones and two real leaves already similar to each other.

P.S. For the Delonix Regia and Caesalpinia you have to soak more hours, lets say 24horas/36 hours, but before you have to nick the ends with a nail file carefully to not ruin the embryo. Then sow in vitro with wet cotton pad or directly in container.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Glendale, Arizona
Siloam Springs, Arkansas
Cardiff By The Sea, California
Carlsbad, California
El Cajon, California
Indio, California
Livermore, California
San Diego, California (2 reports)
Spring Valley, California
Vista, California
Big Pine Key, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Key West, Florida
Miami, Florida (3 reports)
Mulberry, Florida
Naples, Florida
Pompano Beach, Florida
Port Charlotte, Florida (2 reports)
Saint James City, Florida
Saint Petersburg, Florida
West Palm Beach, Florida
Ainaloa, Hawaii
Honomu, Hawaii
Kailua Kona, Hawaii
Galveston, Texas
Los Fresnos, Texas

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