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

Category:

Trees

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Height:

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)

Spacing:

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)

Hardiness:

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

Danger:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:

Red

Red-Orange

Bloom Time:

Late Winter/Early Spring

Late Fall/Early Winter

Blooms all year

Foliage:

Evergreen

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:

Non-patented

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

Regional

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

show all

Gardeners' Notes:

7
positives
10
neutrals
6
negatives
RatingContent
Positive

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 mu... read more

Neutral

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

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

Gosh these trees are beautiful. But......here 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. http://eolspecies.lifedesks.org/pages/70780
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 ... read more

Neutral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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,... read more

Positive

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

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

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

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

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

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... read more

Neutral

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

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 litt... read more

Neutral

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 ants......as I learned when I tried to use them in flower arrangements. The canoe shaped... read more

Positive

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

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

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, t... read more