PlantFiles: African Tulip Tree, Flame of The Forest, Fountain Tree, Firebell Spathodea campanulata
It's time to read and vote for your favorite article in the 2013 Write-Off Contest! The four finalist's articles are featured in the May 13 newsletter and can be found through this link. Hurry! Voting ends May 18.
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
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?
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 seed pods are used by some crafters in their artwork, sometimes incorporated into wreaths.
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 it´s blooming. The flowers are great, it´s resistant to insects, atracts bees, produces lots of seeds, and is not invasive. A great tree for warm climates.
On Aug 2, 2003, palmbob from Tarzana, CA (Zone 9b) 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.
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, let´s 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 Highfill, Arkansas Bermuda Dunes, California Cardiff By The Sea, California El Cajon, California La Presa, California Livermore, California San Diego, California Vista, California Big Coppitt Key, Florida Big Pine Key, Florida Boca Raton, Florida Coral Springs, Florida Coral Terrace, Florida Kendall, Florida Lake Belvedere Estates, Florida Miami, Florida Mulberry, Florida Naples, Florida Port Charlotte, Florida Saint James City, Florida St Petersburg, Florida Ainaloa, Hawaii Honomu, Hawaii Bayview, Texas Galveston, Texas