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Flamboyant beauty

May 17, 2019
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral , Cape Coral Daily Breeze


Spring in Southwest Florida produces a beautiful collection of flowering trees and shrubs. Shades of blue, yellows, white and brilliant red and orange. Some are deciduous, some are not. They come in all sizes, spreading their beauty in many shapes and heights.

I consider this majestic Delonix regia to be the largest and most brilliant Florida flowering tree. The common name for this special tree is Royal Poinciana.

A native of Madagascar, a climate that does not endure any cold frosty weather. Full hot Florida sun, rainy season for sure, and not picky about the soil, their large spreading root system enjoys it all. Medium salt tolerance.

The heavy firm trunk and large spreading branches are attractive even during their naked season, just before they begin to flower.

They need a lot of space for the root system and need a bit of cleaning as the large heavy fruit pods fall from the tree, filled with seeds. The pods are dark brown, nearly 2 inches wide and a foot long.

The tree is considered a fast grower, and you can plant the seeds.The problem is getting the seeds ready to plant. They need to be simmered to soften and then some knife work at the proper end to get them ready. It is easier to buy them at the nursery, in containers, just transplant, or have a friend who likes to play with seeds.

This is not a lanai plant. Royal Poinciana will become a 40-foot, at least, tall tree with a huge 40-foot dome-topped spread of fern-like beautiful green leaves.

The leaves resemble their relative the Mimosa tree. Flowers are 2 to 3 inches across and borne in large racemes.

Petals are orange or scarlet, except for the upper one which will be tinged in white and yellow.

This is a spectacular flowering tree and will bloom for several months. The trees come to full bloom slowly, what you see one week will be multiplied in another week or so. Old trees may look a bit gnarled and have lost their beautiful domed shape, but still a beautiful tree.

Prune every 2 or 3 years for the first 20 years to develop a strong structure, using thinning cuts.

Fertilize is needed only once a year. The tree does not like to be rooted in wet soil.

I do not see many in the Cape; however take a drive across a bridge to McGregor Boulevard and there is about a 3 to 4-mile strip of these beautiful trees.

When you see one on the north side of the Fort Myers County Club, the perfect specimen old tree, you will be happy. The club does have several on the south side also. A nice drive from Cape Coral Bridge to the Caloosahatchee Bridge, no tolls.

You will understand why a tree is considered a specimen tree. They also grow along roadways or in a park for shade.

When you shop for this tree, read your plant tag. There is a Yellow Poinciana, a relative. It also grows quite tall but the flowers grow in a more erect manor. And it is not as wide.

A shrub, also a relative of the Royal Poinciana, is also available. Named Paradise Poinciana, from South America, flowers are a flamboyant yellow with red stamens.

However the feathery leaves have a series of black dots on the underside of the leaves and it is more of an open scraggly habit.

A poor relative I guess.

The Crape Myrtle must be starting to bloom along the Cape medians. I know there are a few striking blue Jacaranda, here and there. The sweet smell of the dainty white Jasmine It's all here.

A shame so many Snowbirds miss the most tropical season.

It's not pretty, but wear your sun sunscreen. Happy gardening till we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is Past President of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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