Northern Mariana Islands Territorial Tree
Flame Tree (common name)
Delonix regia (scientific name)
Several trees are known as flame tree. Delonix regia is native only to Madagascar. The attractive flowers and ease of cultivation in warm regions have resulted in its widespread horticultural use in many other countries. It is a fast-growing plant, but usually requires over ten years to grow to tree-size before producing its charismatic flowers. This is a tropical tree that cannot be grown in places that experience a hard frost. In the mainland United States, flame tree may be encountered in cultivation in southern California and southern Florida.
Flame tree is a medium-sized tree with fern-like leaves and small leaflets. Its flowers have five bright scarlet peals, the largest with white and orange zones. The large, colorful flowers grow in clusters and create a flamboyant display when in full bloom.
Also called Royal Poinciana, flamboyant, peacock flower, and many other names in the many countries where it is cultivated, flame tree is the official tree of the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands. However, the Northern Mariana Islands are not represented in the plantings of the National Grove of State Trees at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC.
Flame tree is a small to medium-sized tree, reaching about 30-40 feet (9-12 m) in height. Its widespread, umbrella-shaped canopy can be wider than the tree's height. The leaves are lacy and fern-like, with 20-40 pairs of primary leaflets that are each divided into 10-20 pairs of secondary leaflets. The leaflets fold up at dusk. The clustered flowers are striking, with four spoon-shaped scarlet or orange-red petals, and one slightly larger petal marked with white and yellow. The fruit is a bean pod up to two feet long. Flame tree's thick roots can lift pavement.
Height: up to 23-42.5 ft (7-16 m)
Diameter: up to 50 in (127 cm)
Bark: light gray to brown, light spots
Fruit: dark brown, flat, woody pods, up to 24 in (61 cm) long
Leaves: lacy, divided into pairs, 12-20 in (31-51 cm) long
The official tree of the Northern Mariana Islands grows very quickly, but can take up to 10 years to mature. It has a moderate lifespan, living well past 30 years.
Flame tree is a native of Madagascar's dry deciduous forests. In the wild it is endangered, but it is widely cultivated elsewhere. It requires a tropical or near-tropical climate, but can tolerate drought and salty conditions. The tree is semi-evergreen in constant climates, and deciduous if given a dry season.
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE
The tree does not attract wildlife.
OTHER USES AND VALUES
Because flame tree is tolerant of drought, wind, salt, and a variety of soils, it is often used in tropical home landscapes. Prized for its ornamental value, it adorns avenues and parks in tropical locales worldwide. It is often employed as a shade tree and as protection from strong winds.
The tree is propagated from tip cuttings taken in summer. Seedlings may take 10 or more years to flower. Characteristics of flowers will vary. Scarification, achieved with hot water, sulfuric acid, or abrasion, is required for germination.
Flame tree is tolerant of a wide range of soils from alkaline to acidic, and from loamy to gravelly, provided the soil is well drained. It needs full sun to light shade, and does best with regular water, although it is tolerant of drought and salt. It should not be exposed to temperatures under 45°F (7.2°C), but adult trees have been known to survive temperatures as low as 25°F (-3° C).
Flame tree is native only to Madagascar, but is very widely grown in the Caribbean, Africa, India, Bangladesh, and parts of Asia. It is the city tree of Tainan, Taiwan, and of Xiamen, People's Republic of China. In the United States, flame tree grows only in southern Florida, the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, the low deserts of southern Arizona, Southern California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. It is normally found at relatively low elevations.
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U.S. Forest Service
U.S. National Arboretum
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Author: World Trade Press