The flamboyant tree is as symbolic to me of my version of the REAL Caribbean as any tree incapable of producing my favorite tropical fruit. True to its name, this beautiful explosion of vibrant tropical flowers atop a striking tangle of trunk, limbs, roots, and leaves is much more than an ordinary tree.
Also going by the less marvelous but still regal title of the royal poinciana tree, this tropical tree’s scientific name is Delonix regia. And another appropriate name for the tree is flame of the forest or flame tree.
Flamboyant tree seed pods
Not only was this among my favorite trees to climb with my brothers as kids in the Virgin Islands, but it also provided us with musical instruments—shack-shacks!
Seed pods on Flamboyant trees are long and slender, generally extending a good foot-and-a-half. When dry and brown, the seeds inside rattle when the pods are shaken. This added a neat bit of percussion to the made-up soundtrack of our equally make-believe outdoor adventures.
(Flamboyant seed pods also make pretty good swords with their own built-in sound effects!)
An explosion of flowers
While the seed pods still appeal to the Crucian kid in me, it’s the stunning beauty of the flamboyant’s flowers that have made it famous. When in full bloom the umbrella-shaped crown is bursting with hundreds of large, orange-red, or sometimes yellow flowers. Each of these is made up of six petals that measure roughly 4 inches long.
Scattered about our mostly green hills, the orange-red blooms burst brilliantly, like sparkling ornaments on a Christmas tree.
You won’t find flamboyant trees doing their thing during the Holiday Season, though. This color show is strictly a summer thing; another good reason to head for the islands even when the weather’s warm wherever you are.
As a bonus, the flamboyant tree makes an exceptional shade tree. The perfect way to escape the Summer sun in our tropical climate!