by Kyle Sweet, CGCS
The bright summer sun brings the brilliant Royal Poinciana to bloom here in our tropical paradise of Sanibel and Captiva. This large, blooming shade tree is a favorite of many islanders and amongst a sea of green vegetation, the Royal Poinciana ushers in the summer with its blooms after remaining relatively inconspicuous throughout the winter season.
Also known as Flamboyant, Flame of the Forest and the Flame Tree, the Royal Poinciana is a native of Madagascar and is only found in the states from central Florida south to southern Florida and throughout southern Texas.
The flowers of the Royal Poinciana range from deep red to bright orange and resemble the flower structure of an orchid. Flowers first appear in clusters between May and July and stay on the tree for a month or more. As flowers shed, new ones await and the blooming of the tree continues for two to three months.
A mature Royal Poinciana is often wider than it is tall and has smooth gray bark. Unlike many other trees in southwest Florida, this tree, which is not a native, is deciduous. Being deciduous, which means that it sheds its leaves annually. With that, it will provide cooling shade to your landscape in the hot summer months and provide warming sun during the winter months as the tree sits relatively bare.
This is a large tree with a height reaching 40 feet and a canopy of up 60 feet wide and is best for larger landscapes. Often, large surface roots emerge all around the base of the tree, so careful consideration should be made to plant safely away from hardscapes such as pavement, sidewalks and walled landscape features.
Proper pruning is necessary to create a strong tree structure because their branches are susceptible to breakage in the strong storm winds of southwest Florida. Additionally, maintenance is needed to clean up the large amounts of flowers that shed during the summer months and clean up the “bean pod” fruits that follow the blooms. The pods, which are approximately 2” x 18” in size, hang on the tree in the winter and drop in the spring, littering the landscape and requiring picking up and removal.
Often, many visitors will ask about the Royal Poincianas here on island and for our summer golfing membership at The Sanctuary, they get to take in the one beautiful tree that was planted 25 years ago on the golf course. From a large bare tree to a beautiful bloomer, the Royal Poinciana is a bright addition to the island landscape and a splash of color that everyone enjoys!