Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Delonix regia (Bojer ex Hook.) Raf.

Kingdom:Plantae
Phylum/Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Eudicots
Order:Fabales
Family:Fabaceae
Genus:Delonix
Species:D. regia
Common Names:Flame of the Forest
Status:Cultivated only

Description

A large, fast-growing, deciduous tree of up to 20 m tall, it has a wide-spreading, umbrella-shaped crown and a rather buttressed trunk. Its bark is grey and smooth. Leaves are twice pinnate compound, 20-60 cm long, with 9-24 pairs of opposite side-stalks and numerous 8-12 x4 mm, oblong-elliptic leaflets. There are 14-30 pairs of leaflets on the middle side-stalks. The leaves turn yellow before shedding, which happens irregularly in Singapore.

The flowers are bisexual, large and showy, 10-13 cm wide, scarlet, faintly scented, borne on a long stalk in dense bunches. There are 5 clawed petals, the prominent one being white, pinkish or yellow in colour with crimson streaks. Fruits are long, 30-50 x 4-5 cm, dehiscent, sword-like and woody, turning from green to dark brown to black when ripe. Seeds are elongated, 20–40 long, slightly flattened and extremely hard.

Read more about the Fabales order.
Read more about the Fabaceae family.

Distribution

Originally from Madagascar, it is now grown throughout the tropics as well as countries where there is no frost.

Localities

Fort Canning Park, Pasir Ris Park

General Biology

It is a sun-loving plant and does not grow well in shade. Saplings also do not grow well in poor, hard or heavy soil.

The Flame of the Forest flowers best during dry weather in monsoon countries, but not in Malaysia or Singapore where there is no distinct dry season. Therefore, flowering happens irregularly and non-synchronously in these countries. When flowering, the crown is densely covered by scarlet flowers for weeks, thus giving rise to its common name. Individual flowers however last for two days only. Trees growing in the open tend to flower more regularly and densely.

Human Uses

Due to its beautiful foliage and flowers, the Flame of the Forest is a popular ornamental tree widely planted in the tropics along roadsides and in gardens since its discovery by Austrian botanist Wenzel Bojer in 1820, though wild individuals almost went extinct in its native Madagascar. It was introduced into Singapore around 1840. It is also propagated as a shade plant.

The inner portion of the seed is eaten in Thailand.

The bark is believed to be antipyretic, used in subsiding fever symptoms.

References

Chong, K. Y., H. T. W. Tan & R. T. Corlett, 2009. A Checklist of the Total Vascular Plant Flora of Singapore: Native, Naturalised and Cultivated Species. Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore, Singapore. 273 pp.

Corner, E.J.H., 1988. Wayside Trees of Malaya. Third Edition. Volumes 1-2. Malayan Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur. 861 pp.

Keng, H., 1990. The Concise Flora of Singapore: Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Singapore University Press, Singapore. 222 pp.

National Parks Board, 2009. Trees of Our Garden City (2nd edition). National Parks Board, Singapore. 384 pp.

Polunin, I., 1987. Plants and Flowers of Singapore. Times Editions, Singapore. 160 pp.

Rao, A. N. & Y. C. Wee, 1989. Singapore Trees. Singapore Institute of Biology, Singapore. 357 pp.

Wee, Y. C. 1990. A guide to the wayside trees of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. (2nd ed.) 160 pp.

Wee, Y. C. 2003. Tropical trees and shrubs. A selection for urban plantings. Sun Tree Pub., Singapore. 392 pp.

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