Spathodea campanulata: African Tulip-Tree
Introduction – What’s Flowering in Florida
This month in What’s Flowering in Florida, we focus on the African Tulip-Tree.
A native of tropical Africa, this large, upright, 50 to 60-foot African Tulip-Tree, has a dense, 40-foot-wide crown and one-and-one-half-foot-long, pinnately-compound, evergreen leaves composed of four-inch leaflets. Due to its size it is best located in large, open landscapes and is generally not suited for small residences unless your objective is deep shade. During winter and until late spring, the African Tulip-Tree produces terminal clusters of beautiful blooms held above the foliage, a profusion of upwardly-facing, orange and yellow flowers which open several at a time from curved, two-inch-long, fuzzy brown flower buds filled with water. African Tulip-Tree is quite spectacular when in bloom. It is often used as a framing, shade, or specimen tree but must be used only in frost-free areas. Also, its soft, brittle wood is easily broken by high winds, and trees should be located either in sheltered locations or where falling branches will do no damage.
Scientific name: Spathodea campanulata
Pronunciation: spath-OH-dee-uh kam-pan-yoo-LAY-tuh
Common name(s): African Tulip-Tree
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Figure 2)
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: According to the IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas (IFAS Invasive Plant Working Group 2008), Spathodea campanulata should be treated with caution in the south zone in Florida, may be recommended but managed to prevent escape. It is not considered a problem species and may be recommended in the north and central zone in Florida counties listed by zone at: http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/assessment/pdfs/assess_counties.pdf
Uses: specimen; shade
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the tree
Use and Management
Eliminate major branches that will form embedded bark as early as possible. Save those that are oriented more horizontally, with stonger attachments to the trunk. Keep them from growing larger than about half the trunk diameter by periodic thinning.
African Tulip-Trees will grow rapidly in full sun on any soil of reasonable drainage and fertility. Plants should be regularly watered until well-established and will then require little care.
Propagation is by seed, softwood cuttings, or root suckers.