Yellow flame trees are magnificent beauties,
MANY years ago, the developer of my housing estate planted quite a number of yellow flame trees in my neighbourhood. I used to dislike these trees as they looked weak and spindly because of their unruly branches. I was worried that strong winds might break the branches or uproot the trees and cause damage to life and property.
Now that the trees are mature and have started flowering regularly, I have begun to appreciate their magnificent beauty. When before I could only see the litter of dead flowers scattered on the ground, now when I look up, I can see the true beauty of the golden yellow flowers that congregate at the tree tops like a beautifully crafted royal crown.
In my area, they seem to flower every year in March or April coinciding with Qingming (tomb sweeping) season. Birds love to build nests high up on their sturdy branches; epiphytic ferns and orchids are perched there too. The trees also provide some shade for parked cars.
Scientific name: Peltophorum
Synonym: Peltophorum ferrugineum Family: Fabaceae / Leguminosae (bean
Common names: Yellow Flame, Yellow Flamboyant, Yellow Poinciana, Copper Pod, Rusty Shield.
It is known as Jemerlang Laut or Batai Laut in Malaysia, Soga Jambal in Indonesia and Radhachura in India. Its Chinese name is Dun Zhun Mu, meaning shield wood.
Fabaceae is a family of vines, shrubs, herbs, trees and several aquatic plants. Many of them are flowering plants, easily distinguishable by their bean pods and compound leaves. This family is also known
as the bean, pea or legume family.
Some commercially important species include peanut (Arachis hypogaea), soybean (Glycine max), alfafa (Medicago sativa), green peas (Pisum sativum), petai (Parkia speciosa).
The genus name Peltophorum is derived from the Greek word meaning “shield-bearing”, referring to the shape of the flower stigma. This genus has about 15 species of plants.
The specific epithet pterocarpum is a Latin word for winged fruit.
Peltophorum pterocarpum is native to Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka and northern Australia where it is commonly found near rocky coasts and sandy seashores. It is a common roadside tree in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Elsewhere, it is grown as an ornamental tree.
Peltophorum pterocarpum is a mediumsized tree growing to a height of 15-20m. This deciduous tree will shed all its leaves during a dry spell. Its crown is wide and spreads like a huge umbrella. A matured tree trunk can exceed 5m wide. The bark is rough and grey in colour.
Foliage is dark green. The pinnately compound leaves have many side-stalks bearing many pairs of oblong leaflets. They look like those of the mimosa plant.
The flowers are bright yellow in colour with thin and wrinkled flower petals that look like crinkled tissue paper. They are borne on long flower stalks on terminal, pagoda-shaped inflorescences. These nectar and pollen-rich flowers are mildly fragrant and they attract bees and butterflies. Flowering is intense with the whole tree topped with masses of bright yellow flowers. Flowering season can last several weeks.
The fruit is a thin, flat, winged pod measuring about 5cm x 2cm which change to an attractive dark purplish red colour when ripe. Each fruit pod split open to release four or five seeds. The fruit pods remain hanging on the tree for a few
months before they drop off to the ground.
The wood can be used as timber for furniture, foliage as cattle feed and the bark is used to make “soga”, a brown-coloured dye used in traditional batik industry.
1. PROPAGATION. Seeds
2. SUNLIGHT. Full sun
3. MEDIUM. All kinds of soil. It can tolerate poor soil as its roots contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
4. WATER. Regular watering. It is very drought-tolerant
5. FERTILISE. Not needed as it can naturally obtain nutrients from the ground.
6. MAINTENANCE. Prune to shape the plant. Remove unruly branches which may pose a safety hazard to passersby. Dried twigs, branches, fruit pods, spent leaves and flowers can lead to a significant amount of litter.
7. PEST AND DISEASES. No known
Lots of flowers are produced whenever it blooms.
A close-up of the bark.
The yellow flame tree is a common roadside tree in Malaysia.
The flower petals look like crinkled tissue paper.