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Delonix regia
Royal Poinciana.jpg
Tree in full bloom (Florida Keys)
Conservation status
Scientific classification
  • Delonix regia var. flavida Stehle
  • Delonix regia var. genuina Stehle
  • Delonix regia var. genuina Stehlé
  • Poinciana regia Hook.
  • Poinciana regia Bojer

Delonix regia is a species of flowering plant in the bean family Fabaceae, subfamily Caesalpinioideae native to Madagascar. It is noted for its fern-like leaves and flamboyant display of orange-red flowers over summer. In many tropical parts of the world it is grown as an ornamental tree and in English it is given the name royal poinciana, flamboyant, flame of the forest, or flame tree (one of several species given this name).

This species was previously placed in the genus Poinciana, named for Phillippe de Longvilliers de Poincy, the 17th century governor of Saint Christopher (Saint Kitts). It is a non-nodulating legume.


2014.01-413-0528+529+530 flamboyant(Delonix regia(Fabaceae - Caesalpinioideae) Moshi,TZ tue21jan2014-1051h
Frontal, lateral and backside view of a flower
Gulmahor tree with flowers
Gulmahor tree (Delonix regia) with flowers, Haridwar, India.
Flower, leaves & pods I IMG 8687
Flower, leaves & pods (Kolkata, West Bengal, India)
Yellow poinciana full bloom 20110518
Delonix regia var. flavida is a rarer, yellow-flowered variety.
Gulmohar leaves closeup
Close-up of part of a leaf

The flowers of Delonix regia are large, with four spreading scarlet or orange-red petals up to 8 cm (3 in) long, and a fifth upright petal called the standard, which is slightly larger and spotted with yellow and white. They appear in corymbs along and at the ends of branches. The naturally occurring variety flavida (Bengali: Radhachura) has yellow flowers. The pods are green and flaccid when young and turn dark-brown and woody. They can be up to 60 cm (24 in) long and 5 cm (2 in) wide. The seeds are small, weighing around 0.4 grams (6.2 grains) on average. The compound (doubly pinnate) leaves have a feathery appearance and are a characteristic light, bright green. Each leaf is 30–50 cm (12–20 in) long with 20 to 40 pairs of primary leaflets or pinnae, each divided into 10–20 pairs of secondary leaflets or pinnules. Pollen grains are elongated, approximately 52 µm in size.

Pollen grains of Delonix regia


Flamboyant BW 2
Flower (Kibbutz Ginnosar, Israel)
Royal Ponciana
Flowering tree (Island of Mauritius)
Bark of Delonix regia2
Close up of bark
Royal Poinciana tree, Gordonvale, Queensland
Seed pods visible on upper branches (Gordonvale, Queensland, Australia)

Delonix regia is endemic to the Madagascar's dry deciduous forests, but has been introduced into tropical and sub-tropical regions worldwide. In the wild it is endangered, but it is widely cultivated elsewhere and is regarded as naturalised in many of the locations where it is grown:

North America

In the continental United States, it grows in South Florida, Central Florida, and in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.

Caribbean and Central America

In the Caribbean it is featured in many Dominican and Puerto Rican paintings. It can also be found in Belize, The Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Curaçao. It is the national flower of St. Kitts and Nevis. It can also be found in Bermuda, Hawaii and Mexico, especially in the Yucatan peninsula. The town of Peñuelas, Puerto Rico, located about 12 miles or 19 kilometers west of Ponce, is nicknamed El Valle de los Flamboyanes ("The Valley of the Poinciana Trees"), as many flamboyant trees are found along the surrounding Río Guayanes, Río Macana, and Río Tallaboa rivers.

South America

It grows in Paraguay, Peru and throughout the whole of Brazil.

Europe and the Middle East

Delonix regia is planted in Mediterranean parts of Europe, the Middle east and North Africa, including the southern coast of Spain, the Valencian coast, the Canary Islands, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel and Jordan.

South Asia

Bonnet macaque eating Delonix regia flowers 02
A bonnet macaque eating flowers

The tree is planted in India, where it is referred to as the May-flower tree, Gulmohar or Gul Mohr in West Bengal, Odisha, Bangalore and Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka it is known in Sinhala as the Maara tree, although for a short while it was known as the Lamaasuriya tree after Le Mesurier, the British civil servant who was responsible for introducing it as a shade tree. It is also grown in Karachi, Pakistan. In Mauritius and La Réunion it announces the coming of the new year.

Southeast Asia

In Myanmar, where it is called Sein-pann-ni, the time of flowering is March in the south and early to late April in the north. It is planted in gardens and as a roadside tree. In Myanmar, this tree is a sign of Thingyan Festival (13–16/17 April). In the Philippines, its flowering signals the imminent arrival of the monsoon rains. It also grows in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam.

East Asia

It grows in Southern China such as Hong Kong. It is the official tree in Tainan, Taiwan; Xiamen, Fujian Province, and Shantou, Canton Province, People's Republic of China. National Cheng Kung University, a university located in Tainan, put royal poinciana on its emblem.


It is very widely grown in the Northern Australia, the southern extremes previously limited to South East Queensland where it is a popular street tree in the suburbs of Brisbane. It now grows and blooms successfully in Sydney and other parts of New South Wales.


It grows in Guam, and is the official tree of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.


Required conditions

The royal poinciana requires a tropical or near-tropical climate, but can tolerate drought and salty conditions. It prefers an open, free-draining sandy or loamy soil enriched with organic matter. The tree does not like heavy or clay soils and flowers more profusely when kept slightly dry.



Royal Poinciana Tree Seeds
Seeds after soaking them in water for 6 days

The royal poinciana is most commonly propagated by seeds. Seeds are collected, soaked in warm water for at least 24 hours, and planted in warm, moist soil in a semi-shaded, sheltered position. In lieu of soaking, the seeds can also be "nicked" or "pinched" (with a small scissors or nail clipper) and planted immediately. These two methods allow moisture to penetrate the tough outer casing, stimulating germination. The seedlings grow rapidly and can reach 30 cm (12 in) in a few weeks under ideal conditions.


Less common, but just as effective, is propagation by semi-hardwood cuttings. Branches consisting of the current or last season's growth can be cut into 30 cm (12 in) sections and planted in a moist potting mixture. This method is slower than seed propagation (cuttings take a few months to root) but is the preferred method for ensuring new trees are true to form. As such, cuttings are a particularly common method of propagation for the rarer yellow-flowering variety of the tree.


In addition to its ornamental value, it is also a useful shade tree in tropical conditions, because it usually grows to a modest height (mostly 5 m or 15 ft, but it can reach a maximum height of 12 m or 40 ft) but spreads widely, and its dense foliage provides full shade. In areas with a marked dry season, it sheds its leaves during the drought, but in other areas it is virtually evergreen.

Flowering season

Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia) 006
Tree in Martin County, Florida, USA flowering in May
Flowers delhi
Flowering branches in New Delhi, India in May
  • Australia: November–February
  • Bangladesh: April–May
  • Bermuda: May–August
  • Brazil: October–February
  • Canary Islands: May–September
  • Caribbean: May–September
  • Congo DR: November–December
  • Dominican Republic: July–September
  • Egypt: May–June
  • South Florida: May–June
  • Hawaii: May–June
  • Hong Kong: May–June
  • Indian subcontinent: April–July
  • Israel: May–June
  • Lebanon: June–August
  • Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe: October–December
  • Malaysia : November–December
  • Northern Mariana Islands: March–June
  • Mauritius: November–December
  • Pakistan: April–May
  • Philippines: April–June
  • Peru (coast): January–March
  • Reunion Island: November–January
  • Southern Sudan: March–May
  • Royal Poinciana FL
    Flowering branches in Pembroke Pines, Florida
    South Texas: May–June
  • Thailand: April–May
  • United Arab Emirates: May–July
  • Vietnam: May–July
  • Zanzibar: December

Cultural significance

In the Indian state of Kerala, royal poinciana is called kaalvarippoo (കാൽവരിപ്പൂവ്, kālvarippūv) which means "the flower of Calvary". There is a popular belief among Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala that when Jesus was crucified, there was a small royal poinciana tree nearby his Cross. It is believed that the blood of Jesus Christ was shed over the flowers of the tree and this is how the flowers of royal poinciana got a sharp red color. It is also known as Vaaga in many areas of Kerala.

"Flame Trees", the iconic ballad by Australian Rock music band Cold Chisel is said to have been inspired by a preponderance of poinciana trees, however this is incorrect. The Flame trees reference in the song applies to the native Australian Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius).

Its blossom is the national flower of St. Kitts and Nevis, and in May 2018 the royal poinciana was adopted by the city of Key West as its official tree. Known locally as semarak api, Delonix regia is the city flower of Sepang, Selangor, Malaysia.

In Vietnam, this tree is called Phượng vỹ, or "phoenix's tail", and is a popular urban tree in much of Vietnam. Its flowering season is May–July, which coincides with the end of the school year in Vietnam. Because of this timing, the flower of poinciana is sometimes called the "pupil's flower". The tree is also commonly found on school grounds in Vietnam, however after several trees incidents where the tree fell on students, with one student killed, schools started cutting down or severely pruning the trees. Hải Phòng is nicknamed Thành phố hoa phượng đỏ ("City of red poinciana").

The song "Poinciana" was inspired by the presence of this tree in Cuba.

  • ARKive – images and movies of the flame tree (Delonix regia)
  • Dressler, S.; Schmidt, M.; Zizka, G. (2014). "Delonix regia". African plants – a Photo Guide. Frankfurt/Main: Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg.

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