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What's Bloomin' in Paradise: Golden Shower Tree

June 2, 2011
By Anita Force Marshall
First impression: Delicate-cascading-exotic cadmium yellow blooms that are so striking you will have to take a second look at this gorgeous tropical tree canopy. Looking up, the leaves are large, draping olive green and dropping off to make way for the flowers. Long cigar shaped green seed pods can be seen hanging off the branches.

The trunk is textured and massive. Oodles of Sulfur butterflies are dancing in and out of the canopy. Come on and follow the butterflies to the (you can’t get wet) showering blossoms in full bloom at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: The Cassia genus includes many of our drop dead gorgeous flowering trees. Most people associate the Cassia name with yellow blossoms. But, Cassias are among 30 different species, which can bloom, yellow, pink or red. The fistula species is a yellow bloomer that can reach a mature height of 45 feet.

It is from Southeast Asia and is drought tolerant and does well in full sun. Take notice of its natural spreading crown, which, from a distance draws your eye to it. Even without blossoms, it’s an attractive tree with matte green leaves. The oval leaves are pinnate and large, and slowly fall off when in flowering mode. Its contrasting light gray to brown striated bark gives our tree lots of texture.

This dimensional bark look like a potter has dry stacked its design out of clay. I detect a slight fragrance from the pendulous, grape like flower stems adorned with clusters of vivid golden flowers. These showstoppers can reach 18 to 20 inches in length. They are numerous and remind me of chandeliers you might see in an oriental garden party. Oodles of Sulphur butterflies can be seen fluttering all around. Cassias are their host plants -- a.k.a. plants on which butterflies lay their eggs -- adding to the dimensional beauty.

I can’t help but notice the long, skinny green seed pods all over that are almost as long as the flowers. These seedpods have hundreds of seeds encased in them. When they are mature, the pods turn chocolate brown and resemble long cigars. Oooey, gooey the liquid is sticky and dark and oozes out with the seeds when they hit the ground. In days gone by this dark brown liquid was used in dyeing and tinting.

I discover that the Golden Shower Tree is the royal flower of the Thailand, where month long festivals are performed when it blooms in the spring. I can imagine all the pomp and circumstance just by gazing at these awe-inspiring blossoms.

Pros: Huge flowers with lots of blossoms- Drought tolerant - Attractive when blooming or non blooming -Insect damage minimal turns into butterflies – Full sun - Start your own festival when it blooms - Easy to maintain/prune – salt tolerant - easily started by seed will flower in 3 years.

Cons: Re think/tolerate caterpillars and nibbled leaves - Looses limbs in strong winds- Seed pods are sticky, stain, and smell – Neighbors may think you are growing cigars - Non Native status.

Conclusion: Best place to get the wow factor is under the canopy leaning against the trunk. Shimmering yellow petals will fall around you like confetti. You got to see this floral display of yellow sunshine and fluttering butterflies in a tropical eye catching garden location.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!

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