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What’s Blooming in Paradise: African Tulip Tree can grow to 80 feet tall

By Staff | Mar 23, 2016

The extra large blossoms come in shades of vibrant red and yellows. PHOTO BY ANITA FORCE MARSHALL

Plant Subject: African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata)

First impression: Frilly flowers in a cup like shape of vibrant red and yellow hues edged with a gold rim. This extra large blossom really looks like a tulip on steroids. My eye is drawn to the clusters of blooms at the end of each branch of this tall lanky tree. The long pinnate leaves add to the overgrown look extending as long as 15 inches. You can see our dark continents version of tulips in fabulous bloom at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: African Tulip Tree represents a single species from the Sapthodea genus, which can reach a spectacular height of 80 feet. Its natural upright manner is enhanced with clusters of super large flowers at the end of each branch. Even from a distance it will draw your eye to it, with long dark green leaves that contrast the tan smooth bark.

The wood is very resistant to fire and will be one of the few plant survivors after a burn. This may be the reason that in other countries witch doctors seek out its wood for the construction of their magical wands. This wood and tree is revered all over the world as mystical and spiritual.

We love it for its super-sized flowers in shades of gorgeous sunset yellows and oranges trimmed in crinkled golds. They begin as fuzzy brown nubby antler shapes that are the flower calyxes and can number up to 20 on one branch. The long stamens are velvety brown and add to the tropical tulip look.

Sweet honey liquid collects in the flower and is pollinated by attracting birds to partake its sweet drink. As the bird drink, their tails dust the pollen from the outer ring of the flower. As they hop from flower to flower pollen is spread by shaking those tail feathers!

Pros:

Huge flowers with lots of blossoms

Brings in the birds

Sell branches on e-Bay to witch doctors

Salt tolerant

Can get very very large

Fire resistant

Cons:

Daily clean up leaves/flowers, which are messy and large

Non native status

Looses limbs in strong winds

Watch out for witch doctors removing branches

Not cold hardy

Conclusion: Back up, you need lots of room to take in this gynormous tree. Come see this mystical tulip in our magical garden location.