Wednesday, June 1, 2011

camminando | The Royal Poinciana: A regal addition to the Miami palette

The cusp of May/June brings out one of the most glorious art pieces in nature: the Royal Poinciana tree. I make it a point to drive by the older neighborhoods to drink in the explosion of orange-y red canopy drooping over roadways. After several weeks the 4-5” flowers drop and are replaced by a fernlike, brilliant grass-green series of leaves reaching 12-20” long. The flowers consist of four spoon-shaped scarlet or orange-red petals about 3” long, and one upright slightly larger petal.

Fallen Royal Poinciana Flower

Occasional trees will sprout a gold-yellow flower rather than the more common flame red variety. The fast –growing shade tree reaches 30-40’ tall with a canopy often of equal width. The long brown seed pods are called “woman’s tongue” in the Caribbean because of the rattling sound they make in the wind.

Long Poinciana Seed Pods

The Royal Poinciana is a native of Madagascar and seen in many tropical and sub-tropical cities throughout the world. They take at least 10 years to flower making the older neighborhoods a better viewing platform.

Named for the 18th century governor of the French West Indies, M. de Poinci and often merely called “Flamboyant” or “Framboyan” in the Caribbean as well as Flame of the Forest and Peacock Flower. Botanical Name: Delonix regia, syn. Poinciana regia

Purple Bougainvillea (foreground), Poinciana (background)

This riotous tree played a big part in the work of the outsider artists, The Florida Highwaymen, a group of 26 African American painters from the 1950’s –‘80’s, mostly from the Fort Pierce area who painted sunrises, sunsets and all the natural beauty of their region with vibrant tone. Primarily sold out of the back of vehicles for $25, today these paintings are now being sought out heavily by collectors with a shiny new price tag to match. For more info go to :

Miami does not let this phenomenon pass unnoticed. The 74th annual Royal Poinciana Fiesta will be held June 11-13. It is the oldest continuously celebrated community event.For more information click on the Tropical Flowering Tree Society site.

To add to riot of color, Miami also offers up a sweet treat to soften the blow of summers humidity seeping into our bones: Mango trees of all sorts are ponderously brewing their heady aromas, soon to be dispensed with all the juicy, soft-pulped wonderful-ness to transport one and all to fruit-full nirvana. A mango margarita whipped up in your blender is not to be missed.

Naturally, this event does not go by without fanfare. The always pleasurable Fairchild Tropical Garden will educate and entertain with workshops, lectures and displays of fruit, paintings and all means of mango recipes. Farichild’s International Mango Festival will be held Saturday, July 9, 2011 and Sunday, July 10, 2011 from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM. For more information see the Fairchild Tropical Garden site.

Mango Tree Loaded with Fruit