Jennifer StackhouseIs that a poinciana?

Gosh that looks like a poinciana I thought, as I wandered along the road near my house taking the dogs for their morning walk. It must be an Illawarra flame tree, they’re still flowering. As we got closer it kept looking more and more like a poinciana and sure enough, as I stood next to it I saw that it was. There were the unmistakable orange and red flowers and ferny green leaves.

Poinciana Delonix regia

A poinciana in full flower in Kurmond! I don’t know what was stranger – seeing this tree in full bloom in our neighbourhood with its below zero winter temperatures, or that I’ve lived just around the corner for 10 years and never seen it before.

RoyalPoincianaFlowerThe tree is about 2.5m tall and as wide. It is well sheltered by other trees and shrubs on the high side of the street and it gets the western sun. It is above a bitumen road, which may give it a little extra warmth in winter.

I am guessing that it doesn’t often flower but relished the mild winter and warm summer and burst into bloom. It is keeping good company with a heavily laden mango in a near by garden and a clump of bananas at the top of our street.

I am occasionally asked if poincianas grow in Sydney. It isn’t the first I’ve seen. There was a large, spreading poinciana growing in the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney adjacent to Lion Gate Lodge in Mrs Macquaries Road. It had the occasional bloom.

I’ve always said you could grow one in a warm coastal microclimate, but this tree has blown that theory out of the water. Obviously you can grow a poinciana anywhere!
As with other tropical flowering trees growing out of their climate zone, the Kurmond poinciana is in full flower much later than its northern relatives. The poincianas flower in Brisbane well before Christmas and here we were in mid January with a good smattering of flowers. It lacks the broad spreading canopy you associate with these magnificent trees but, who is quibbling, it gets an A+ for just being there!

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Jennifer Stackhouse

About Jennifer Stackhouse

Recently Jennifer Stackhouse made the big move from Kurmond in NSW to a Federation house in the little village of Barrington tucked beneath Mt Roland in northwest Tasmania. With high rainfall, rich, red deep soil and a mild climate she reckons she's won the gardening lottery. She's taken on an acre garden that's been lovingly planted and tended for the past 28 years by a pair of keen gardeners so she is discovering a garden full of horticultural treasures. Jennifer is the author of several gardening books including 'Garden', which won a Book Laurel for 2013, as well as ‘The Organic Guide to Edible Gardens’, ‘Planting Techniques’ and ‘My Gardening Year’, which she wrote with her mother Shirley. She was editor of ABC 'Gardening Australia' magazine and now edits the trade journal 'Greenworld' magazine and writes regularly for the Saturday magazine in 'The Mercury'. She is often heard on radio and at garden shows answering garden queries.

13 thoughts on “Is that a poinciana?

  1. That’s hilarious, Jennifer, that you’d be thinking that if you can grow a poinciana as far south as Sydney, you must be able to grow them anywhere! Might just try one here in Woodend. No doubt they’d laugh at eight months of cracking, crunchy frost.
    Having said that, I remember a shrub-sized one at Ripponlea (bayside Melbourne) in the 80’s. But the latest close encounter was spotting that retina-blasting red disembodying itself from the lush, green background on roadsides in Uganda last year. What a stunner.
    Makes me want to garden up north – maybe even as far north as Sydney.

  2. I didn’t know about the poinciana at Ripponlea – I’ll add that to my list. The other side of the climate coin of course is trying to grow lilac or lily-of-the-valley in Brisbane. Although, having plucked those examples from the air, I am sure to discover that someone will have done it! Jennifer

  3. Given the number of record-breaking hot days & months we’ve already had this century, I suspect that growing warm climate plants in what’s currently a marginal zone will become easier than trying to grow cool climate plants in warmer zones.

  4. Ahh, yes, Christmas in Queensland isn’t Christmas without the poinciana trees on fire. They were particularly bright this year due to the long dry spell in spring/summer. Some trees were a mass of orange/scarlet flower and no green foliage. Our “lesser” specimen at the back of the house was the star turn this year, and put on a dazzling show, but the original larger tree out front did not turn on much of a display at all. But it throws a lovely spreading shade under a wide and welcoming canopy and the rosellas, kookaburras and king parrots like to perch there each morning to sing us awake.

    Interesting post, Jennifer.

  5. Yes one never knows what to expect when it comes to plants and their requirements. That’s what makes being a Horticulturist so interesting.
    regards tom

    • When I was growing up the old family home at Manly in Qld had a huge spreading poinciana growing beside it. Its shade was welcome and its flowers are real feature in December. I recently came across an old black and white photograph that showed the tree newly planted probably taken in the early 1930s. The house had been built many years before – it was a traditional Queenslander with deep verandahs and a magnificent central stair at the front which split in two with a midway landing. I was surprised that they’d lived in the house for so long without a tree to shelter the exposed western side, although I guess the verandah and huge under the house area gave cool and shade. Jennifer

    • No sadly it is no longer there. It succumbed to armillaria, fell over in a storm and had to be removed in 1992. It was a huge tree and obviously very old.

  6. I live on the Central Coast of NSW and have had a Poinciana growing for the past 10 years or so. The tree is small – loses all its leaves in winter and starts its regrowth (although early this year) in October/November. The tree flowered for the first time in December last year. I have noticed the Lorikeets around here are starting to eat the new growth from the tree – I don’t know why as they have never attempted to eat the leaves previously. I do love this tree.

  7. Hi Jennifer,

    I live in Sydney and have various Poinciana trees (that we brought back from QLD 2 years ago) in pots in a green house which are about 30cm tall. last year they almost died during the winter so this year I have them in a green house. They are struggling to grow, so do your have any advice on how I can successfully make them grow in the ground. If you can help in any way I would appreciate it.

  8. I collected a few seeds in Brisbane several years ago and a few weeks planted two seeds in a pot about three weeks ago. I looked at the pot yesterday and there is a green stalk about 75mm high. Let’s see if it makes it through the next 12 months. I didn’t do anything to prepare the seed but I just read that it is better to either split the hard outer husk or soak the seed in warm water for 24 hours before planting. (Sydney)

  9. Two years ago I collected seeds from a Poinciana tree in Hervey Bay Qld. I had brought small plants back home to Holgate on the NSW Central Coast a few years ago but they did not survive. To my surprise one seed grew into a tiny tree last Summer. We covered the tiny tree during the frost last Winter and to our surprise it only just survived and has now grown into a metre high tree.
    My next problem is what do we do this winter during the frost. Do we dig it out and plant in a large pot or just leave it to battle the elements.

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