Delonix regia: Gulmohar

Family: Fabaceae
Common name: Royal Poinciana, Gulmohar, May flower tree, Flame of the forest, Flame tree

Gulmohar trees are called ‘Flames of the forest’ for good reason. During flowering season, the tree gets a drape of deep glowing red, setting the landscape on fire with their flowers. Gulmohar trees are large perennial trees that grow to a height of 12-20 meters with a good spread, and hence are preferred roadside and avenue plants. The leaves are also very beautiful making the tree look pretty, even when it’s not in bloom.

Gulmohar leaves are about 40-50 cms long, divided into 20-30 pairs of primary leaflets and further divided into 10-20 pairs of secondary leaflets. Each leaf is a work of perfection with the leaflets arranged precisely opposite each other.

The flowers are 5-petaled with 4 red petals, and one larger petal that has a white, yellow and red pattern. Gulmohar flowers always grow in bunches, with few opened flowers and few unopened buds in each cluster. Blooming season in India is from March to September.

Gulmohar trees need good sunlight and well-drained soil to grow and bloom well. The flowers then produce seeds pods that are long and flat, and can grow up to 60 cms long. The seeds pods are initially soft and green; and then turn hard and black. The seed pods then open, releasing 10-20 black seeds. The bright color of Gulmohar flowers attract birds, insects, bees and butterflies, which help pollinate the plant.

Gulmohars are very closely related to the peacock flower tree, its poorer cousin that’s shorter, with smaller leaves and less-colorful flowers. The only drawback of this tree is the long shallow roots that can break sidewalks or roads around the trees when they mature. The plant has many uses; the wood being used to make agricultural tools, furniture, handles for implements etc. The leaves are uses in treatment of constipation, inflammations and even arthritis.

Propagation is from seeds or stem cuttings.

Photo Courtesy: S K Akher

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