Flame Tree, Flame of the Forest

Scientific Name : Delonix regia (Bojer ex Hook.) Raf.
Common Name : Flame Tree, Flame of the Forest
Chinese Name : 鳳凰木, 鳳凰花, 紅花楹, 火樹
Local distribution status : Exotic species

Anecdotes on plants

Origins Madagascar.
Meanings of names There are two versions of the origin of its Chinese name “Phoenix Wood (鳳凰木)”. One tale is that the species was firstly introduced to China by propagating the plant in the “Phoenix Mountain” of Macau.
Another one is related to the sentence “Its leaves mimic the feathers of a flying phoenix; Its flowers bloom like the crown of a scarlet phoenix”.
Morphologically, the tree crown looks like a phoenix spreading her wings, since its broad crown bears branchlets and dense leaves.
Meanwhile, it also looks like a phoenix raising his head when the tree is in full blossom, which shows the extraordinarily glorious contrast between the scarlet flowers and emerald leaves.
During its flowering period the tree is crowded by red flowers, giving the impression of it being surrounded by fire. Hence, in both Chinese and English, the species was given the name “Flame Tree (火樹)”.
Applications Flame tree is a common street tree and mostly planted in urban parks.
Its resin is water-soluble while its wood is soft and stretchable with special patterns. Hence, the species is used as the raw material for many crafts.
Toxicity The seeds and flowers have mild toxins, and thus should not be ingested.
City Tree Flame tree is the City Tree of Xiamen City and Tainan City (“Phoenix City” formerly called).

Traits for identification

Growing habit Large deciduous tree. Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) of main trunk can reach 1 m. Crown pressed hemispherical, broad; branchlets spreading into distinct layers. Like a giant bonsai.
Height To 20 m.
Roots Sometimes with buttress roots.
Stems Bark of trunk rough, greyish brown. Branchlets with obvious lenticels.
Leaves Even-bipinnately compound. Pinnae 15 to 20 pairs, opposite, with 10 to 25 pairs of oblong leaflets on each pinna, crowded and opposite. The leaf looks like a feather of birds.
Flowers Bright scarlet to orange-red. Petals 5, spoon-like. The upper petal shows conspicuous yellowish and whitish patches.
Fruits Legume, huge, slightly curved. Its length as long as an arm of human. Blackish brown, with 20 to 40 seeds.
Seeds Oblong, yellowish, with brownish patches, smooth and hard.
Flowering period June to July in Hong Kong.
Fruiting period August to October in Hong Kong.

Scientific name above is based on Hong Kong Herbarium website : https://www.herbarium.gov.hk/en/hk-plant-database/plant-detail/index.html?pType=species&oID=8057

Scientific names from other databases
Flora of China : Delonix regia (Bojer) Rafinesque
Plants of the World Online : Delonix regia (Bojer ex Hook.) Raf.