HomeEventsTreesArticlesLinksAbout UsMembership


The following article was taken from the January 1998 Tropical Flowering Tree Society Newsletter.

New Introductions of Flowering Trees by Dimitris Petropoulos

Winter has come to us in unrelenting waves  of fierce winds accompanied by undulating temperatures and a lot of rain. Plants respond  to these changes; many cast off their leaves and flowers, others stoically but subtly alter the color of their leaves.

For some, this is the time for evaluation  of our gardening efforts. Those who may want to add something out of the ordinary,  difficult to find, or just plain rare, face quite a challenge.

1. Radermachera capitata : around 18 feet tall, likes full sun. The trees have straight trunks, with an elegant canopy of smallish leaves. The effect of the leaves is almost fern-like. At the branch tips, 20-inch long, dark strand, multi-stemmed, flower spikes droop with many deep red, small satin-textured, bell-shaped flowers. These trees are laden with 2-foot long, thin, bean-shaped pods, as well as new developing flowers. This seems to indicate a long, repetitive bloom cycle.

2. Randia spp. (possibly exultata): reaches a mature height of about 15 feet in dappled shade. The canopy is elliptical with branches low to the ground. Large shiny leaves and bouquets of star-shaped, funnel-form flowers (opening a pale chartreuse color, maturing to white) are at the apex of each branch. The seeds are about the size of a lemon and ripen to a golden amber color. A full grown tree is often laden with fruit and flowers, at the same time, through the Spring until early Winter.

3. Phaleria octandra: also grows to about 15 feet in semi-shade, and is elliptical in form. Leaves are 8 to 10 inches long, naturally droopy, waxy-textured, and accentuated by a burnt scarlet stem. It has flowered in late Autumn and again in early Winter in Miami. Four to five inch, ice-white, porcelain-textured bouquets crown each branch. The perfume is strong, gently reminiscent of gardenia, jasmine, and honeysuckle blended into one. This open crown tree is often used as a feature plant in Asian gardens. Our supply is extremely limited now, but our small trees are heavy with dark red, showy fruit.

4. Saraca thaipengense: is an evergreen treasure of a tree, maturing rather quickly at around 20 feet. It has a sprawling canopy, often wider than it is tall. The new leaves come out in the shape of a horn that unfolds, cascading 3 feet, in limp fashion. Usually, the new leaves are a pale mint green that changes to a soft mustard rose before turning color again into its mature emerald laceolate form. Flowers are borne on the trunk, on hardwood limbs, as well as tips of branches. Enormous clusters of deep golden flowers appear literally anytime, on mature trees. In nature, it is often found growing with its roots very near a source of water but it flowers best after a dry spell. Consider wind protection for the spectacular new leaf feature, and partial shade to encourage rapid growth.

5. Stemmadenia galeotiana: originates in tropical America. A multi-layered canopy up to 20 feet tall. It blooms from mid-April to late Winter. When in full bloom, perfume fills the area with a soft, musky sweetness. A massive profusion of flowers decks the branches, pure white against lacquered, dark green leaves, and carpets the ground with fallen blossoms. They grow well in full sun, as well as in semi-shade, and can even tolerate a little sea spray. They can be maintained under 20 feet with pruning and shaping. Seed pods are golden in color, about 4 inches long, horn-shaped, often in pairs.

6. Brownea grandiceps: is another tree from our own hemisphere. Given time, plenty of water, rich soil, and other essentials, the canopy can billow up to 30 feet. In our calcareous soil, we expect them to crest at about 20 feet. Flowers, produced October through January, are 8-10 inches across in bouquet-form, along the hardwood stems, on the trunk, and at the apex of the branches. The color is variable ranging from a soft, creamy pink, to a lush carmine red, flecked and streaked with shades of blue and purple tones. Even without flowers, it has a beauty of form. In flower, it is spectacular.

Most of these species from our collection were planted in various South Florida gardens over the past five years, and are doing very well. Special trees deserve a special effort, and they will reward you with special beauty.

Copyright TFTS 1998-2013