The Royal Poinciana Fiesta began in 1937 as a celebration of the blooming of the magnificent Royal Poinciana trees, introduced to Miami by Dr. David Fairchild, founder of the Office of Seed and Plant Introduction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. One of oldest of these trees is planted at The Kampong, where he and his wife, Marian Bell Fairchild, youngest daughter of Alexander Graham Bell, built a home and garden. The Kampong is now one of four gardens of the National Tropical Botanic Garden.
Although the Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia) is native to Madagascar, they are endangered in their native land as they continue to be chopped down for firewood and the land is cleared for agriculture. Here in South Florida, we plant them and celebrate their beauty with the Royal Poinciana Fiesta, sponsored by the Tropical Flowering Tree Society in cooperation with The Kampong of the National Tropical Botanic Garden.
The Royal Poincianas reach their peak of bloom during the month of June here in South Florida. The colors of their blossoms range from the well-known crimson to shades of orange, yellow, gold and even white.
No one is sure when the first Royal Poincianas, also known as the flamboyant, the flame tree and the peacock tree, were planted here in South Florida. According to Larry Schokman, Director Emeritus of The Kampong, there are more Royal Poincianas here than in Madagascar. They were a favorite of the early settlers. David Fairchild planted Royal Poincianas along Brickell Avenue in 1922. They made great shade trees for cooling the air below their branches, at a time when air conditioning was unknown.July 20, 1937 was declared to be “Royal Poinciana Day” by the City of Miami Mayor Robert Williams. The first official “Poinciana Festival” was held the following year, 1938. In later years, motorcades were organized, speeches given and bands played. In 1940 the first “Royal Poinciana Queen” was chosen. She was Virginia Allen from the University of Miami. During the 1940s seedlings of Royal Poincianas were distributed to the public. For some years there was an organization that sponsored the Festival, and then the Committee on Beautification and the Environment took over the sponsorship and changed the name to “Fiesta.” The Tropical Flowering Tree Society now sponsors the Fiesta and the Scholarships given to the Queen of the Poinciana Fiesta and two Princesses to help local students with their college expenses. Today, the Fiesta activities educate the public about the Royal Poinciana as well as other flowering trees.
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