If Tabebuia is the harbinger of spring in South Florida, then The Royal Ponciana (or Flamboyant Tree) is the harbinger of summer and the rainy season. I prefer not to use the H word in regards to seasons.
I have heard people refer to these trees as Flamboyants, and I always have to stop and think about what that is for a minute. They are pretty flamboyant. I think the trees look as if they are covered in sprays of red orchids. Ponciana starts blooming in May and then continue into Summer the leaves seem to follow the flowers and are ferny, deep green and eventually cover the tree with a fine textured foliage providing shade for the sun weary Floridian. The floral display is followed by large pods like beans (this is a member of the bean family) In some Caribbean countries, Poncianas are called “Woman’s Tongue” because the pods rattle in the wind.
A native of Madagascar and India these trees are planted the world over in the tropics for their fine floral display. Named for M. DePoinci, a governor of the French West Indies in the 1700’s, the Ponciana is celebrated with a Fiesta and a Festival in Miami around the first week of June.
These trees lend a tropical flair to any landscape and eventually take on an umbrella form reminiscent of trees in the African savanna. There are numerous Poncianas in my area. Of course, most of the horticultural literature I have seen says they shouldn’t grow here. Generally, I see 10B as the hardiness zone limit, I am pretty sure this is 10A – the coastal area of Martin County. Gardening friends in Vero Beach report Ponciana do not do as well there and I have heard that Ft. Pierce is their northern limit. The lady down the street who is a great gardener advised throwing all the books away and just giving things a try. A reasonable suggestion.
These trees should be placed in the sun and are not for the faint of heart. Fast growing and with the potential of attaining a size of 40 by 40 feet, they need some room to spread and also produce a deep shade that it is difficult to grow anything under. They are semi-deciduous; so if you are a Snowbird tired of raking leaves this tree is not for you. The pods also are pretty messy. I got in touch with my inner Southern Belle at Christmas by spray painting some Ponciana pods silver and using them as a front door decoration along with preserved Cabbage Palm fronds..