Autumnal Thoughts – Flights of Forest Fancy

Seasons can be difficult to recognize in South Florida. You have to look hard to find fall color, last year I found some Red Maples with red foliage in the nearby swamp – long about December. I have learned to look to the Indian River for signs of fall, there is always a mullet run when the seasons turn and I am just starting to see the little fish jumping out of the water, I enjoy the mullet run – it is a sign that relief from the oppressive heat is close at hand.

Royal Ponciana Delonix regia

Royal Ponciana
Delonix regia

Another sign of fall is the Poncianas are slowing down on the flowering and producing gigantic green pods. The ferny foliage is still shimmery green, but the pods foretell a soon to be naked tree. Getting in touch with my inner plant nerd (not difficult) I did some research on the Ponciana and found it is native to Madagascar and rarely seen there anymore. Another Madagascar native that is popular in landscaping here is the Bismarck Palm. This one is planted unfortunately near a power pole – that is not fruit. This Palm has huge silvery fronds, costapalmate! and literally 4 feet wide. The fronds sound like big pieces of cardboard rubbing together. Fruit is borne in grape like clusters of 2 inch wide shiny mahogany colored nuts. I planted one a month or so ago and it is supposed to take more than 2 months for the seed to germinate and 86 degrees Fahrenheit is the required temperature. So far nothing on that front.

Bismarck Palm Bismarckia nobilis

Bismarck Palm
Bismarckia nobilis

Here is my Flight of Forest Fancy, both these trees supposedly occurred in Forests.

Just imagine these forests – the Palm and the Ponciana can get to be 60 feet tall.

Golden Shower – Cassia fistula

Some of Florida’s best summer flowering trees are starting to bloom. These Golden Shower trees are about halfway to full bloom. Everytime my husband hears the tree name he snickers, but who wouldn’t? The sausage like fruits are enough to make me laugh without hearing the name. Some of these tropical trees have peculiar fruit that tends to hang around and be fairly unattractive. The leaves on the tree fell off for the most part and the fruit turned brown. Here is the fruit last fall.

Golden Shower Fruit

Golden Shower Fruit

Here is the tree halfway into full bloom:

Golden Shower Tree

Golden Shower Tree

The leaves are filling back in on the tree and it will be fully green through the summer and then produce another set of fruit. I am thinking at some point someone has to pick up a lot of this fruit. But I really haven’t noticed it as they have a good maintenance crew and it is not in my yard.

The first one of these trees I encountered was planted alternating with Rainbow Shower trees as a streetscape planting in Maui, quite festive and tropical. The Rainbow Shower trees flower has a literal rainbow of color on it. Quite something to see and a bit overwhelming. It took me awhile to figure out what the trees were. My first thought was “it’s a Laburnum”, nooo, not in Hawaii. One of its common names is Indian Laburnum and Pudding Pipe Tree is another. Apparently this tree has a few medicinal uses, treating constipation, skin infections, and people in India smoke it – for what reason I am not sure.

Native to Southeast Asia, the Golden Shower is planted as a street tree in tropical climates the world over. I am glad we have a few in front of our library.