Royal Poinciana Trees

By Thomas Keyes
June 25, 2005

One of the most gorgeous trees in the world is the royal poinciana. The word ‘poinciana’ is not to be confused with ‘poinsettia’, the familiar Yuletide plant with scarlet bracts. Poinciana was named after M. de Poinci, a 17th century governor of the Antilles, whereas Poinsettia was named alter J. R. Poinsett, US minister to México in the 19th century. It seems that beautiful plants should be named alter beautiful women, but that’s not usually the case.

The scientific name of royal poinciana is Delonix regia. It constitutes a genus in the family Fabaceae of the order Fabales of the class Magnoliopsida, which makes it a dicot (dicotyledon). Dicots are recognizable by the reticulate venation (netlike pattern of veins) of the leaves, as in oaks, maples, elms, beans, tobacco, potatoes, tomatoes and a multitude of other familiar plants. Monocots, like palms, grain, lilies, onions, etc., have parallel venation. Coniferous trees do not fit into the monocot-dicot dichotomy.

The family Fabaceae comprise many well-known, economically important plants, includimg acacia, alfalfa, black-eyed peas, broad beans, broom, carob, chickpeas, clover, coral trees, cowpeas, gleditzia, hiburnum, kidney beans, locust trees, lotus, lupine, mesquite, peas, peanuts, redbud, rosewood, royal poinciana, soybeans, sweetpeas, tamarinds and vetch. I compiled these time-consumingly, trying to find all the common plants in the family. Often when you go to an authority on botany or an encyclopedia, you find three or four representative plants in a family listed, without any regard to whether all the significant ones have been included. All Fabaceae have pods that contain beans or peas, regardless of whether they are trees or shrubs. However, they are not all edible. Some Fabaceae, like mesquite and acacia, may have thorns. Species are very numerous. Acacia may have as many as 800 species.

The royal poinciana has several other names in circulation, including gulmohar, flamboyant tree and flame tree. But the true flamboyant tree is something entirely different. So that name should be deprecated. ‘Poinciana’ was the scientific name of the genus at one time, now replaced by ‘Delonix’, and remains the common name.

These plants hail from Madagascar, but in the US they are naturalized in Hawaii and Florida, with perhaps a few specimens in California. I first became aware of this tree in 1986, when I was living in Honolulu, and I thought I knew exactly what it is. But when I left Hawaii, I forgot all about it. Then in the Spring of 2004, when I took a bus ride from Los Angeles to Lima, Perú, except for a flight across the Darién Gap in Panamá, I saw them again and again. Throughout Central America, you see royal poincianas at the rate of one or two per mile, either in people’s yards or out in the country. Even in the Colombian Andes, you can see them. The Spanish word is ‘malinche’. This name was the nickname of Marina, the lover of Hernán Cortés, the conquistador. That’s a more fitting name! I suppose a wealthy, powerful conqueror had a beautiful mistress.

Below are a couple of URL’s with pictures of royal poincianas:




About the author Thomas Keyes: I have written two books: A SOJOURN IN ASIA (non-fiction) and A TALE OF UNG (fiction), neither published so far.

I have studied languages for years and traveled extensively on five continents.

Email: udikeyes@yahoo.com

Comment on this article here!


All articles are EXCLUSIVE to Useless-Knowledge.com and are not allowed to be posted on other websites. ARTICLE THIEVES WILL BE PROSECUTED!

Web useless-knowledge.com

Useless-Knowledge.com © Copyright 2002-2006. All rights reserved.