Saturday, July 22, 2006

Flame Tree Fact Sheet - First Draft

I'm working on a Flame Tree fact sheet - here is the text from the first draft:

The first Flame Trees were brought to Saipan by Francisco Borja Kaipat when he worked for the Marianas agriculture program in the 1960s. He led a group of people who planted about 800 to 900 flame trees on Saipan. The oldest Flame Trees on island are a product of their work.

The Flame Tree, Delonix regia (family Fabaceae), is the state tree of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. It is also known by the names Royal Poinciana, Gulmohar, Flamboyant Tree, Peacock Flower, and Flame of the Forest. It has been described as the most colorful tree in the world. The tree's vivid flame red/orange flowers (there is a yellow variety, too!) and bright green foliage make it an exceptionally striking sight. Although it is native to Madagascar, it is widely cultivated and may be seen adorning avenues, parks and estates in tropical cities throughout the world. In Saipan they line Beach Road, the road to Marpi and the road to Ladder Beach.

Blooming in late spring through late summer, the flowers are large, with four spreading flame red or orange-red petals up to 8 cm long, and a fifth upright petal called the standard, which is slightly larger and spotted with yellow and white. Seed pods are dark brown and can be up to 60 cm long and 5 cm wide; the individual seeds, however, are small, weighing around 0.4 g on average. The compound leaves have a feathery appearance and are a characteristic light, bright green. They are doubly pinnate: Each leaf is 30-50 cm long and has 20 to 40 pairs of primary leaflets or pinnae on it, and each of these is further divided into 10-20 pairs of secondary leaflets or pinnules.

There are about 20-40 seeds in every Flame Tree seed pod. The seeds are bean size and are covered with a shiny membrane. Germinating the seeds can be a problem if the membrane is not removed. To remove the membrane, first file the seeds and then soak them for 24 hours. An easier method is to dip them in boiling water for 3-5 minutes and then let them soak overnight in warm water. The shiny membrane will start peeling in about 24 hours.

After planting, the seedlings should start to sprout in about a week. Flame Trees are very fast growing, about 5 ft per year until maturity, and tolerant of a wide range of well drained soils from acidic to alkaline and from loamy to gravelly. They can tolerate direct sunlight, but it is best to provide protection from strong winds.


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