Trees are big and majestic, with a central trunk that can tower up hundreds of feet. In North America they are mainly pine, spruce, oak and elm mixed with maples and populars. Europe is similar in appearance, the trees are green and impressive, but few have brightly colored, visible flowers. In the Caribbean it is different. There the roads and forest are filled with flowering trees, some native and some imported from other tropical countries.
There is the Flamboyant or Poiciana tree of Madagascar, Delix regia. It bloom primarily in the late summer and fall with brilliant reds and oranges mixed with the rare yellow. The pods are made into rattles or “Shak-shaks”. Thus common names for the tree include Shak-Shak Tree or Shaka tree.
The Cannonball Tree, Couroupita guianensis, is thought to have been mainly from South America, but so is much of the native vegetation. It has a beautiful red, sweet smelling flower that produces a round, hard gourd, the shape and size of a cannon ball. The flowers are on separate stems that come from the trunk, are wide open, and pollinated by fruit bats!
For beautiful blue flowers, check out the Iron Wood Tree, Lignum vitae. It is definitely native, though incredibly rare any more. There were trees several feet in diameter when these island were first discovered, and the tree only grow less than 2 inches a year length ways. Those trees were hundreds and thousands of years old!
The Bottle Brush Tree, Callistemom lanceolatus, is popular around hotels and with hummingbirds, but it was bought to the Caribbean from Australia.
There there is the Massive Baobab Tree, Adansonia digitata, from Africa. One on Nevis is over 30 feet in diameter, and only about that tall! The dangling white flowers produce pods on long stems that look like dead rats, and thus the children call it a Dead Rat Tree!
The Pink Poui Tree, Tabebuia pentaphylla, is locally known as a “pine or cedar tree”, not because it looks like a pine but because the wood was used as a substitute for pine! The flowers range from Pinkish-yellow to almost red, and are high attractive to the local hummingbirds. It is a forest tree!
For those who like golds or yellows, check out the Golden Shower Tree, Cassia fistula. The flowers are frequent throughout the year and give rise to “cigar pods”. There is also a pink variety.There is also the Poor Man’s Orchid (Bauhinia purpurea) the flowers look like giant orchids and the African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata), yep, the flowers are tulip shaped!
To see a wide seletion of beautiful, flowering trees, head to the Caribbean.