Spathodea campanulata
Common Name: African tuliptree 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Bignoniaceae
Native Range: Tropical Africa
Zone: 10 to 11
Height: 25.00 to 40.00 feet
Spread: 15.00 to 25.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Reddish-orange with yellow corolla margin
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Shade Tree, Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11 where it is easily grown in rich, moderately fertile, moist, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates part shade, but best flowering is in full sun. May drop some leaves in dry seasons or when subjected to light frost. Must be sited in locations protected from wind because tree wood is weak and brittle. Gardeners need to prune after most rainstorms or light frosts to maintain good appearance. Near the edge of its area of winter hardiness, it may be planted as a shrub in a protected area to facilitate regular pruning and removal of dead branches. Propagate by seed, cuttings or root suckers. Established plants have some drought tolerance, but trees subject to dry conditions often become ragged in appearance with some leaf drop. Foliage will die if temperatures dip to 28 degrees F., but roots may survive to 20 degrees F. Notwithstanding its beauty, African tulip tree is considered to be an aggressive and invasive spreader in many tropical areas where it has been introduced. It produces abundant seeds which are carried by the wind or in the current of streams and rivers to new locations. In tropical climates, it can easily spread into disturbed sites, abandoned farmland, pastures, forest margins and waste areas.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Spathodea campanulata, commonly called African tulip tree, is a large, fast-growing tree that is native of tropical African forests where it typically grows to as much as 80' tall. In cultivation, it grows to a much shorter 25-40' tall. It is noted for producing an often extraordinary bloom of reddish-orange, tulip-like flowers at the tips of branches clad with attractive pinnate compound evergreen leaves. This tree has now been extensively planted as an ornamental in tropical areas around the world. In the U. S., it currently grows in far southern Florida, southern California and Hawaii. Best ornamental display usually occurs in locations where trees are protected from strong winds and can develop large, rounded, umbrella-like crowns. Although generally considered to be everblooming, specific flowering times for this tree vary somewhat depending upon climate and geographic location. In southern Florida, the main bloom occurs in spring (March-April) with continued but irregular additional bloom throughout remaining part of the year. Somewhat buttressed trunk has warty gray bark. Each large compound leaf (to 20" long) has 5-19 deeply veined oval leaflets (to 4" long). Upward-facing campanulate flowers (each to 3" across) in dense clusters (racemes) emerge from velvety, horn-shaped buds located at the branch tips. Each flower is reddish orange with a crinkled yellow corolla margin and 4 brown-anthered center stamens. Flowers are followed by upward pointing, greenish brown seed pods (to 8" long), each of which contains about 500 papery seeds with transparent winglets. Pods split open when ripe to release abundant seed to the wind. Wood is weak and brittle. High winds can do significant damage to branches and tree shape.

Genus name comes from the Greek word spathe a flower part and odes meaning of the nature of in reference to the spathe or boat-like calyx.

Specific epithet means bell-shaped in reference to the flowers.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Where winter hardy, it serves as an excellent flowering landscape tree. Shade tree. City parks. Brittle wood and susceptibility to wind damage make it a questionable selection for roadside use.