Butea monosperma

Common Name: flame of the forest 
Type: Tree
Family: Fabaceae
Native Range: India, Burma
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 30.00 to 40.00 feet
Spread: 30.00 to 40.00 feet
Bloom Time: January to March
Bloom Description: Orange/red
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-12. Best grown in sunny tropical locations. Best performance occurs in deep, fertile, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Add surface mulch. Needs consistent moisture, but soils should begin to dry as winter approaches to encourage leaf drop by the beginning of winter. Plants should be sited in areas protected from strong winds.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Butea monosperma, commonly called flame-of-the-forest or bastard teak, is a medium sized deciduous tree of the pea family that is native to humid lowland forested areas of India and Sri Lanka. It typically matures to 30-40’ tall. This tree features: (a) leathery medium to dark green compound trifoliate leaves (to 10-18” wide), each having three rhombus-shaped leaflets held by a long petiole; (b) leaf drop occurring in early winter; (c) black flower buds forming in mid-winter on leafless stems; (c) bicolor orange/red flowers (each to 2” long) blooming in dense clusters (racemes to 6” long) from late January to March; (d) flowers giving way to fruits (flat single-seeded pods to 3-4” long) which emerge pale green but mature to bronze-brown.

Flowers often produce an outstanding late winter bloom. Each flower has 5 petals, two wings and a beak-shaped keel purportedly resembling a curved parrot’s beak. Trees may not flower if winters are too cold or too dry or too wet.

Butea seeds, leaves, gum, and flowers all have medicinal properties.

Genus name honors John Stuart the third Earl of Bute (1713-1792).

Specific epithet means one-seeded.

Flame-of-the-forest common name is in reference to the orange and red flower colors which purportedly mimic the colors of fire.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Best planted as a specimen in a mixed grove of trees that will hide its awkward habit but give its flowers full visibility.