Flame Trees


Flame trees (Delonix reggia) in full bloom must be one of the plant world’s most flamboyant displays of bright and naturally vivid color. Ever since I was a tiny tot, I can recall trips to the Batangas and other shorelines in the Philippines, and in the hottest months of flame2the year, the flame trees would lose most of their foliage and were instead covered in the sharpest hues of orange and red blooms. I distinctly remember an early helicopter ride from Manila to Bataan to visit an Esso (Exxon) refinery (before it was forcibly expropriated by the Philippine government and became Petron) where I was utterly mortified sitting in the front seat of the company chopper with my father, wondering how fast the craft would plunge into Manila Bay if the rotors stopped functioning, and I only began to feel safer as the landing drew closer and the green landscape below us was dotted with intense bursts of orange from blooming flame trees. I once read somewhere that as Magellan hit this part of world in his famous voyage (where he was slayed by a distant relative of mine in Mactan, according to my grandmother), he spied the same flame trees in bloom on the coastline of the Marianas (or was it the Philippines?) and they looked like the forests were ablaze or in flames… and this was written into the chronicles of the voyage… Hmmm, I wonder if that is true…


I have taken these trees for granted for more than 40 years, never bothering to subject them to a closer inspection. Perhaps this bias flame4is due to another early experience hanging out beneath one of these trees, only to have a couple of itchy worms drop onto my head and shoulder… The trees were notorious for being host to lots and lots of itchy worms… At any rate, the trees were at the peak of their blooms last weekend in Batangas and I decided to have a closer look. They were utterly stunning! The flowers were huge and the detail and patterns both intricate and impressive. The number of individual blooms per mature tree is in the thousands and results in a near solid orange blanket on top of the light colored tree trunk. I was able to get some nice close-up photos… and I shall appreciate these incredible trees even more the next time they are ablaze…


27 Responses

  1. From a distance flowering flame trees are reflectors with their nuclear colored flowers. Magellan was puzzled I assume when he spotted the flowering flame trees on his ship thinking it was forest fire but no smoke – signaling him it was an island and the rest was history. Birds must love the flowering flame trees since they are assured big fat worms for breakfast that save the gardeners some cleaning job!!

  2. The first time I saw a flame tree with all those brilliant red blooms, I fell in love with the tree. It so nice to see them.

  3. Their names are even romantic–arbol del fuego or fire trees.

    Btw, those are caterpillars, not worms.

  4. I remember rows of flame trees along in the road in Carcar – I wonder if they’re still there. Ugh, I remember breaking out in hives with those caterpillars…

  5. my mostest favorite tree!!! love them!

    I remember reading a story about Flame trees in our elemntary english book. The lola in the story does not want to uproot her trees to give way to a highway. She fought until she had them transferred to a cemetery.

    I roamed around Nayong Pilipino picking up fallen pods so I can gather enough seeds. My mom thought I was nuts…

    I was able to grow 8 trees and they coincided with my-then-boyfriend-now-my-husband’s 2nd year together. that was 6 years ago.

    They are now happily flourishing at the back of our house in Mariveles, Bataan…

  6. Ahh I love those trees! They put me in such a happy giddy mood everytime I see them. I’ve always thought they were called fire trees tho. Hehe.

  7. i love them! i thought its called fire tree. we have a lot of these here in ateneo and UP campus. i love taking photos of the flowers.

  8. fire tree or flame tree, just the same. Definitely stunning when it is really healthy just like the one in photo, big and vibrant flowers.I still remember having breakfast at a lanai surrounded with flame trees, it always brightens up my day.

    Oh, btw when I was a kid I remember always asking my father as to why it is called a tree when it doesn’t grow bigger than I was. He said it is actually a shrub (a small tree), so I kept on telling him..”then call it a shrub, there are lots of shrubs but they aren’t called a tree”. He would just laugh. I find it funny.

  9. My dad, who btw was a mining man so he got to travel the entire archipelago, used to tell me that the local tribesmen in Isabela would wait for the flame trees to bloom to signal hunting season. Nope, they were not hunting game or fowl. They were hunting Christians. It was a testament that a boy had turned into a man when he brought home the head of a Christian. I don’t know if this is true but the folks my father met up in Isabela used to tell him this story. And he retold it to us. Beautiful pics.

  10. I first remember seeing these in college. The UP oval is lined with fire trees, and when they’re all abloom, going down the road is a breathtaking experience. I wonder if they’re still there?

  11. Planted 2 flame trees in the garden. When they grew, they attacted a gazillion rhino beetles one December. Seems the trees are their favorite mating and munching sites :–)

  12. Hi kb!

    I cannot seem to find a place where I can find and buy young trees for re-planting…. sort of like mango trees in black plastic bags…where did you get yours?

  13. Katrina, they’re still there. :)

    Flame Trees in UP, Ateneo and when u drive into La Vista.
    My notion of a great greened up city was flame trees lining boulevards

  14. Frankly, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to them when I was growing up in the Phils. Mainly because there is an abundance of gorgeous and most beautiful flora that one wouldn’t know where to set one’s eyes on…But seeing them in Africa with its flaming colours in the cities was awesome and deeply moving! There are literally no leaves just fiery blazing flowers. And they earned the name “flamboyant” by Africans. Ditto with those luscious colours of bougavillas that simply bursts in its splendour from December tii February before the rainy season comes.
    Your shots are superb! I often wonder what camera you use…

  15. Funny how names evolve. I too referred to these as fire trees until I looked them up and realized they were referred to by most of the plant world as flame trees :)…! Erleen, you MUST visit the Manila Seedling Bank in Quezon City, they have gajillions of trees. We buy our narra, mahogany, fruit and ornamental trees there in black plastic bags… and very reasonably priced as well! Lou, I have a Canon Ixus, an “instamatic” version of their digital cameras…nothing fancy. I can’t handle the SLR or more professional quality cameras…too complicated!

  16. i’ve always dreamed of having a huge garden filed with flowering trees..flame trees, dapdap, big calachuchi, acacia, narra..i have said that often enough to my husband and kids that they know the enumeration by heart ;-)

  17. Erleen, believe it or not our gardener just cut 2 nice-looking healthy long branches from a tree in the neigborhood and just stuck them on the ground, cared and watered them diligently and they grew!

  18. Are we talking of the same tree we call in Batangas “Árbol de Fuego”?

    Flame tree= Arbol de Fuego?

    I bet you they are the same/

  19. Years back, there were several of those fire trees lined along Gil Puyat ave, Makati and during its season the trees are blazing with flowers and also comes all the ‘worms/higad’ are also in bloom. So when the wind blows all the passengers waiting for buses/ jeepneys has their share of higad that they all run in commotion.

  20. I grew up and lived in the housing compound by the Esso/BRC/Petron Refinery until 1990. I am well familiar with the helipad and have fond memories of driving by the field and wondering which VIP was in town, flown in by helicopter.

    I had forgotten about these trees until I saw this article and then I was reminded how beautiful the trees were. As a kid, I was very interested in collecting the blossoms to use for lutu-lutuan.

  21. Love them too. Have one at home. Was trying to tell a photographer neighbor where I lived and he said “the house with the beautiful tree”. My wife found some saplings at the seedling bank near Trinoma and we planted them in Canlubang where we hope one day to build a house. By the way, your photos are pretty good.

  22. saw them in canary isles, brought back seed pod, got one growing.will it survive in britain? have it on my bedroom window sill.all help appreciated please.

  23. These trees may as well be our very own version of the “autumn foliage”, only it is in summer. :-) I love these trees. (Except for their abundance of “higad”.)

    Marketman, it was interesting to note that you are distant relatives with that brave guy from Mactan. Our Mama told us we are distant relatives with the same Mactan guy as well. In fact, we still carry the name. :-)


  24. i am currently looking for a small flowering tree that i can plant in front of our house and this tree got me interested. is there a way to prevent the “higad”?

    many thanks!

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