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Flamboyant

st john flora: flamboyant

st john flora: flamboyant flowers
Flamboyant Flower

It's summertime and the flamboyant trees all over St. John are in bloom. Although not native to the Virgin Islands, the flamboyant can be seen all over St. John including undeveloped hillsides within the Virgin Islands National Park. It's easy to see why this beautiful colorful tree has been a popular landscaping addition, but how did it get far up on the mountainsides where probably even the early sugar planters didn't venture? Not that they were concerned with planting flowering trees without any commercial value, just because they liked to see spectacular colors colors in the summer.

Old time Virgin Islanders tell me that once upon a time there was a visitor to St. John who was in love with flamboyant trees. This man hired an airplane and flew all over the island dropping flamboyant seeds from the cockpit of the plane and that's why the tree can be found in so many inaccessible locations brightening up St. John's verdant hillsides with sprays of red.

st john flora: flamboyant branch
Flamboyant Branch

The flamboyant, also commonly called Royal Poinciana was named for Phillipe de Longviliers de Poincy who is said to have introducing the plant to the Caribbean.

The flamboyant's long brown seedpods, locally known as shak-shaks, are used as a musical percussion instrument, which are often painted by native artisans.

Some flamboyants produces a yellow flower, which are fairly common on St. Thomas, but I have yet to find one on St. John. I have planted the seeds from the yellow variety, but the resulting tree made red flowers. Any feedback from horticulturists?

Gerald