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Orchid Tree, Jacaranda, Royal Poinciana, and Tamarind

by Hilton Kean Jones on May 27, 2009

in Florida, Nature

crown of orchid tree
crown of orchid tree

Orchid Tree

There was a good discussion, early this spring, in the comments for More flowering trees. Bloggers appreciate comments. They are part of what makes the blogging experience a pleasure. The discussion in this case revolved around some flowering trees here in St. Pete, trees that I found beautiful but had no clue as to their identity (horticulture is not in my skill set). There was disagreement among the readers’ suggestions regarding the identity of one tree in particular (the tree pictured above). One reader suggested it might be an eastern rosebud. Everything I could find online seemed to support her suggestion, so I agreed that was probably it. But, later, another reader said she felt, because of its hue and bark, it wasn’t an eastern rosebud, but was a jacaranda. So…I started digging around about jacarandas online and could see where she might be right—but the leaves where not the right shape for a jacaranda. So, now I was really puzzled.

I learned something from all this: I needed to better document the bark, flowers, and leaves with good close-up photos; a full shot of just the tree crown wasn’t enough information. I returned to the tree in question and did just that. One of those close-ups is immediately below; it shows the bark and leaves of the tree in question.

close-up of orchid tree leaves and bark
close-up of orchid tree leaves and bark

I sent those photos to the Pinellas County Extension Service. (I should have thought of them long ago, but didn’t.) They quite generously and immediately wrote back with the identity of the tree. It’s an orchid tree (Bauhinia variegata)! So thank you everyone for all your comments and suggestions and a special thank you to the Extension–what a valuable resource they are.

Jacaranda

If you compare the leaves and flowers of the jacaranda tree pictured immediately below with the leaves of the orchid tree pictured immediately above, you can see that they’re quite dissimilar. But, the jacaranda tree was a good guess and they’re absolutely everywhere right now in St. Pete. Not only are they a gorgeous flowering tree, they stay in bloom for quite a long time.

close-up of jacaranda tree flowers and leaves
close-up of jacaranda tree flowers and leaves

The Florida Data page for the Jacaranda acutifolia has some very detailed information on jacaranda trees. Florida Data has become my “go to” page for Florida horticulture information. Pictured below are three jacaranda trees in one St. Pete home’s beautiful yard. What a visual treat those three trees are.

three jacaranda trees
three jacaranda trees

Royal Poinciana

I think the tree in another St. Pete yard, pictured below, is a royal poinciana (Delonix regia), also called the flamboyant tree, flame tree, and peacock flower. It’s staggering when you see one. There’s an intensity to the red that I’m not able to capture with a snapshot. I suppose it could be a jacaranda tree with brilliant red flowers because the leaves are identical to my eye. But, I couldn’t find any reference to jacarandas being anything other than purple. I’m pretty sure it’s a royal poinciana. As I understand it, and from my own personal experience, they’re much more common down in Key West than here in St. Pete. I believe they can’t tolerate well even the light frost we get here.

royal poinciana (I think)
royal poinciana (I think)

Tamarind

Another tree with leaves identical, to my eye, to the jacaranda and the royal poinciana, is the one in the photos below. I don’t think it’s either a jacaranda or royal poinciana, though, because of its size (it’s much larger), the shape of its crown (it’s very evenly rounded and full), and its pods (to my knowledge neither the jacaranda or the royal poinciana have pods). (Click on any of the photos for a larger image.) I’m not certain if this tree flowers–I don’t think it does, but I’ll keep an eye on it to see. My best guess is that it’s a tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica). The picture in Florida Data doesn’t look like the tree pictured here, but the description fits, perfectly. The tree pictured here is located in the parking lot of the City of St. Petersburg Sunshine Center next door to the St. Petersburg Shuffle Board Club (also see The St. Pete Shuffle and St. Pete Shuffle India Night).

leaves & pods of St. Pete tamarind (?) tree
leaves & pods of St. Pete tamarind (?) tree

As always, comments are encouraged and appreciated. If you think I’m right about the royal poinciana and tamarind trees, let me know; if you think I’m wrong, then it’s even more important you let me know. Eventually, after some time has passed so I don’t wear out my welcome with the kind folks at the county extension, I’ll ask them what they think.

Here’s a few websites about Florida trees, particularly flowering trees, that I’ve selected from the zillions on Google.

crown of St. Pete tamarind (?) tree
crown of St. Pete tamarind (?) tree


Most images link to larger images.
click on larger image for closeup

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

zanna May 30, 2009 at 5:23 am

We recently moved to St Petersburg and have been loving the purple trees, but had no idea what they were called. Thanks for the information!

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Hilton Kean Jones May 30, 2009 at 5:27 am

Welcome to St. Pete. It’s a wonderful town. Thanks for the comment.

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Richard June 12, 2009 at 8:34 pm

You’re perfectly right about the jacaranda, the bauhinia (orchid tree), and the poinciana. I’m not sure about the tamarind. Although I’ve seen the first two in protected areas in south Tampa, I’ve never seen a poinciana there. In fact, coastal south Pinellas is where such tropical trees begin to be seen with any regularity, along with coconut palms, royal palms, banyans, and rubber trees. The old guide books used to refer to our area as the gateway to the tropics, and they were right.

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carolann cahill June 20, 2009 at 8:10 am

hey,
love the blooming trees here in SW FL. The Jacaranda and the poinciana do have seed pods.

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Hilton Kean Jones June 20, 2009 at 8:19 am

Thanks for the comment and for the tip on jacaranda and poinciana pods. I’m very glad to know about your blog. I may have more questions. I admire the plants, but I don’t know much about them.

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maggie June 25, 2009 at 4:17 am

Hi. Yup, you got a royal poinciana tree there, the magnificent red ones. They grow like an umbrella shape and most people don’t know that they need to sleep, so if you have a light nearby either turn it off or cover it, so the tree can get its beauty sleep. They drop big long brown seed pods that dry with time and open up to release the seeds, so look under any tree for the pods right around now if you want to try to start another tree from seed. The pods are fun to play with, too, if you have kids around, as they make a neat sound when you shake them. We used to use them for “sword fights” when I was a kid.
The purple is jacaranda, and they have an amazing fragrance during certain times when they are in bloom. I know less about them, except that they attract the macaws and parrots from Parrot Jungle when they have the seeds on them. They don’t grow in an umbrella shape, but rather more upright and vertical in shape.
The one with the almost heart-shaped leaves is an orchid tree, and wait until you see them bloom, they are spectacular. I have never known them to have fragrance, though.
The tamarind tree has a very interesting feature to it, when you stand under it you almost feel like you are in air conditioning, it absorbs so much heat from the air. They have pods up to about as long as your hand, and the fruit inside the pod is used in cooking in the caribbean and asia, and probably other places as well. I couldn’t make anything palatable out of them on the first try, but I didn’t know what I was doing, either.
I am glad you are enjoying all the beautiful trees and plants in your area. I think most people really do forget to “stop and smell the roses”, or at least enjoy the beauty that is all around us here in Florida. And it’s free!

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Richard July 2, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Hi, Hilton. I’ve enjoyed your blog, and was amused that all three trees are abundant here in San Diego as well. Jacaranda (pronounced Jack-a-rhonda by most here, instead of the Spanish Ha-ka-ran-da) blooms are all over the sidewalks right now. I’m looking forward to a visit to St. Pete at the end of August. I’m considering a move. It’s nice to have your blog as a guide. Thanks!

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Hilton Kean Jones July 3, 2009 at 2:34 am

Thanks for reading and for the comment, Richard. I’ve lived in San Diego, too. I love it there. It would be difficult to choose between the two places. I attended a couple years of college on Point Loma and awakened in my dorm room to the sound of the morning surf. That, and hanging out in Ocean Beach and Mission Beach…very good times, good memories. Worked there as an adult a couple times, too. You’ve got a tough choice!

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Becky McCurdy July 3, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Why doesn’t my Royal Poinciana tree bloom?

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Hilton Kean Jones July 3, 2009 at 3:46 pm

I don’t know. But, if you call your local county agricultural extension, they will tell you. I’m very impressed with that invaluable service. Best of luck!

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David Dierlam September 5, 2013 at 12:56 am

I’m guessing it might be too young. Mine is just a little over 2 yrs old and bloomed very little this year. I see old trees here in S. Texas that are totally covered by blooms. It’s funny because the owner is an old lady that cannot care for it like she would like too, yet the tree does just fine with no extra care.

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Megan August 15, 2009 at 6:20 pm

I just moved to Sarasota from Michigan and today traveled around checking out trees and plants. So many beauties to choose from. I have fallen in love with the Royal Poinciana! I didn’t see one at the nursery but saw a couple at this guy’s house that was selling plants. His street was full of them and some were quite large! He gave me a pod with seeds but I may be too anxious to grow one- so I will be looking for a nursery for a Royal Poinciana and a Jacaranda!

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carolann August 16, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Meagan
Welcome to SRQ. I live here also. If you open the pod you’ll find quite a few seeds. Let them dry a bit. You can scuff them a little and throw one or two in some dirt and see what happens. Be brave my friend! Sometimes the best way to learn is to experiment. Yes, even loose a few in the process.
Hilton
I checked out your sisters site. If she is ever back in FL take her to Bok Tower. Great gardens.

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Dawn September 3, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Talk about ANGELS!!!! My grandmother absolutely adored the Royal Poincianas and Jacaranda trees. (I truly believe she had a hand in getting me to your website!) Unfortunaltely I lost her many years ago to the heavenly gardens the good Lord needed her for :-)
She also raised orchids as I do now with loving memories of her and my childhood! I grew up in Miami, Fl, but now reside in noeastern No Carolina. I miss so many of the plants and trees from my home state, but after reading some of the blogs, I am sorely tempted to try growing a Poinciana here in Carolina. We have Mimosa trees here which are close, but do not have the impact in blooms that the Poinciana tree has. Wish I could win the lottery and move back to Fla. Do you think theres a chance of success? We have very warm and humid summers sometimes reaching 100 degrees, and winters with little snow (usually)… once in a while getting into the teens. I believe we are in Zone 8a/ 8b borderline. 1 hr from the ocean- east coast.
5 miles from the Virginia state line. Any input would be appreciated! I don’t want to kill a sapling intentionally!

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Annamaria September 15, 2009 at 8:35 pm

My first encounter with Jacaranda trees was in Sarasota 17 years ago while visiting in May. The trees were in full bloom and what a spectacular sight! I took some pods home and planted them. I live in the northeast and didn’t know if they would grow in my zone. These were very easy to grow and FAST growing. I raised them indoors for 3 years and decided to transplant them outdoors. Unfortunately, we had a brutal winter with many freeze thaws and the trees didn’t make it. It took me a long time to track down this tree and it does grow in zone 3/4. These trees have become very popular in Nursery Catalogs as cheap as $5.95 for a tree about 1-3 ft.

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gail September 17, 2009 at 2:05 pm

I dug up two tiny 8 inch trees in an alleyway that I thought were royal poincianas. I planted them last year and they’re already nearly six feet tall. Now I’m beginning to doubt that they’re poincianas — the individual leaves look exactly the same, in that feathery configuration, but they’re larger than the poinciana leaves on my neighborhood trees. When it gets dry they sort of fold up, apparently to conserve water. Could they be jacaranda or tamarind? Do these trees have noticeably larger leaves in the same configuration as the poinciana? thanks for any help — I live in south fla.

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Hilton Kean Jones September 17, 2009 at 2:12 pm

The people who will know are your county extension service. In Google, enter the following: X county extension service. Instead of X write the name of your county. If I enter “pinellas county extension service” in google, my extension service is the very first listing that comes up–http://pinellas.ifas.ufl.edu/. Just give them a call or send them an email. The service is free (your tax dollars pay for it). They’re happy to help. Good luck!!!!!

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David Dierlam September 5, 2013 at 1:00 am

Probably Jacaranda. The get very leggy and grow straight up with very little side branches. Tamarind are very hard to grow from seed. I’m trying some now and have had very little luck. I’ve read many trees you see are actually from cuttings using the rooting hormone. Good luck!!

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Heather September 19, 2009 at 11:06 am

Hello! I love this beautiful tree and I have been trying to find some sort of local “jacaranda finder” website (with no luck) and you seem to know where I might be able to find a jacaranda tree that would be a proper location for a wedding! Do you know of any particular churches or gardens or anything along those lines where a wedding could be held that features a beautiful jacaranda tree? Your help would be much appreciated if you know of any sights off the top of your head :) Thank you!

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Thanh August 24, 2013 at 7:21 am

Hi Heather
Jacaranda tree could be found in Southern California park or on residence street where the city planning for viewing .The Santa Ana and Westminster city in Orange County are the most you can find them My area corner of Hall and S.Diamond st have plenty of them on street side .when it blooming you will see sky full of pink in sunshine and pink ground carpet.

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Heather September 19, 2009 at 11:06 am

one more thing… I meant in the St Pete/Tampa/Clearwater area ;) Thanks again!

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Hilton Kean Jones September 19, 2009 at 11:14 am

No, I don’t know of a good tree for that purpose, locally, BUT…I suggest you take a look at this page from the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Convention and Visitors Bureau: http://www.floridasbeach.com/listings.php?type=wedding. They list 3 pages of outdoor wedding venues in Tampa Bay.

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Heather September 19, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Why thank you very much! I checked it out and there were definitely some very unique places I had never heard of that looked great!

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Megan September 19, 2009 at 10:41 pm

My girlfriend and I are growing Royal Poinciana’s from seed. We started 2 weeks ago. We both had one birth each from the many seeds we planted in pots. I did not prepare the seeds in anyway. They are amazing growers. In one week it has grown 6 inches! and six inches wide. It has been alot of fun. I want to plant a Royal Poinciana in my front yard here in Sarasota. As I look around the neighborhood (Lake Sarasota) I have spyed several Royals. I went to a nursery and purchased a dwarf poinciana. these grow to 10 foot by 10 foot and they are very pretty. Good news! A second Royal popped his head up from the pot. If anyone knows where to purchase nice Royals, please comment. I have found Blue Sky nursery on Fruitville Rd that have some 12 foot trees for $125 plus $50 delivery and planting. but I would like to compare with other nurseries.

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thida November 11, 2009 at 3:38 pm

It is not tamarind tree. The leaves and fruits look very different. It may be silk tree/

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Charlie September 1, 2010 at 6:59 pm

I got a pod off a tree in

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Hilton Kean Jones September 1, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Charlie, I think the end of your comment got cut off somehow.

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CJ June 6, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Hello i am a plant fanatic and enjoyed your pictures of the flowering trees!!! I have a purple Orchid tree in my backyard and it is doing really well over here in Orlando. Jacaranda trees are everywhere in Orlando…mostly the yellow blooming ones but i have seen the purple flowering ones and they take your breath away!!! Jacaranda trees also come in a white flowering variety …Jacaranda Alba and they are mouth dropping in beauty!! I am currently looking for a white variety to grow right now! The poinciana trees are shockingly red and i have seen most of them in Key West but just today i was driving around Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island and the red poinciana was everywhere!! A very stunning tree…..i am not familiar with the Tamarind Tree but i am going to research it further….if you have never seen a Rainbow Eucalyptus tree …google a pic of it….it is spectacular…the bark turns all kinds of colours….red, green, blue…..very unusual tree!!!

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Dave January 22, 2012 at 1:49 am

Hi Hilton, very well done reference article.
Over dinner host was saying one sweets recipe required some Tamarind juice but, they hadn’t heard of any such product.
At another time I was visiting Brisbane & knew those trees with Jacaranda type leaves were, what ? Poinsettas I said – wrong! Later it came to me, ah yes, Poincianas!!!!
So, off to the WEB and, whacko, there you go.
These trees will not grow here, too high & cold at 900mtrs.
Orange Aus

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Stephanie B March 14, 2012 at 4:38 pm

I live in Tampa and have been looking to find out the name of the wonderfully flowering tree in my front yard. I moved in over the summer and had no idea the tree would bring such beautiful flowers. Now, I am noticing these trees everywhere! At first I thought it might be a Hong Kong orchid tree, but the Bauhinia variegata photos match our flowers exactly. Thank you! And also good tip to remember your local extension office.

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Laura May 6, 2012 at 10:38 am

Where can you purchase a Jacaranda tree in the St Pete/Tampa area?

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grace June 2, 2012 at 10:43 am

Last time my husband was in the hospital I discovered the gorgeous purple flowering tree out in the court yard there. I had no idea what the name was but I brought a pod home with me and threw the seeds in a pot of dirt. It was about a week and they started growing! Now I have about 15 separated into different pots! Thank you for this blog because now I know their name!

Oh! We have a poinciana tree down the road from us and I got a seed pod. Hope to have some sprouts from them soon! I have a close up photo of the poinciana flower if you’d like to see it. They are really interesting!

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Hilton Kean Jones June 3, 2012 at 2:48 am

I’d love to see that poinciana closeup. Just put it on Flickr or Picasaweb (or some other free picture site) send a link to it in a reply–that should work fine. Glad you enjoy the blog.

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s watson August 23, 2012 at 10:39 am

We vacationed in a lovely B&B in Key West in March. Our B&B had a balcony and scattered on the floor were numerous seeds. We believed they came from the trees around the balcony. We collected the seeds and i found they had a high germination rate and have grown rapidly during our hot north carolina summer. One is about two feet. They have simple, elliptical, pinnate, toothed leaves that are opposite on the stem. The texture of the leaves is not smooth but the fuzz is very sparse. The leaves are fairly large (about the size, or maybe a bit larger, of a birch leaf and very similar in appearance). Can you assist with an id of this plant?

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Kathryn September 14, 2012 at 4:58 am

The photo of the “tamarind” is a “peltophorum dubium” tree. We have them growing all over here in North Queensland, Australia. Also the Poincianna, the Jacaranda and the Bauhinia which flowers in shades from white through pink and deep magenta to purple. The Bauhinia can become a problem in the garden as does the Peltophorum as they self sow and turn up everywhere. The Peltophorum caused alot of problems when the recent cyclone Yasi hit, they are brittle and blow over easily. Beautiful colour in the garden in the dry months here.

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Hilton Kean Jones September 14, 2012 at 6:41 am

Thank you for your note. I’m glad to know what it is. I just enjoy the colors and shapes so I have to rely on others for this kind of information.

Australia! I’ve never had a comment from Australia. It is a place I’d love to visit someday. Thanks again for your note.

Hilton

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Joelr27 October 4, 2012 at 11:55 am

Hi Mr. Hilton. This tree is know with a lot of different names in all regions it’s grows, but the name is Delonix regia. Well know as Flamboyant in the caribbean, but also have a lot of names in different countries. Check the link below for more info.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamboyant_tree

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Donna October 6, 2012 at 1:16 am

I recently visited Key West and brought home a Poinciana Tree. Will it grow in Louisiana?

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RayRay October 6, 2012 at 6:09 am

Hi…..I live in the Bahamas…..(Nassau)…The Royal Poinciana is indeed a beaut…..the different shades of orange aglow with the sunlight in breathtaking……there is a hard to find YELLOW poinciana that you need to see….amazing indeed..
will send a photo soon.

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roberta jordan February 12, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Hi There! I’ve been wondering what the tree is in our front yard. Thirty years ago when I lived in this condo, I didn’t have time to wonder about such things….and it was just a twig.
Now, its massive and always bare when I’m back in town. If anyone in the know has time to drive by 366 47th ave N, (it’s on the “NE Villas” property) .
Would love to know. If it blooms, we’ll have to stay & wait!
Thanks Much !

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Leigh February 18, 2013 at 9:36 pm

I grew up in Miami, Florida and lived there from 1955 to 1981. We had a massive Royal Poinciana tree in our back yard. The house we lived in was built in 1923 and the tree was planted soon after. I went back to Miami in 2010 and went by my this former house and the tree is still there and alive and doing well.

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Gianina McMullan February 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Will the Royal Poincana grow in the DFW area?

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Betty Sue Sands April 29, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Will these trees thrive in central fl?

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john reynolds July 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm

i need to know how to kill orchid saplings that are over takeing a yard if you have any ideas please help

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