Peltophorum pterocarpum

yellow poinciana


Peltophorum pterocarpum

(DC.) Becker ex K.Heyne 1927

pronounced: pell-TOFF-oh-rum teer-oh-KAR-pum

(Fabaceae — the pea family)

subfamily: Caesalpinioideae - the cassia subfamily

common names: yellow poinciana, copperpod tree

native 4Peltophorum comes from the Greek πελτη (pelté), a shield, and φορεω (phoreo), to bear, referring to the shape of the stigma; pterocarpum is from πτερον (pteron), a wing, and καρπος (karpos), fruit.

Yellow Poinciana is native to coastal areas from Sri Lanka through the Malay archipelago and Indonesia to the northern parts of Australia’s Northern Territory. It is found at an altitudinal range of 0 – 100 m, usually growing in open forest, but also found in monsoon forest and in closed forests, particularly on heavy soils on river flood plains. It is widely cultivated throughout the tropics, especially in areas where there is a marked dry season. It appears to have become naturalized in some areas outside its natural distribution, especially in parts of southern Florida and Hawaii. The species is often planted as a street tree in tropical and sub-tropical cities. In India they are often alternated with Delonix regia, the red poinciana, to give a striking yellow and red effect when the trees are in bloom. The tree pictured is in Nelly Bay, near the boat marina.

This handsome upright, spreading, semi-evergreen tree has a rounded canopy and is capable of reaching 35 m in height with a 10 – 15 m spread; under cultivation it rarely grows over 10 m tall.

The trunk is anything up to 1 m in diameter, and the bark is smooth and grey. The stems and twigs are rusty-red tomentose. The alternate leaves are bipinnate, about 60 cm long with 8 - 10 pairs of pinnae each bearing 10 – 20 pairs of oblong leaflets 0.8 – 2.5 cm long, with oblique bases.

The fragrant flowers, giving off a grapelike perfume, especially in the evening, are clustered on upright panicles about 45 cm long, with rust-coloured buds. Each flower is about 4 cm across, with 5 sepals and 5 translucent yellow crinkled petals that are hairy at the bottom. The flowers have 10 conspicuous orange stamens, and each petal has a reddish brown mark in the centre. The stigma is bright green. The trees begin to flower after about 4 years.

The fruits are purplish brown flattened oblong 1 – 5 seeded pods, flat, thin, with winged seeds, up to about 14 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, that turn black and stay on the tree until the next flowering season. The seeds are very hard, and about 9 mm by 4 mm in size.

The timber has a wide variety of uses, including cabinet-making, and in places the foliage is used as a fodder crop.

On Java, a dark brown batik dye, sogan, is produced from the bark.


Photographs taken in Nelly Bay 2014
Page last updated 7th March 2019