Tropical Trees

By Deryn Thorpe – This article first appeared in Habitat in The West Australian newspaper.

I’ve recently spent time in Brisbane where I have rediscovered my passion for tropical trees which adorn the parks and gardens with lush shady foliage and spectacular flowers.

I have not had much success with tropical trees at home, where against my better judgement I tried to establish a poinciana tree in what is probably the coldest, windiest spot in the back yard.

After two failures I chose something a little less cold sensitive, planting a cape chestnut (Calodendrum capense) from Africa which grows to 6m and is semi-deciduous with panicles of pale pink flowers in summer.

Fortunately my neighbour also loves tropical trees and is growing a poinciana tree in the more sheltered front yard where I can admire its beauty from my study window.

Poinciana Delonix regia

Poinciana Delonix regia

Poincianas are often described as the most beautiful trees in the world and have a broad spreading canopy, ferny foliage and orchid-like red flowers in summer.  They originate in Madagascar and only grow from 3m to 5m tall but can spread to twice their height wide.  If you want to admire their form check out the park on the corner of Vincent St and Charles St in North Perth.

Another favoured deciduous tree in Brisbane is the leopard tree (Caesalpinia ferrea) which comes from Brazil and gets its name because of its unusual dappled trunk in grey, brown and cream.

Its lacy foliage is lush and green and in summer is festooned with clusters of bright yellow flowers.  The tree grows to less than 10m and is drought tolerant once established, surviving the occasional light frost.

If you want to grow any of these trees find a sheltered spot with improved, well draining soil and provide lots of deep watering with a hand held hose from spring through o autumn so the roots grow deep.

Deryn Thorpe is an award winning Perth writer. She occupies herself as a journalist, a garden consultant, PR person and marketer. She now lends her considerable talent to producing regular pieces for the Habitat section on the West Australian newspaper.