I was looking to test run a new lens and just couldn't resist this beautiful Flame of the Forest (Delonix regia) in full bloom. It is also called the Flamboyant, which is indeed a most appropriate name for the tree when it is in full bloom.
Corners describes it so well: "This tree is a joy of creation, beyond the invention of man."
A tall tree (to 20m) that grows best in sunshine (not in shade) and in good well-drained soil. It has strong roots so it is seldom blown down.
It has compound leaves (20-60cm) comprising many tiny leaflets that fold together at dusk.
The stunning red flowers are large and reminds me of an orchid. According to Corners, the petals begin to emerge from the bud shortly after midnight and are full open after 9am. The flowers only last two days, with parts of it curling up after the evening of the first day. While the trees in more seasonal climates may bloom and shed leaves all at the same time, in our part of the world without obvious seasons, various trees may bloom at different times.
There were tiny little birds and big bumble bees at the flowers today. But I didn't take photos because I was chatting about the tree with a park visitor.
The flowers turn into large long woody pods that split open to reveal 20-40 seeds. According to Burkill, the timber is very durable, doesn't split and resists moisture and insects. In Sumatra it is used for posts and supports for flooring. Parts of the tree have minor traditional medicinal uses. There was an attempt to use the tree to recover sand dunes which did not succeed.
According to Corners, this tree originally from Madagascar where it "lay hidden" until discovered in 1820 by an Austrian botanist and then widely introduced throughout the world. He says it was introduced to Singapore in 1840.
Alas, according to Corners "as a wild plant it is extinct" in its homeland. There were even doubts of its origin until "a few trees were found in some original forest" in Madagascar. Even in Corners time he says "deforestation is rampant" and he doubts whether this forest will survive. It's so sad to read about this.
How did the lens test go? Went well, and did the job I expected it to.
After obstinately sticking to prime lenses for years, I've finally crumbled. Trying to take photos of tiny flowers on tall trees in dark mangrove forests while wobbling knee deep in mud made me realise I should just go get a zoom lens. I must have been the only one to go to the shop to ask for a zoom lens that could shoot trees!
I also broke another rule and bought third party. I must say I appreciate Nikkor lenses now. The new lens doesn't work as smoothly and seems rather flimsy. But it does seem to work (so far), and it is lighter, with a wider range. We'll see how it goes.
MORE trips coming up soon!
- Corners, E. J. H., 1997. Wayside Trees of Malaya: in two volumes. Fourth edition, Malayan Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur. Volume 1: 1-476 pp, plates 1-38; volume 2: 477-861 pp., plates 139-236.
- Hsuan Keng, S.C. Chin and H. T. W. Tan. 1990, The Concise Flora of Singapore: Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Singapore University Press. 222 pp.
- Burkill, I. H., 1993. A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula. 3rd printing. Publication Unit, Ministry of Agriculture, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. Volume 1: 1-1240; volume 2: 1241-2444.