The Royal Poinciana is a species of flowering tree from the legume family, noted for its fern-like leaves and flamboyant display of flowers. The tree’s vivid red flowers and bright green foliage make it an exceptionally striking sight.
It is endemic to Madagascar, where it is found in the dry deciduous forests. In addition to its ornamental value, it is also a useful shade tree in tropical conditions, because it usually grows to a modest height but spreads widely, and its dense foliage provides full shade. In areas with a marked dry season, it sheds its leaves during the drought, but in other areas it is virtually evergreen.
The Royal Poinciana requires a tropical or near-tropical climate, but can tolerate drought and salty conditions. In the United States, it grows only in South Florida, Southern California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is much loved in the Caribbean, and many Puerto Rican paintings feature Royal Poinciana. It is also the national flower of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Its flowering season is April through June, which coincides with the end of the school year in northern tropical climates. Because of this timing, the flower of Poinciana often generates strong emotions among graduating students, as the Poinciana bloom when they are about to leave their school and their childhood behind.