As I write this, the heat is increasing, the holidays are closer, exams are being written and Summer fever is beginning in Egypt!
And it is at this time that the breath-taking beauty and brilliance of a glorious tree in flower can literally stop you in your tracks as you gaze at it (but watch out for traffic!!)
What is this tree?
Well it has several names. I grew up calling it the “Flamboyant” tree (meaning attracts attention because of exuberance and stylishness).
Its formal name is “Delonix Regia”, the first word meaning ‘claw’, describing the look of the flower.
But my favourite is the regal French name: “Royal Poinciana”.
It is also called the flame tree.
Where does it come from?
Interestingly enough, the origins of this tree are said to be in Madagascar, and they can live for up to 30 years.
What does this remarkable tree look like?
LEAVES: they are fern-like, and about 40 cm long. They provide a beautiful canopy of shade as they overlap and spread out rather like a large, natural umbrella. The leaves are a rich green, and when the sun hits them, they seem to light up with energy.
FLOWERS: are a bright red-orange in colour, and great in number so together they provide an explosion of colour. The vivid contrast between the leaves and the flowers is what makes the tree so eye-catching. The flowers are made up of 5 petals: 4 of them are spread in a circle and the 5th is an upright petal in the middle, larger and spotted.
SEED PODS: these are long and slender, and when young are bright green, soft and feathery. As they mature, they become dark brown and woody, and the seeds rattle when shaken. It has been whispered that sometimes these dried pods are compared to women chatting together, as they both make a “clack-clack-clack-clack” sound!
IN WINTER: the appearance of the tree changes totally as it is a deciduous tree (sheds its leaves in winter). So it has bare, brown branches in winter, with the long, dark brown woody pods hanging from the branches: nothing like its summer vibrance at all.
So if you are in Egypt in summer, make sure you keep your eyes open and look for these amazing trees. They shout out with joy and announce that summer has arrived, and will make your heart sing!