Peltophorum pterocarpum

Family : Fabaceae

Text © Pietro Puccio


English translation by Mario Beltramini


At home in South-East Asia, Peltophorum pterocarpum reaches 20 m of height © Giuseppe Mazza

At home in South-East Asia, Peltophorum pterocarpum reaches 20 m of height © Giuseppe Mazza

The species is native to Australia (Northern Territory), Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam, where it grows in the forests, mainly along the coasts, on rocky and sandy soils in zones characterized by monsoonal climate.

The name of the genus comes from the combination of the Greek substantive “πέλτη” (pĕltē), which indicated a small shield shaped like a crescent, and of the verb “φορέω” (phoreo) = to carry, with reference to the peltate stigma; the name of the species is the combination of the Greek substantives “πτερόν” (pterόn) = wing and “καρπός” (carpόs) = fruit, with obvious reference.

Common names: copper pod, golden flame, yellow-flamboyant, yellow-flame, yellow flametree, yellow poinciana (English); tramkong, trasek (Khmer); framboyan amarillo (Spanish-Cuba); jamerelang laut, siar (Tagalog); kaju suga (Javanese); kondachinta, ivalvagai, peela gulmohar, perungondrai (Hindi); soga (Indonesian); dom trosek (Lao); batai, jemerelang (Malaysian); konyaivakai, perungkonyai (Sinhala); no si, saan ngoen (Thai); lim vangh, trac vang (Vietnamese).

The Peltophorum pterocarpum (DC.) K.Heyne (1927) is a tree, deciduous for a short period, unarmed, 4-20 m tall, with a dense umbrella-like canopy and trunk of 40-60 cm of diameter with greyish bark and young branches covered by a rust coloured tomentum; it has a deep radical apparatus and is capable to fix the atmospheric nitrogen, thus enriching the soil.

The bipinnate leaves, on a 5-7 cm long robust petiole also covered by a rusty coloured tomentum, are spirally arranged, 20-40 cm long, with 7-16 pairs of opposite bipinnate leaflets, 8-12 cm long, each having 10-18 pairs of oblong-trapezoid close leaflets with obtuse apex, 0,8-1,6 cm long and 0,3-0,6 cm broad, coriaceous, of dark green colour above, pale green below.

Terminal or axillar panicle inflorescences, erect, up to 40 cm long, carrying a crowd of bisexual flowers, opening in succession starting from the base, with pleasant scent and rich of nectar, with oval, about 0,7 cm long, sepals, 5 obovate petals, fringed, of luminous yellow colour with reddish brown spot at the centre, 1,8 cm long and 1 cm broad, and 10 yellow, 1,2 cm long stamina, densely hairy at the base, with orange anthers; peduncle, rachises, pedicels and sepals are covered by rusty coloured tomentum.

The fruits are elliptic to oblong compressed legumes, winged, 5-10 cm long, with about 0,4 cm broad wings, auburn when ripe with the time turning blackish, persistent for long time on the plant, containing 2-4 flat oblong seeds, about 1 cm long and 0,4 cm broad, particularly hard.

Very diffused in the tropical parks and gardens, it has even 40 cm long bright inflorescences © Giuseppe Mazza © Giuseppe Mazza

Very diffused in the tropical parks and gardens, it has even 40 cm long bright inflorescences © Giuseppe Mazza © Giuseppe Mazza

It reproduces by seed, previously scarified, in order to notch the hard and waterproof tegument, and kept in water for one day, in sandy loam maintained humid at the temperature of 24-26 °C, with germination times of 2-5 weeks and first blooming starting from the fourth year of age; it may be reproduced also by cutting and grafting. Tree of great ornamental and landscaping effect due to the elegant foliage and the copious long lasting blooming, of fast growth and easy cultivation, is cultivable in full sun in the tropical and subtropical climate zones, where, when adult, can bear drops of temperature up to about -2 °C, provided exceptional and for very short period, eventually with loss of the foliage. It is not particular about the soil, even if poor, provided well drained, acidic to alkaline, resists to drought periods and saline aerosols, can therefore be employed close to the sea.

Very diffused in the tropics in parks and gardens as isolated specimen or in group and for road trees, is utilized also as shade tree in the coffee and cocoa plantations. Young specimens can be cultivated in pot, also as bonsai, in particularly draining loam and in as much as possible luminous position, with lowest temperature values never under the 15 °C. The leaves are used locally as fodder and from the bark, rich in tannins, they get a yellowish brown dye utilized in Java for colouring the textiles; the reddish brown wood is used in the constructions, for furniture, fixtures and boats, as well as fuel. Bark and flowers extracts are utilized in the traditional medicine for various pathologies.

Synonyms: Inga pterocarpa DC. (1825); Caesalpinia inermis Roxb. (1832); Poinciana roxburghii G. Don (1832); Caesalpinia ferruginea Decne. (1834); Peltophorum ferrugineum (Decne.) Benth. (1864); Caesalpinia glenieii Thwaites (1864); Peltophorum inerme (Roxb.) Náves ex Fern.-Vill. (1880); Brasilettia ferruginea (Decne.) Kuntze (1891); Baryxylum inerme (Roxb.) Pierre (1899); Peltophorum roxburghii (G. Don) O. Deg. (1938).


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