Black Bean with Lorikeet

Black Bean flowers with Rainbow Lorikeet
Black Bean flowers with Rainbow Lorikeet

No, this isn’t a recipe.

The Black Bean in my title is a local tree, Castanospermum australe, and it’s flowering now. Two of our neighbours have well-grown specimens and I am simply taking this opportunity to share a photo of its attractive flowers.

I know the tree as a local species but didn’t realise just how limited its range was until I looked it up: a patchy distribution along our tropical coast, and that’s all. Nor did I realise just how high it can grow – forty metres. (I wonder if our neighbours know, but I’m not going to tell them in case they start worrying and get their trees chopped down. We need all the trees we can get, and these are very beautiful.)

There’s more information about the Black Bean here for anyone interested.

The Rainbow Lorikeet is incidental but gives me an excuse to mention my ongoing list of birds seen in my new Mundingburra garden. It’s now up to 25 species, which is not bad for less than a year. Here’s to the next 25!

Trees in blossom

paperbark flower spike
One single flower spike – of hundreds, or thousands

Paperbark trees all around town are now blossoming enthusiastically, filling the air with their overpoweringly sweet scent. They are a few weeks  earlier this year than in some previous years (August is more typical, according to my older posts here on Green Path) and I just hope that they aren’t a sign that our winter is over and our temperatures are about to start rising again. Continue reading “Trees in blossom”

Poinciana in flower

red flowering tree
Poinciana in full flower, with monsoonal skies in the background

Poincianas are not native trees but they are so much a part of Townsville’s ambiance that it’s hard to imagine the town without them. They were widely planted both in gardens and as street trees until the fashion swung towards native species, and there are still lots around. Our own street is a product of the post-war building boom so the trees on the footpath are baby-boomers too; the one above, a couple of doors down from us, is one of the best.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that some of our deciduous tropical trees seem to flower better if they are not over-watered and here’s an example: the poinciana above isn’t watered as often as our own (below) and has produced more flowers and far less foliage.

feathery foliage and red flowers
Poinciana foliage and flowers

Wikipedia’s article about the poinciana, Delonix regia, will tell you almost everything you’re likely to want to know about it, but the ABC’s Gardening Australia programme has a more local perspective.

Batwing Coral Tree

We planted a Bat-wing Coral Tree (Erythrina vespertilio, also known as a Bat’s-wing Coral Tree or Bean Tree) in our garden about fifteen years ago and it is now well above the roofline of our high-set house.  The most obvious characteristic of the foliage is the leaf shape which gives us the first half of its common name:

bat-shaped leaves
Leaves … little bats flying away from their twigs

A characteristic which becomes painfully obvious to those who walk barefoot round our garden is that the tree drops twigs and they are savagely spiky:

branch with thorns
Spiny branch

But why is is a “coral” tree?

red flowers
Flowers

The flowers are the answer but I may never have known except for a visit to the Town Common last weekend. There I saw a small tree in flower:

leafless flowering tree
The tree growing wild in the Town Common Conservation Park

When I got close enough I saw the new leaves and recognised it. It was almost leafless, but a lot of our tropical trees follow the same sequence, losing their leaves during the Dry season, flowering as the Wet approaches and then putting out new leaves. I saw a Native Gardenia in the same state on the same day, while the Kapok trees had mostly finished flowering recently and bore green seed-pods.

The specimen in our garden has never, to my knowledge, flowered; the most I’ve ever seen is a small cluster of buds. I suspect it just gets too much water; I know Poincianas flower much better when not watered – trees on road verges or in neglected gardens lose all their leaves, flower abundantly and then burst into leaf but those that are watered regularly merely lose a few leaves, flower moderately and then resume leaf production.

More information: Erythrina vespertilio on the site of the Australian Native Plants Society (Australia), formerly known as the Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants (ASGAP). There’s a related species, the Pine Mountain coral tree, here. Other relations are pests as per the pdf here and web page here.