16.8.11

From WAY Over There-
Madagascar Trees -
 Colvillea


Colvillea racemosa


This is the first installment of a short series on trees from one of the most interesting countries in the world- Madagascar. There are hundreds, if not thousands of interesting plants in this country-continent. A hefty series of textbooks could be written on just the tree and palm flora of the country, much less the extraordinary fauna, insects and smaller plants. This would be one of the areas so often called The Land That Time Forgot. This blog, unlike most of my blogs, is dedicated to just one extraordinary species, the Colville's Glory Tree. It has a lot to say in its favor, and a few things to watch out for, too. 

There is only species in the genus, C. racemosa, which in taxonomy circles is called a monotypic genus. The tree can be grown any place where a Royal Poinciana could be grown, and they bear a resemblance to each other (both are from Madagascar). Whereas Poinciana tree have a much more lateral aspect to their habit, Colville's Glory tends to grow much more vertical, up to 50 feet tall and 20-25 feet across . The trees have similar foliage and similar growing conditions, preferring well-drained soil and all-day sunshine to grow best. Poinciana trees and their close relatives usually bloom in Spring or Summer, Colvillea trees bloom around Halloween, fitting for its glowing orange-red inflorescences. 


Unquestionably, this tree is flashy and well worth the effort to grow it. It is undemanding in its needs, but is has some interesting quirks about it. One of the quirks is that the tree may be leafless much of the Summer, then leaf out in August, bloom in October, and stay in foliage until January. The same tree may lose its leaves in winter in a different year, then get a new set of leaves in March, and carry on as a normal tree. A second quirk is that the trees root very slowly into their new environment, taking as much as 3  years to get well established. A third quirk is that the trees are rather hard to find in nurseries. Small trees pop up at flowering tree sales occasionally, but without regularity. We have a number of these at Pinecrest Gardens, buying them as soon as they came available at Richard Lyons' Nursery, a local Miami nursery specializing in flowering trees.   


flower heads on Colville's Glory
courtesy of Dave's Garden

This is one of Madagascar's great treasures, amongst a trove of others. In the next blog installments, I'll select a few trees worth mentioning, and hope that I can inspire others to broaden their scope of interests.    





Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens      


1 comment:

  1. ive a big colvillea race ,here in northern negev sahal zone. flowers copiously on upper 1/3 ,in full sun. sheds leaves nov, new ones only in may. have grown others fron seed but need ample water for at least 5 yrs to take, must be depotted to earth no later than 2nd year. spectacular, also attracts birds and bees.

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