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Products > Spathodea campanulata
Spathodea campanulata - African Tulip Tree
Image of Spathodea campanulata
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Tree
Family: Bignoniaceae (Bignonias)
Origin: Africa, Central (Africa)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Orange Red
Bloomtime: Fall
Height: 25-40 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30 F
Spathodea campanulata (African Tuliptree) An evergreen tropical tree that reaches 50 to 80 feet in its native lands in Central Africa, but is more typically seen in California much smaller at around 25 to 35 feet tall by 15 to 25 feet wide. It is fast growing in youth, developing an upright rounded canopy and a thick trunk with rough gray bark and soft brittle branches and rusty brown stems holding attractive 18 inch long pinnately compound leaves with 4 to 6 inch long leathery leaflets that first emerge a bronze color and age to dark green. The large clusters of brilliant orange-red tulip-shaped flowers appear at branch tips in coastal California in late summer and fall, starting off as a baseball size cluster of brown velvety claw shaped buds that split open lengthwise to reveal the 3 inch wide by 5 inch deep tulip-like trumpet shaped orange-red flowers with ruffled edges that last several days. These open flowers are cup-shaped and hold rain and dew, making them attractive to many species of birds. Plant in full sun in a warm location (south-facing slopes or sides of a building are best in our cool coastal climate) in well-drained soil and irrigate occasionally. It is an evergreen tree in the tropics that can go drought deciduous and in our mild climate area will stop flowering and often go deciduous in late fall or at first frost, but in warm winters can flower through the winter, however it can freeze to hard wood when temperatures go much below freezing (28-30 F depending on duration). There are reports that roots might possibly survive to even lower temperatures, but it is best planted in USDA zones 10 - 11. It can also be grown close to the ocean with some protection from sea breezes (Zone 2) but seems to like the warmer temperatures afforded to it a bit further back from the beach. Spathodea campanulata comes from dry humid forests and savannas of sub-Saharan Africa from Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia but it is now planted worldwide. Spathodea campanulata is monotypic (the only species in its genus) and first observed in 1787 along the Gold Coast in now what is Ghana by the French naturalist Ambrose Maria Francis Joseph Palisot de Beauvois, who later described it in his Flora D'Oware et de Benin in 1805. The name comes from the Ancient Greek words 'spathe' meaning "spathe" or "boat shaped" and 'odes' meaning "like" or "of the nature of" in reference to the large boat shaped calyx. The specific epithet is also a reference to the campanulate or "bell shaped" flowers. Besides African Tuliptree other common names include Fountain Tree, Pickari, Nandi flame and Squirt tree (because the nectar in the flower buds can be squirted out). Though noted as one of the world's most beautiful trees, Spathodea campanulata is also listed as one of the worst of weeds. Though not so in California, it is considered invasive in Hawaii, Queensland (Australia), Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka. We grow this tree from seed but grow the more uncommon yellow flowering form, which is a grafted plant and list it as Spathodea campanulata 'Aurea'. There are nice plantings of this African Tuliptree as street trees in Santa Barbara on lower Alisos Street on the lower eastside as well as large specimens on the UCSB campus. There are also nice specimens in Balboa Park and San Diego State University in San Diego, CA, at the San Diego Botanic Gardens (Quail Botanical Gardens) in Encinitas, CA and at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia, CA. 

This information about Spathodea campanulata displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.