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Spathodea - Flame of the Forest - African Tulip Tree - Some Health Benefits

Updated on September 3, 2020
rajan jolly profile image

Rajan is a botany and chemistry major. He has worked as a poultry breeder for 23 years, breeding layer and broiler parents.

Flame Of The Forest, Spathodea or African Tulip Tree


Latin Name : Spathodea campanulata

In India, this tree is called "Pichkari or "Nandi Flame".

Flame Of The Forest Trees

When one talks about the flame of the forest tree, three trees come to mind :

  • Spathodea or the African tulip tree
  • Butea monosperma or Palash tree
  • Delonix regia or the Gulmohar tree

This article provides information on Spathodea or the African tulip tree.

About Flame Of The Forest, Spathodea or African Tulip Tree

Some other common names for this tree are Squirt tree, Uganda flame and, Fountain tree, so-called, as the soft flower buds contain a liquid that spurts forth in a jet almost 10 feet away when the buds are squeezed. For this reason, kids love to play with these buds.

The Genus Spathodea has just one species in the family Bignoniaceae.

The African tulip tree is native to Africa and grows from 30 to 40 feet tall normally though in favourable growing conditions it reaches a height of 80 feet or more.

Spathodea is grown widely in tropical areas. The tree prefers moist habitats although it can grow in drier habitats too, at altitudes from 3000 feet to 4000 feet. However, in most areas the trees grow larger as compared to the ones grown in a drier habitat.

The flame of the forest, the African tulip tree is drought resistant with average water needs. A rapidly growing, the young tree grows almost 6 feet tall yearly, it is a high fire retardant tree.

It is grown as an ornamental tree since it has large and showy reddish-orange to crimson flowers and in rarer instances even yellow flowers. The tree is also grown for soil improvement, erosion control and reafforestation.

Flame of The Forest, Spathodea or African Tulip Tree

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The flower and the claw shaped flower buds
The flower and the claw shaped flower buds
The flower and the claw shaped flower buds | Source

More About The Spathodea Tree

When the tree has a lot of growing space and conditions are favourable it becomes a wide-spreading and when large its roots can damage sidewalks and driveways.

The African tulip tree though can also be grown in a container or pot and blooms when even a few feet in height. The pots can be moved indoors when the temperature drops. So, it is very versatile and easy to grow a tree.

In Central America and the Caribbean, it blooms heavily in the fall and winter and less profusely almost the rest of the year.

The tree has naturalized in Hawaii. In Florida, it is in full bloom in early April and in scattered bloom the rest of the year. It grows in Southern California but displays its full glory in the summer and fall. It does not tolerate much frost and lesser still when young.

The wood of the tree is weak and brittle and tends to become hollow. The large branches drop off on their own as they age and are also easily shattered by high winds.

Spathodea Leaves

Spathodea leaves are large, broad, oval and smooth, and cluster together at the ends of the branches. Each leaf is made up of 5 to 7 pairs of opposite leaflets and a terminal one. They are dark green on the top surface and light green on the underside with prominent veins.

The leaves are quickly dropped when the weather becomes cool.

Spathodea Flower Buds

The flower buds are claw-like, curved and arranged in concentric whorls. They contain a red sap.

Spathodea Leaves And Flower Buds

Click thumbnail to view full-size
the leaves and flower buds of spathodea
the leaves and flower buds of spathodea
the leaves and flower buds of spathodea | Source

Spathodea Flowers

The flowers are bisexual and unusual in that they are borne in circular clusters in many velvety claw-like buds that split open vertically with broad bell-shaped flowers, of colours ranging from orange, crimson to the rarer yellow, emerging from the split.

The flowers when open form a cup-like shape that can hold rainwater and dew making it attractive and easy for birds to drink and get the flowers pollinated.

Spathodea flowers for about 5 to 6 months in a year if the weather is optimum, that is, warm and dry. With a fall in temperature, the flowers drop quickly and the tree goes dormant.

The Variously Colored Spathodea Flowers

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The circular clusters of spathodea flowersyellow colored spathodea flowersorange colored spathodea flowersThe cup shaped flower
The circular clusters of spathodea flowers
The circular clusters of spathodea flowers | Source
yellow colored spathodea flowers
yellow colored spathodea flowers | Source
orange colored spathodea flowers
orange colored spathodea flowers | Source
The cup shaped flower
The cup shaped flower | Source

The Spathodea Seed Pods, Fruits And Seeds

The seed pods are long and boat-shaped and each seed pod contains about 500 tissue-like, thin and winged, seeds.

The fruits appear like the fingers of the hand, pointing upwards and outwards, above the foliage.

The seeds are edible and the winged nature of the seeds aids in its dispersal and propagation far and wide through the air.

Spathodea Seed Pods, Fruits And Seeds

Click thumbnail to view full-size
the seed podsspathodea fruitsopen spathodea fruitsSpathodea winged seed
the seed pods
the seed pods | Source
spathodea fruits
spathodea fruits | Source
open spathodea fruits
open spathodea fruits | Source
Spathodea winged seed
Spathodea winged seed | Source

Spathodea Tree Uses

  • The wood is difficult to burn and thus is used to make the sides of a blacksmith's bellow.
  • It is also used to make carvings and drums.
  • The wood is soft hence tree is preferred by birds who make holes in trees for nesting.
  • The softwood is also used for the manufacture of paper.
  • The seeds are edible and though the tree is not toxic, the seed centre is boiled to extract a poison that is used by hunters, on the arrow tips.
  • The flowers provide nectar for birds.

Spathodea Tree - Medicinal Uses

The bark, flowers and leaves are and have been used in traditional medicine in Western Africa and some other countries.

Some of the medicinal uses of the African tulip tree are :

  • In Nigeria, the leaves are used to treat inflamed umbilical cords.
  • The pulverized bark is used for dressing ulcers and other skin troubles. The fresh inner bark and a decoction of the bark and leaves are also applied as a lotion.
  • The bruised leaves and flowers are also applied to ulcers.
  • Honey hunters use the flower dye to prevent bee stings.
  • Extracts of the bark, leaves and flowers are used to treat malaria, oedema, gastrointestinal disorders and various other health issues.
  • The bark is boiled in water and this water is used to bathe newly born babies to relieve body rashes.
  • A decoction of stem bark is used as an enema to treat insulin and non-insulin-dependent diabetes and also used to treat dysentery.
  • Infusion of leaves is useful in urethral inflammation.

Medicinal Properties of The African Tulip Tree or Spathodea


Spathodea campanulata (Bignoniaceae) Fountain Tree

Spathodea Campanulata

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      i wanna do project on this sps

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      6 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      I have no idea.

    • profile image

      Nicholas Nairne 

      6 years ago

      I live in the tropical island of Jamaica and it grows wild in this area. It is a pretty tree when it blooms but I must say that it is not known by most folks for its medicinal properties. I recently was told by a tour guide though that the pods secrete a fluid that has medicinal properties that aid certain eye conditions. This individual even said he has used it and benefited from it. I am curious, has there been any research done on the liquid in the pods for medical use?

    • younghopes profile image

      Shadaan Alam 

      6 years ago from India

      Never heard of this tree before, its all new to read, worth reading though, voted up and shared

    • LKMore01 profile image


      6 years ago


      You are a great educator. Informative , interesting and the photo's and video's show us their true beauty. I had never heard of this tree before.

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      6 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Indian Chef, glad you like the information. Thanks.

    • Indian Chef profile image

      Indian Chef 

      6 years ago from New Delhi India

      Very beautiful pictures Rajan. I had never heard of this tree before so a new thing for me. 5 stars, up, awesome and sharing.

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      7 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Thanks onwuamaeze.

    • profile image

      onwuamaeze vivian ifeoma 

      7 years ago

      woo! African a land that is bless with many beautiful and medicinal trees, great

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      7 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Thanks Peggy. Your visit and comments are always appreciated. Thanks for the votes and sharing too.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What a spectacular and beautiful tree the African Tulip Tree is. The blossoms are so pretty and I can understand why kids would have fun playing with this tree and squirting their friends. Ha! You have a great selection of photos of the various parts of the tree and have explained a goo many medicinal uses for it. Up votes, sharing, pinning and giving this a well deserved 5 star rating.

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      7 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Sheila-thanks for giving this a read and votes and share.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      7 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      What a beautiful tree! I think the orange blooms are my favorite. How I wish we could grow them here, but our winters are too cold and I don't have enough room to bring one inside. This was very interesting and your choice of pictures is excellent! Voted up, beautiful, interesting and sharing!

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      7 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      @Suzie-I haven't come across any reference that says it grows in Italy but maybe you could try growing it in the pot if the weather is sunny. Appreciate the visit and votes.

      @Carol-thanks for coming by.

      @Devika-glad you found this useful.

      @Bill-It does live up to its name. Thanks fro the visit, my friend.

      @prettynutjob-thanks for commenting.

      @Bill-now that you know about this tree you'll pretty much recognize it when you see it.

      @baja-lol! Good luck and thanks for commenting.

    • baja2013 profile image


      7 years ago from Sarajevo, Bosnia

      Only for tropical area unfortunately. Maybe some climate change would help :)

      Until then I will be happy with my magnolia tree

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi rajan. I have not heard of the Spathodea Tree. In all of my trips to Florida I don't recall coming across this tree. I'll have to add this to my list of things to look for on the next trip there. It certainly is a beautiful tree when in full bloom. Thanks for the education. Voted up and shared. Great job.

    • prettynutjob30 profile image


      7 years ago from From the land of Chocolate Chips,and all other things sweet.

      Wonderful hub, voted up and shared.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      What a beautiful color! I love the name and it would be spectacular to see these in the forest. Thanks for sharing through pictures. The used of it are interesting.

      Well done, Rajan!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      7 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      The African tulip has such beautiful flowers, I didn't know of the Medicinal Uses, always useful and voted up.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      What a beautiful tree. I am always in awe of all your hubs--the quality, the photos and the explanations.. Keep doing this as I really enjoy reading. Voting up and sharing.

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 

      7 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Rajan,?

      What a beautiful tree the African Tulip is and I have never heard of it before. Do you know if it grows in the Mediterranean countries as I didn't see it mentioned in your list and I would love to see it in Italy and grow it even in containers to start as you mentioned it does well in pots and even flowers. Great article and the color of this flower is stunning. Vu, useful, interesting, beautiful, 5 star, pinned!


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