The flame of the forest is a medium sized deciduous tree of the pea family that is native to humid lowland forested areas of India and Sri Lanka. It typically matures to 30-40’ tall. This tree features: (a) leathery medium to dark green compound trifoliate leaves (to 10-18” wide), each having three rhombus-shaped leaflets held by a long petiole; (b) leaf drop occurring in early winter; (c) black flower buds forming in mid-winter on leafless stems; (c) bicolor orange/red flowers (each to 2” long) blooming in dense clusters (racemes to 6” long) from late January to March; (d) flowers giving way to fruits (flat single-seeded pods to 3-4” long) which emerge pale green but mature to bronze-brown. Flowers often produce an outstanding late winter bloom. Each flower has 5 petals, two wings and a beak-shaped keel purportedly resembling a curved parrot’s beak. Butea seeds, leaves, gum, and flowers all have medicinal properties. Best grown in sunny tropical locations. Best performance occurs in deep, fertile, organically rich, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Add surface mulch. Needs consistent moisture, but soils should begin to dry as winter approaches to encourage leaf drop by the beginning of winter. Plants should be sited in areas protected from strong winds. The common name is in reference to the orange and red flower colors which purportedly mimic the colors of fire. Hardy in zones 10-12.
Growing Instructions for the Flame of the Forest
The seeds need to be planted when received or stored in a refrigerator until they are planted. 1. The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. 2. Put the soil in a pot. 3. Sow the seeds on the soil. 4. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. 5. Water the soil so that it is moist but not wet. 6. Put the pots in an area in a warm, sunny location. 7. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.