The Yellow Orchid Tree is a shrub or a small tree that has large, yellow flowers and lobed leaves. It can grow up to 12 feet in height. The branches are often drooping and have numerous slender twigs. The bark is gray and smooth, becoming brown in color as the tree ages. The leaves are alternate, leathery, deeply divided, bilobate, pale green, with entire margins and a leaf stalk, and are 1-3 inches long and wide; they resemble a butterfly. Flowers are bell-shaped, pendulous, yellow with a black to maroon center, 2-3 inches long. The fruit is a slender, brown, velvety, woody pod about 4 inches long, containing several reddish seeds, used for propagation. Nearly all the parts of the tree play a role in traditional medicine. In cultivation, it tolerates various soil types if well-drained. This tree is an outstanding medium-sized ornamental with its showy flowers and very unusual leaves. It can be grown as a specimen or street tree, in a large planter or large conservatory. As a shrub, it provides an excellent barrier or boundary planting, and is easily pruned. It is also known as the St. Thomas tree and the yellow bells tree. It is native to Africa and southern Asia. Hardy in zones 9-12.
The seeds have a hard seed coat that has to be treated, or scarified, in order for water to enter the seeds so that they can sprout.
- Scarify the seeds by nicking or sanding the seed coat.
- Soak the seed in water for several hours.
- The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet.
- Put the seeds on the soil.
- Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
- Water the seeds.
- Place the pots in an area with warm temperatures in full sun or part shade.
- When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.