Mr. Colville's Glorious Tree

Colville's Glory Tree

Colvillea racemosa
photo courtesy of Craig Morell
tree courtesy of Glen Parker

What a grand flowering tree this Madagascar native species is. It flowers in South Florida in October -November, with specimens here at Pinecrest Gardens and in local neighborhoods and gardens. For those who had the space, foresight, patience, and financing for the initial purchase,  Colvillea racemosa  is indeed a spectacular tree. It ranks near the top of the list for many flowering tree aficionados, and we are lucky to have three specimens of it. 

This tree is not for the impatient grower, nor the space challenged. The tree can get to 50 feet tall, and is neither symmetrical or very good as a shade tree. If you know how the tree will make a statement in the landscape, it is worthy investment. The trees are fairly hard to find since they rarely set seed, and when they do, the seeds have low viability. If you are lucky enough to find a tree that has been well tended since it was a seedling ( staked well and grown straight, without overly compacted roots), then it is a great tree for a dry landscape area with plenty of sunlight.

Almost everything about the tree is different than the "usual" oak tree, for instance. The trees grow in unusual shapes, are often leafless well into Summer, flower in October, and can be almost completely dormant for many months, sometimes twice a year. Once established, the tree is completely drought tolerant in our South Florida climate, requiring no additional watering in our dry seasons.

The flowers are hard to describe, but the cylindrical clusters, each comprised of hundreds of small red-orange buds, are borne a dozen to a branch, arch gracefully downward, and change color as the buds open. The color spectrum will change from vermillion-red to near-yellow on the same inflorscence, making the tree quite a spectacle indeed. Colville's Glory is an amazing tre for those who have space, and are willing to give the carfeul neglect it needs in order to thrive. When young, the trees can die from over-cultivation, of which I speak from experience.


Colvillea flowers up close
photo courtsesy of Dave's Garden
 For those with a yen for unusual trees, who want a top-ranked tree that will be a stand-alone specimen in almost any neighborhood, I can recommend Colville's Glory. I can hope that in the near future the trees will become more available as our climate changes to possibly foster better seed set, and perhaps as more people become better educated about flowering trees. The Miami-based Tropical Flowering Tree Society has done a great job in promoting such trees with annual plant sales, widespread tree plantings in municipal and suburban areas and with their members' nurseries selling unusual trees for more than 20 years.If you wish tofind a rare tree, it can be obtained easier now than  ever before. I encourage readers to start hunting and be adventurous in trying something new