Illawarra Flame Tree
- Deciduous tree.
- Size: up to 35 m high, but much smaller when grown in gardens and in cooler areas where it reaches a height of only about 10 m.
- Leaves: smooth, oval-shaped and can have three or five lobes (and sometimes more). Each leaf is 10 – 30 cm long. The tree loses some or all of its leaves at the end of winter, before flowering, and the leaves turn yellow just before falling.
- Flowers: bright coral-red and bell-shaped, they occur in clusters at the end of branches. They are 1 – 2 cm long and have a waxy surface. They appear after the tree has lost all or some of its leaves.
- Fruit/seed: a dark-brown seed pod which is tough, leathery and about 10 cm long. It contains rows of corn-like seeds that are surrounded by hairs. NOTE: the hairs within the seed pod can irritate the skin and are easily inhaled, so it is not advisable to handle any open seed pods.
What to Observe
- First fully open single flower
- Full flowering (record all days)
- End of flowering (when 95% of the flowers have faded)
- Open seed pods (record all days)
- First fully open leaf
- Leaves open (record all days)
- First leaf to change colour
- Leaves changing colour (record all days)
- First leaf to drop this year
- 50% or more of leaves dropped (record all days)
- No leaves (record all days)
ClimateWatch Science Advisor
We expect plants to start shooting and flowering earlier in the year as a result of climate change warming the Earth. They may also start appearing in new areas, as warmer temperatures enable them to live in environments that were previously too cold for them.
When To Look
- Most of the year!
- Leaves appear in summer through autumn
- Leaves fall at the end of winter through spring
- Flowers appear in spring and summer
- Seed pods appear after flowering
Where To Look
- Within Australia it naturally occurs along the east coast from far north Queensland to the south coast of New South Wales.
- In subtropical rainforest along the coast to the inland mountain ranges, including urban areas.
- Look in parks, gardens and along streets.
Australian Biological Resources Study 1984. Flora of Australia Volume 7. CSIRO Publishing / Australian Biological Resources Study.
Menninger EA 1962. Flowering trees of the world. Hearthside Press, New York.
Spencer R 1997 Horticultural flora of south-eastern Australia. Volume 2. University of New South Wales Press.
Poinciana (Delonix regia): has feathery and fern-like leaves, doesn’t have the bell-shaped flowers, and has larger seed pods (20 – 70 cm long).
Did You Know?
Indigenous Australians had various uses for the Illawarra Flame Tree, including making twine from the bark fibre for fishing nets and lines, and roasting the seeds for eating. However, special care was taken when preparing the seeds because of the dangerous hairs inside the seed pod.
It can take 5 – 8 years to flower if grown from a seed.
It requires lots of water when young but can tolerate droughts once it is established.