The Exotic African Tulip Trees
Native to equatorial Africa, the African tulip trees are popular ornamental shade trees, prized for its orange-red tulip-shaped blossoms. The African tulip tree is a tall tree, growing to more than 75 feet (30 m) in some habitats. It favors moist and wet areas from sea level to 1,000 m throughout Hawaii. The flower’s calyx is a leathery sack filled with watery sap (which attracts many ants, though the flower’s aroma is quite foul) from which blooms a bright scarlet-orange flower that grows in large terminal clusters. It sets flowers year-round, but the most prolific flowering occurs in Winter through Spring. African tulip trees are somewhat difficult to grow by seed but easy to propagate by taking tip or root cuttings, or by planting suckers. As far as growing conditions, the tree tolerates shade but performs best in full sunlight. Similarly, although it is relatively drought tolerant, African tulip tree is happiest with plenty of moisture.
Although it likes rich soil, it will grow in nearly any well-drained soil. Newly planted African tulip trees benefit from regular irrigation. However, once established, the tree requires little attention. It is rarely bothered by pests or disease, but may temporarily shed its leaves during periods of severe drought. African tulip trees should be pruned regularly because the branches, which tend to be brittle, break easily in harsh winds. For this reason, the tree should be planted away from structures or smaller trees that may be damaged.