By Liliana Usvat
Have you planted any tree this year? Here is one suggestion.
Royal Poinciana Trees (English) Flamboyan Real (Spanish) Poinciana regia, Caesalpiniaceae Family. Endemic to Madagascar. It grows wild in Yucatan, Mexico after its introduction in the late 19th Century. In Yucatan, these beautiful flowering trees became favorite ornamental trees to grow near Mayan huts, villages, urban avenues and parks. Its orchid shaped deep orange-red flowers are truly exquisite, one petal is different from the rest with light tone and deep shades of orange magenta spot; flowers grow in clusters, blooms in May and summer the Flamboyan trees are fully covered with flowers without their pinnae leaflets (foliage). Flamboyan seeds grow in large "machete like" hard pods.
Though they are considered legumes, the seeds are not edible and usually only are used for propagation purposes. This ornamental tree is sometimes used to improve soil properties due to its nitrogen fixation abilities.
The Royal Poinciana is most commonly propagated by seeds. Seeds are collected, soaked in warm water for at least 24 hours, and planted in warm, moist soil in a semi-shaded, sheltered position. In lieu of soaking, the seeds can also be 'nicked' or 'pinched' (with a small scissors or nail clipper) and planted immediately. These two methods allow moisture to penetrate the tough outer casing, stimulating germination. The seedlings grow rapidly and can reach 30 cm in a few weeks under ideal conditions.
Less common, but just as effective, is propagation by semi-hardwood cuttings. Branches consisting of the current or last season's growth can be cut into 30 cm sections and planted in a moist potting mixture. This method is slower than seed propagation (cuttings take a few months to root) but is the preferred method for ensuring new trees are true to form. As such, cuttings are a particularly common method of propagation for the rarer yellow-flowering variety of the tree.
The Royal Poinciana requires a tropical or near-tropical climate, but can tolerate drought and salty conditions. The Poinciana prefers an open, free-draining sandy or loamy soil enriched with organic matter. The tree does not like heavy or clay soils and flowers more profusely when kept slightly dry.
Aside from its ornamental value, this garden tree is also used for its dense foliage and modest height that can provide ample shade. The leaves of the royal poinciana are pinnate, meaning they are divided like a feather, and measure about 1 to 2 feet (0.3 to 0.6 m) in length. Each leaf is composed of 20 to 40 pairs of primary leaflets that are further divided into 10 to 20 pairs of secondary leaflets. These compound leaves are bright green and very lightweight.
The flowers of the royal poinciana are large and normally a shade of yellow, orange, or bright red. Each flower has four spreading petals that measure up to 3 inches (about 8 cm) in length and a fifth petal called the standard that is upright and a little bigger than the other petals. The standard is distinctive because of its white and yellow spots. Another common name of the royal poinciana is peacock flower because the physical appearance of the flowers is similar to that of a peacock with its feathers up.
StoriesIn the Indian state of Kerala, Royal Poinciana is called Kaalvarippoo which means the flower of Calvary. There is a popular belief among Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala that when Jesus was crucified, there was a small Royal Poinciana tree nearby his Cross. It is believed that the blood of Jesus Christ was shed over the flowers of the tree and this is how the flowers of Royal Poinciana got a sharp red color
- In Bangladesh folk medicine, used for the treatment of diabetes.
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• Antibacterial: Delonix regia was one of 12 medicinal plants studied for antibacterial activity. The methanol extracts showed more activity than the aqueous extracts for all 12 plants studied. The most susceptible bacterial were S. subtilis, followed by S. epidermis.
• Anti-Inflammatory: Study evaluated the anti-inflammatory activity of leaves using a carrageenan-induced rat paw edema and cotton pellet granuloma models. Results showed significant anti-inflammatory activity in both models.
• Flowers Constituents / Phenols and Flavonoids: Study was done to estimate the total phenolic and flavonoidal content of the flowers. Results showed the flowers to contain significant amounts of phenols and flavonoids, with the total phenolic content to be much higher than the flavonoidal content.
• Hepatoprotective / Cytotoxic: Study of an ethanolic extract isolated three sterols (stigmasterol, ß-sitosterol, and its 3-O-gucoside), a triterpene (ursolic acid) and four flavonoids (quercetin, quercitrin, isoquercitrin, and rutin), plus an amino acid. Results showed cytotoxic activity against human liver cancer cell line (HEPG2). It also showed hepatoprotective activity against CCl4-induced hepatic damage, attributed to the free radical scavenging property of the flavonoids.
• Antimicrobial: In antimicrobial screening, a dichlormethane soluble fraction of a methanolic extract showed strong inhibition of S. paratyphi growth, with moderate inhibition of S. typhi, S. aureus and S. dysenteriae. Other fractions showed inhibition of C. albicans, S. cerevisiae.
• Antidiarrheal: Evaluation of ethanolic extract of D. regia for in vivo anti-diarrheal activity in experimentally induced diarrhea, prostaglandin E2-induced enteropooling and charcoal-induced motility test in rats showed dose-dependent antidiarrheal properties.
• Seed Mucilage / Tablet Binder: Seeds of plant contain glucomannose. Mucilage obtained from the seeds were used in the preparation of calcium carbonate tablets. Results showed the endospermic mucilage obtained from the seeds possesses comparable binding properties.
• Wound Healing / Flowers: Study investigated the wound healing properties of Delonix regia in experimental models in albino rats using incision and excision wound models. Results showed ethanolic and aqueous extracts of flowers significant promoted the healing process, as evidenced by increase in wound breaking strength, percentage of wound contractions, increased hydroxyproline content and decreased epithelialisation period.
• Antidiabetic: Study evaluated a methanol extract of leaf for glucose tolerance efficacy in glucose-induced hyperglycemic mice. Results showed significant hypoglycemic effect on glucose-loaded mice at every dose.
• Hepatoprotective / Anticancer / Antioxidant: On cytotoxicity testing, D. regia extract showed potent anticancer effect against HepG2 cell line. It also showed dose-dependent hepatoprotective and antioxidant activities attributed to the flavonoids content. (See constituents above)
• Mercury Adsorption/ Anticancer / Antioxidant: Study evaluated the feasibility of using pods of Delonix regia activated carbon or the removal of Hg from water by absorption. Results showed a suitable indigenous active carbon as an adsorbent for the removal of Hg from aqueous solution.
• In Vitro Cytotoxic Activity / Flowers / Cancer Cell Lines: Study for in vitro cytotoxic effects of the hydroalcoholic extract of D. regia flowers showed anticancer effects against different cell lines (MCF-7 [breast], carcinoma of cervix HeLa cells, carcinoma of the brain, and carcinoma of colon). • Antibacterial / Root Bark: A methanol extract of root bark of Delonix regia showed efficacy against all test bacteria (Gram negative E. coli, P. aeruginosa and Gram positive S. aureus, Strep pneumonia and B. subtilis). (see constituents above)
• Antinociceptive / Cytotoxic / Leaves: Study investigated the antinociceptive and cytotoxic effects of alcoholic extract of leaves in Swiss albino rats. Results showed an analgesic effect which me be peripherally mediated via inhibition of synthesis and release of PGs and other endogenous substances. Results also showed cytotoxic activity by brine shrimp lethality assay.
• Diuretic / Flowers: Study evaluated the diuretic activity of a methanol flower extract of Gul Mohr in Albino rat model. Results showed significant diuretic activity, with increased urine volume and electrolyte excretion when compared to control.
• Corrosion Inhibitor / Aluminum: Study evaluated the inhibitive effect of D. regia extracts in reducing the corrosion rate of aluminum in acidic medium. Results showed D. regia extracts inhibited the corrosion of aluminum in HCl solutions.
• Methylene Blue Biosorbent: Dyestuffs are prominent organic pollutants that industry use and discharge into surface and subsurface water bodies. Study showed Delonix regia pod to be a very effective biosorbent in the removal of methylene blue dye from waste waters.
• Removal of Copper, Cobalt and Lead / Flowers: Study evaluated the ability of Delonix regia flowers to remove Co, Cu, and Pb ions through biosorption. Study showed D. regia flower is a viable agricultural waste for the removal of Co, Cu and Pb ions. The main adsorption mechanism was possibly a chemisorption reaction.
• Antibacterial / Leaf and Seeds: Study evaluated various extracts of leaf and seed of Delonix regia and A. aspera against five bacterial strains. The chloroform seed extract of D regia and ethanol seed extract of A aspera showed high inhibitory zone against E. coli than other bacterial strains.
• Antibacterial / Leaf and Seeds: Synthetic chemicals—methyl orange, phenolphthalein, phenol red, etc.—used as internal indicators in acid-base titrations are hazardous chemicals. Study evaluated Delonix regia for use as a natural indicator. Results showed D. regia flower petal can be used as a natural indicator, neither harmful to the environment nor causing any health hazard, while also being economical, simple, pollution free and inert.
• Larvicidal / Leaf and Seeds: A methanol extract of D. regia flowers were very effective against 3rd instar larvae of H. puera indicating a potential as bio-pesticide.
• Anthelmintic / Flowers: Fresh methanol and aqueous extracts of flowers of Delonix regia showed considerable anthelmintic activity against Pheretima posthuma. The methanol extract was more active. Piperazine citrate was used as reference drug.