The Colorful Florida Summer

I feel sorry for the “snowbirds” who leave Florida when it’s really starting to heat up.  These are the people who go back “up North” after the Easter/Passover holidays and don’t return until around Thanksgiving.  I think they are missing some of the best things that Florida has to offer during the summer. 

My wife, Meryl, always describes South Florida summers as “oppressive.”  Nevertheless, we adjust to the heat and humidity by going for our early morning walks even before sunrise.  If we’re lucky, we’ll begin when it’s only around 75 degrees but within the hour, you can feel the temperature rising.  When you finally return home and feel that comforting blast of air conditioning, you experience a sense of relief! 

On our walks during the month of May, we began to see the beginning of nature’s finest color display.  The frangipani trees go from bare antler-like branches to a few terminal yellow flowers and eventually become full of bright yellow and white blooms.  If you’re lucky, the ground beneath them is like a colorful carpet of fallen blooms especially after a heavy rain. 

The branches of the frangipani tree with
some early blooms at their ends
Multiple blooms of the frangipani flowers

But the best demonstration of color is yet to come!  We’re now just getting the early blooming of the king of flowering trees, Delonix regia, known here in Florida as the Royal Poinciana. When my kids were young, I can even remember driving them around just so that we could find the best and brightest example of this magnificent tree.

The Royal Poinciana begins its show with just a few buds opening early in mid-May on the ends of some of the branches.  Within a month the tree is covered with large flowers reaching toward the bright blue sky above.

In the past, I can remember arguments about whether the flowers are red-orange or orange-red, as if we’re trying to match the color with the names of the Crayola crayons from childhood.  In reality, the shades of red and orange do vary from one tree to another.  Supposedly due to the soil conditions, the color of the large flowers is indisputably brilliant! 

The complex individual flower

The Royal Poinciana originally comes from Madagascar, the place where many plant and animal species developed in isolation ever since the island separated from the African continent.  It is popular as a flowering shade tree and it is easily cultivated throughout warm climates.  It goes by many different names, all attesting to its bright coloration.

In Australia it is known as the flame tree; in other English-speaking countries it is known as the flamboyant tree or flame of the forest tree.  In India and Pakistan, it is known as the peacock flower tree.

Is it red-orange or orange-red?

Even after living in Florida for more than 40 years, I still get excited at the end of May when just a few trees are showing their early bloom.  When in past years, my wife and I have been traveling during the month of June, I felt bad that I would miss out on the Royal Poinciana bloom. 

It’s definitely worth traveling around South Florida to see these amazing specimens.  It makes staying here in the summer an exciting visual experience.