Delonix elata

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Related Links
Flowers: Showy attractive flowers of D. elata from the hills south of Las Caanood, northern Somalia.
© Chris Fagg
Bark of D. elata: Greenish brown bark of Delonix elata from northern Somalia.
© Chris Fagg

Local names:
English (white gul mohur,creamy peacock flower,tiger bean,flamboyant tree), French (flamboyant), Gujarati (sandesra), Hindi (sidhasaru,sankesar,sidhsaru,sunkesula,vadanarayana,nirangi,kempukenfiga,sankasura), Somali (lebi), Swahili (mseele), Tamil (pande

Delonix elata is a deciduous tree about 2.5-15 m tall, with a spreading, rather rounded crown, crooked poor stem form and drooping branches. Bark smooth, shining; sometimes flaking.

Leaves 3-6 or more, bipinnate; pinnae usually 4-6 pairs; leaflets 10-14 pairs, oblong or oblanceolate-oblong, 0.6-1.2 cm long. Leaflets 1.25-4 mm wide, smaller than those of D. regia.

Flowers in terminal corymbs; stalks pubescent, lowest flowers stalks longest. Flowers open one at a time. Sepals 1.8 cm long, with a broadly ovate or rotundate-cuneate lamina narrowing into a distinct claw. Petals rounded in outline and crisped on margins 1.6-3.8 cm long, 1.8-4.2 cm wide; upper one smaller than rest, pale yellow; the remainder white; later all turning apricot. Staminal filaments pale brown or reddish, hairy at the base, 5-10 cm long; pedicels up to 3.75 cm. Ovary pubescent or tomentose all over. 

Pods red-brown or purple-brown, up to 20 cm long and smooth, compressed elliptic-oblong. 
The genera comprises of 3 tropical species. 

D. elata is a varied species, two variants are recognized in east Africa. Delonix is from the Greek word “delos”, meaning evident and “onux”, a claw in allusion to the shape of the petals; the epithet “elata” means lofty or tall.


D. elata prefers hot, dry Acacia-Commiphora bushland and thicket. It normally occurs on rocky, shallow, red soils.

Native range
Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda

Tree management

D. elata is a fast growing tree raised easily from seed. Because of its high light requirements, it should be planted in full sunlight. Young seedlings need protection from browsers. Pollarding, lopping and trimming are recommended management practices.

Seeds can be pretreated by scarification with concentrated nitric acid or soaking in water for 24 hours. In one study, high germination rates (75% at 42 and 56 days) were obtained with 7-minute acid treatment (Rokhade & Nalawadi 1989).

D. elata prefers hot, dry Acacia-Commiphora bushland and thicket. It normally occurs on rocky, shallow, red soils.

D. elata is easily grown from poles. Direct seeding is a favoured propagation method. Seed is commonly found in animal droppings, some of these germinate to produce seedlings.

D. elata is a good tree for reforestation of difficult sites.

Erosion control:  D. elata has potential use in soil conservation. In India it has been successfully used in protecting channel and river banks.

Tiger bean is a promising source of micronutrients for goats, sheep, camels and cattle which eat the foliage and young pods.

D. elata is very promising as a firewood source having high density, calorific value and carbon percentage, and low silica and nitrogen.

Timber:  The wood weighing 90 kg/cu. ft after seasoning, is yellow, even-grained and easily worked. It is suitable for cabinet work, carvings and utensils.

Shade or shelter:  The tree has a low crown, effective as a shelter belt.

Medicine:  The leaf extracts are anti-inflammatory, a root decoction is drunk for abdominal pains. A pychosomatic medicinal use relating to scorpion bite treatment is reported from India.

Gum:  The tree yields a dark coloured, mucilaginous gum.

Ornamental:  D. elata is a distinct, magnificent tree in bloom, suitable for cultivation in gardens, avenues and amenity parks.

Poles from D. elata are used for fencing.

Soil improver:  D. elata leaves as a green manure are rich in Magnesium, yielding 50-200 kg of mulch per year. In Madras, India the leaves are used as mulch in rice fields.

Intercropping:  D. elata is a multipurpose tree commonly found planted or cultivated.