O Advent Tree!

The buds begin to appear towards the end of November, just before Advent. Thoughtfully, the trees vary in their timing, some retaining their vibrant heads of blossom well into January, but for the most part, their display is at its most spectacular in the third and fourth weeks of Advent with a show that always thrills me. And how did they know that red and green are the colours we would come to associate with Christmas? What reds, orange-reds and green they are. They fairly burst with joyful colour.

Greenslopes, 14th December 2022

It’s Brisbane, and the trees are, of course, Poincianas, named after Phillippe de Longvilliers de Poincy, who was a governor of St Kitts. Officially, they are Delonix regia, and are also known as flame of the forest or even flame tree, but we have a better candidate for that. The name which probably suits them best is flamboyant. They go by many names across India and S.E. Asia.

Keep your pines and firs, with their un-snowed-upon branches gracelessly upright, desperately needing baubles and drapes of tinsel to convey festivity. I’ll walk outside and, where the passion for subdivision and six-packs has not destroyed them, look across the suburban hills to pick out the splashes of red, even yet, with contributions from the occasional flame tree still afire with the fading remnants of its peculiarly intense red.

Annerley, 25th November 2022

I know Advent is penitential, but, but… what a season it is. If we must forgo a springtime Easter, we have at least subtropical summer Christmas. Praise God!

O come, O come, Emmanuel!


40 responses to “O Advent Tree!”

  1. Rosie Avatar

    Beautiful. Every year we welcome a perennial with milk bottle shaped bulbs that has a green and red flower, comes out in mid to late December, we call them Christmas crackers but I don’t know the botanical name.
    I’ll have to ask Calli next time she pops in.

  2. calli Avatar

    I love poincianas! Far too cold here to grow one, I must admire from afar.

    My alternative for a cooler area is Lagerstroemia ‘Tonto’, a dense, floriferous cultivar of the crepe myrtle. Mine is just about to burst into a globe of pinky-red, a few “feeler” flowers doing their thing right now.

    “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill toward men.”

  3. calli Avatar

    Boo! 😀

    This one? Alstroemia.

  4. CharlieP Avatar

    Try Haemanthus coccineus for the red flowered bulb.
    The Annerley picture looks more like a flowering brachychiton (Illawarra flame tree) behind poinciana foliage. Worth looking closer? The flame trees are out now and have that conical shape.

  5. calli Avatar

    Haemanthus! Got those here, usually flower quite early, but might do their thing later in the southern states. One year the rotten kookaburras made mincemeat of the blooms, then started on the bulbs!

    Yes, that’s a flame tree in the photo. Mentioned in the para above the photo. The other Brachychiton, the bottle tree, has become very popular in Sydney gardens. Shame people don’t realise how big they grow.

  6. calli Avatar

    The other one is the Valotta (Scarborough) lily. Flowers mid summer. Just divine and worth the money.

  7. Rosie Avatar

    Exactly Calli thank you.
    Hoped to tempt you into commenting 🙂

  8. calli Avatar

    No temptation.

    I’ve been flat out like a lizard drinking.

  9. Zipster Avatar

    the cold weather has confused one of my orchids causing to bloom

  10. miltonf Avatar

    Brisbane looks very appealing and exotic. Always enjoy going up there especially during a southern winter.

  11. feelthebern Avatar

    We need more Weirwood trees.

  12. Entropy Avatar

    Love poincianas. Most people do. I love how Brisbane transitions from purple Jacarandas to red poincianas. The only negative is their root systems are rather aggressive.
    Of course, the roots and more relevantly, the appalling fact they aren’t native means the tree nazis hate them and want to them replaced with eucalypts.

  13. Rosie Avatar

    Merry Christmas everyone

  14. Rosie Avatar

    Merry Christmas everyone

  15. Rosie Avatar

    Merry Christmas everyone

  16. Rosie Avatar

    Merry Christmas everyone

  17. Christine Avatar

    Our red poincianas are very beautiful; the orangey shade is patchy and not so attractive
    “He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change
    Praise him”

    But the flame tree is king

  18. CharlieP Avatar

    Someone else likes Gerard Manley-Hopkins!
    Merry Christmas to you all.

  19. Bruce Avatar


    Sounds like a beer-dispenser.

    May your Christmas Day be as joyous and positive as possible.

    Then we can get back to “virtually “flaying those who would do us evil.

    And trying to reduce the “mowable” area of the yard by cultivating edible and decorative plants in place of the green carpet.

    Roll on, Twenty-Twenty , Three, (probably actually the fourth iteration, 2020 being “Year Zero, which is actually “Year ONE”). However, the megalomaniacs will not easily relax their grasp.

  20. Roger Avatar

    Brisbane looks very appealing and exotic.

    It was when it was a city of timber, tin and neo-gothic sandstone.

    Now it’s more brick veneer, tiles and brutalist concrete.

  21. Heathen Avatar

    We cannot forget that on this day Vladimir Putin sent missiles into civilian homes for no evident reason but his pleasure.

  22. johanna Avatar

    Merry Christmas, plant lovers!

    Love Illawarra flame trees, which fortunately grow where it is too cold for Poincianas. In Sydney (and probably other places) they often start to flower at the same time as Jacarandas, and in some places you see them planted together, resulting in a spectacular display of red and mauve.

    BTW, does anyone know the name of the little flowers known commonly as Christmas Bells? I think they are native, and they look very Christmassy as well.

  23. Bruce Avatar

    Flame trees?

    A Chisel song with some neat internal stuff going on:


  24. Bruce in WA Avatar
    Bruce in WA

    Merry Christmas to all and may the New Year be kind to everyone.

    We don’t have poincianas here, but our huge New Zealand Christmas tree is bursting into flower.

    (Not ours but very similar.)

  25. Peter West Avatar
    Peter West

    Yes, it is a flame tree, inspired by my mention of their now-fading glory.

  26. Peter West Avatar
    Peter West

    Johanna, Entropy,
    I noticed during coverage of the Adelaide Australia vs Windies match that jacarandas were still blooming when they were a memory in Brisbane.

    A blessed and joyful Christmas to all.

  27. Pogria Avatar

    Magnificent trees.

    Flame Trees of Thika?

  28. Rabz Avatar

    There’s a tree that flowers red in the block behind the cottage, which was so unusual I remember asking various Sydney Cats who were at the BBQ when I first noticed it, what it was. Can’t remember the answer, funnily enough.

    Just looked at it now and there’s some red shoots starting to appear, so late January it should be in full bloom.

  29. CharlieP Avatar

    Johanna, blandfordia is the native Christmas bell. There are four species, the most commonly seen or grown being Blandfordia grandiflora.. See if that looks like what you are looking for.

  30. johanna Avatar

    Thanks, CharlieP, they are the ones. Very pretty.

  31. Crossie Avatar

    I think the big wet in Sydney killed another of my trees, the latest the jacaranda. It flowered normally and now only a few sparse leaves/fronds are appearing, some are yellowing and already drooping.

    Last year I lost a Brunfelsia pauciflora, a Crowea saligna, a lime, a gardenia and a fern leaf lavender bush.

    I have also lost three azaleas but not to water damage, they were destroyed by leaf mites. I used to be able to keep the mites at bay by spraying with Confidor which is no longer available and so the pests win.

  32. johanna Avatar

    Sad news, Crossie.

    Jacarandas are very drought tolerant, so that may well be the cause. Don’t give up, though, they are tough and it may come back.

    I feel for those rural dwellers who have cultivated their gardens for many years, which are now or have recently been underwater. You can pour water on a plant in a drought, but there is nothing you can do in a flood. 🙁

  33. calli Avatar

    Crossie, the active ingredient in Confidor is Imidaciloprid. You can buy the product here.

    I have a nightmare with hibiscus beetle. This works.

  34. Brislurker Avatar

    One of the best displays is Wellington St , Wellington Point on the way to Ormiston House. They are magnificent. According to the Redlands City Council, they were introduced to the Redlands in around 1927.

  35. a reader Avatar
    a reader

    In my garden it’s Blandfordia grandiflora (Mid-North coast Christmas Bells). I’ve also got the Sydney region Christmas Bells (Blandfordia nobilis). I’ve also got the NSW Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) growing as well. Hopefully this picture works

  36. johanna Avatar

    They are lovely, a reader.

    We should promote our native plants for Christmas.

    I like seeing kangaroos pulling Santa’s sled and koalas wearing red caps. OK, it’s kitsch, but it’s our kitsch. 🙂

  37. Crossie Avatar

    I usually buy a bunch of flowering Christmas bush and have it in a vase in the dining room over the Christmas/New Year period. I could not find any this time.

  38. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare Avatar
    Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    The Jacarandas of New South Wales are a bit early in their full glory for Advent, but ours is still going with a few flowers left amongst the new greenery on Christmas Day. I heard they were even later than usual flowering further down south. A beautiful cloud of lavender amongst the relentless gums. A carpet of petals underneath.

  39. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare Avatar
    Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beare

    We have an Illawarra Flame Tree growing beside our Jacaranda. Both are quite old, planted many years ago and they do make a beautiful pre-Christmas show together, as Johanna notes above.

  40. A reader Avatar
    A reader

    If you fly over Western Sydney late in the year you will often see Illawarra Flame, Silky Oak and Jacarandas in trios. Apparently it was quite a common thing to do from the 30s through the 70s

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