Peltophorum pterocarpum: Burst of yellow flames
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Peltophorum pterocarpum or commonly known as the yellow flame tree has a wide distribution centred in tropical South East Asia, from Sri Lanka in the west, Indo-china in the north, throughout Malesia to northern Australia in the south. Originally, it is a tree of the sandy and rocky shores and occasionally limestone plateau of Malaysia, as indicated by its common names in Malay, batai laut or jemerlang laut. Being a native tree of the open country, Peltophorum pterocarpum is known for its ability to overcome lalang, is fairly wind-firm, is not attacked by boring beetles and can regenerate from cuttings. Now, it has become a common wayside tree, planted extensively inland to adorn our gardens, parks and roadsides in Malaysia. Peltophorum pterocarpum has many other common names, e.g. copperpod, golden flamboyant, yellow flamboyant, yellow poinciana, kupang (Bornean), soga (Indonesian) and perunkonrai (Tamil), and others. It is a small to medium sized tree that can reach a height of 15 to 25 m or even taller, with a trunk diameter up to 1 m. The crown is domed shaped with the foliage mostly at the outer face, resembling a gigantic cauliflower-like umbrella, providing ample shade. The compound, bipinnate leaves are relatively large, reaching 30-60 cm long each. However, the oval leaflets are only about 8-25 mm long and 4–10 mm broad, giving the tree crown a feathery look. From some of its common names, we can guess that its yellow flowers is the most attractive element of the tree, of which contributed to it being a favorite ornamental tree in the tropics. Besides, the roots are noted to grow deep in the soil and are seldom destructive to pavements. The tree was reported to be able to start flowering about four years after planting. Each individual yellow flower is only about 2.5-4 cm across, but the inflorescence is a large compound raceme up to 20 cm long, usually held atop a dense, deep green crown. The fruit is a pod 5–10 cm long and 2.5 cm broad, purplish at first, then ripening dark brownish. Although not as striking as the golden yellow flowers that seem to “set the tree crown aflame”, the fruits that denote another of its common name, copperpod, are no less conspicuous. The wood is durable if sheltered from the weather and has a wide variety of uses, including for cabinet-making. The foliage is used as a fodder crop, while the bark produces a yellow-brown dye. In Java, it is known as kayu timor and used in traditional medicine. However, its many usages are seldom practiced in Peninsular Malaysia. At FRIM, fruiting jemerlang trees can be seen in front of the primary school, SK Kepong and near Nature Education Centre, Jalan Bukit Watson. Flowering trees can be sighted along roadsides in many cities in Malaysia, such as along Kepong-Sg Buloh main road.

Since the beginning of April 2014, Peltophorum pterocarpum trees can be seen flowering and fruiting near SK Kepong and Nature Education Centre, Jalan Bukit Watson.

Article by Chew MY. First uploaded on 11 September 2012. The weekly temperature ranged from 24°C to 34°C. Updated on 3 April 2014. The weekly weather was mostly cloudy and rainy, 30°C to 34°C.