African tulip tree

African tulip tree

Spathodea campanulata

Common Name:

African tulip tree

Scientific Name:

Spathodea campanulata

Alternative common names:

Afrikaanse vlamboom (Afrikaans), African flame tree.


The African tulip tree is an evergreen species indigenous to western Africa. It has been introduced throughout the tropics and is threatening biodiversity in many parts of the Pacific islands. It favours moist habitats and will grow best in sheltered tropical areas. The tree invades both abandoned agricultural land and closed forest. This species loves rich soil, but puts up with just about any type of soil.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

West Africa.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 3 in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

How does it spread?

Spreads via wind-dispersed seeds and from root suckers and cuttings.

Why is it a problem?

The African tulip tree invades agricultural areas, forest plantations and natural ecosystems, smothering other trees and crops as it grows and becoming the prevailing tree in these areas.

What does it look like?

Evergreen or semi-evergreen tree growing 12-18m high, with branches marked with small white lenticels (raised pores).

Leaves: Pinnate leaves are dark green and glossy above and paler beneath, 450mm long. When young they are a golden bronze.

Flowers: The cup-shaped flowers are orange-red to scarlet, 100mm x 70mm in size with a spathe-like calyx. The buds are velvety brown, appearing in late summer.

Fruit/seeds: The capsule is brown, 15-25mm long, splitting open to release many papery, winged seeds.

Does the plant have any uses?

Widely introduced throughout tropical and subtropical regions of the world as an ornamental and street tree.

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