Fire Trees

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

LAST Friday, Mabalacat City officials and employees had a tree planting activity on the vacant lot along the SCTEX Dolores Toll Plaza. The vacant lot, owned by the BCDA, was also the site of last year’s planting of Balacat trees. Many of the balacat trees survived and will add up to the hundreds of native trees lining up SCTEX.

This year, Mayor Boking Morales specifically requested for Fire Trees to be planted in the site. The Mayor wants these trees because their bright red-orange flowers are a sight to behold. Because of its flowers, the whole tree whole tree seems to be on fire. Their beauty will rival that of the famous Cherry Blossoms of Japan.

The Fire Tree’s scientific name is Delonix regia. It belongs to a species of flowering plant in the family Fabaceae, subfamily Caesalpinioideae. In many tropical parts of the world it is grown as an ornamental tree and in English it is given the name Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant. It is also one of several trees known as Flame tree.


In the Indian state of Kerala, Royal Poinciana is called Kaalvarippoo, which means the flower of Calvary. There is a popular belief among Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala that when Jesus was crucified, there was a small Royal Poinciana tree nearby his Cross. It is believed that the blood of Jesus Christ was shed over the flowers of the tree and this is how the flowers of Royal Poinciana got a sharp red color. (Wikipedia)

In the Philippines the Fire Trees are in full bloom from April to May, the height of summer. One bad thing about the trees though, is that they harbor the notorious ‘higad’, the hairy and itchy caterpillars. Beware not to get under the trees when the flowers are in full bloom.

Somebody told me that the local name of the Fire tree is Caballero, the Spanish word for "knight" or "gentleman". After doing some research, I learned that Caballero is actually another tree species with scientific name Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Common names for this species include Poinciana and Dwarf Poinciana. They are the dwarf version of the Fire trees.

There are many Caballeros planted at the garden of the NLEX Dau Toll Plaza. It’s only now that I realized that the reason why their flowers bloomed even when they are only a few feet tall is because they are a different species though they belong to the same family Fabacea.

The Caballero has medicinal value. According to, the juice from the leaves is used to cure fever. Fresh leaves of Caballero are applied externally to relieve rheumatism. The juice from the flower is used to cure sores. Leaves can be heated and applied externally to treat stomach pains. A decoction from the crushed seeds is used as an emetic and used to cure dysentery.

The seeds are also used to cure bad cough, breathing difficulty, and chest pain. The roots are diuretic and useful in cases of stone formation in the bladder. The juice of the stem and roasted fruit are used for eye diseases. Four grams from the root is also said to induce abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. The finely powdered leaves are given as uterine tonic to women immediately after giving birth.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on July 18, 2014.


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