The seeds are edible. The soft, white timber used in making paper. In West
Africa, their homeland, the wood is used to make drums and blacksmith's
bellows. It has shallow roots and a tendency for branches to break off in
a storm. Thus it considered unsuitable as a roadside tree.
African Tulip Tree was introduced to Singapore in the 1910's from
Africa, probably as a decorative shade tree because of their beautiful
red tulip-like flowers.
The flower buds form a ball-shaped cluster. Each brown banana-shaped
flower bud is filled with water, forming a natural water pistol when
squeezed. The outer buds bloom first before the inner ones. The tree
blooms year round and a flower lasts about 3 days. The ripe pods split
open into a woody, boat-shaped form. Children use them in boat
races, by placing the opened pods in a fast flowing drain.
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
features: Grows up to 10-15 m.
Leaves: Simple pinnate compound,
30-40 cm long, about 7 pairs of leaflets. Leaves are slightly
hairy, shiny above.
Flowers: Large, showy, red.
Fruits: Long (20 cm) green
pods, when ripe turn brown and is filled with lots of
small seeds with transparent wings.
in Singapore: Introduced. Common in wastelands.
World distribution: Native
to tropical West Africa.
Classification: Family Bignoniaceae.
Traditional medicinal uses: The bark,
flowers and leaves are used in traditional medicine in Western Africa.
Role in the habitat: The flowers provide
nectar for birds which may pollinate the tree. The seedlings germinate rapidly
and the tree grows quickly. So it is among the first large trees to colonise
- Ivan Polunin,
"Plants and Flowers of Singapore", Times Editions,
1987 (p. 124: description, habitat, distribution, photo).
- Wee Yeow Chin,
"A Guide to the Wayside Trees of Singapore", Singapore
Science Centre, 1989 (p. 140-141: description, habitat, photo).
- E. J. H. Corner,
"Wayside Trees of Malaya: Vol I", Malayan Nature Society,
4th ed., 1997 (p. 181-182: description, habit, distribution).
- Anne Nathan and
Wong Yit Chee, "A Guide to Fruits and Seeds", Singapore
Science Centre, 1987 (p. 76: description, habitat, photo).