Fabaceae – Amherstia-Amherstia nobilis


Subfamily Caesalpinioideae

Caesalpinioideae includes approximately 150 genera of trees, shrubs, herbs, and climbers. Leaves are usually pinnately compound, sometimes twice pinnate (bipinnate). Flowers are bilaterally symmetrical sometimes appearing almost radially symmetrical. One petal is more or less defferentiated into a lip or standard.


Amherstia includes a single species of tree from Southeast Asia. It is native to monsoon rain forest with a short dry season in winter. Amherstia nobilis has a weeping habit and orchidlike flowers in cauliflorous, pendent racemes. It is often described as one of the most beautiful tropical flowering trees. Temperatures below 550 F inhibit flower development. Though the tree is known to subtropical Florida, it is not known to bloom in the subtropics except in warm greenhouses. Flowering is initiated by a dry season, but trees in containers should never be allowed to become completely dry. The species is often cultivated in Hawaii, Southeast Asia,  India, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies. Trees are self sterile. Solitary trees rarely, if ever, produce viable seeds. They are difficult to propagate vegetatively.

Amherstia nobilis

Amherstia, pride of burma, queen of flowering trees

Myanmar. Extinct in wild. Ecergreen tree, 20-40 ft, zone 11. Blooms winter or dry season. Seasonally moist and humid, sparingly in winter. Fertile, sandy, humusrich, well drained soil. Part sun, with protection from midday sun. Flowers: standard with a clawed base, red and white with a golden eye at the end, 2 small lateral wings, 5 sepals, 3 small, 2 large, bracts petal like, red, in pendent racemes, fruit a red, beaked pod. Leaves: bipinnate, 12-18 in.long, young leaves pink, lax, becoming light green and stiffening, leaflets elliptic, tips caudate. Bark, light gray. An ultra – tropical. Thrives outdoors only in warm climates. Photographed at Ernesto’s Nursery in Miami, Florida.


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