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AMHERSTIA nobilis

Image of Amherstia nobilis

L. Shayamal, Wikimedia Commons Contributor

Family

Fabaceae

Botanical Name

AMHERSTIA nobilis

Plant Common Name

Amherstia, Pride-of-Burma

General Description

One of the tropic's most beautifully shaped flowering trees, the pride-of-Burma is also one of the rarest plants since it does not readily produce seeds. Some plant collectors refer to it as the "queen of flowering trees." This slow-growing evergreen is native only to the monsoonal teak forests of Burma in Southeast Asia. It develops a rounded, wide-spreading canopy with cascading branches and foliage. Today, it is considered a highly endangered plant species, if not already extinct in the wild. First discovered by Westerners in 1826 growing in a Burmese monastery garden, this species has been encountered growing in the wild only twice.

The evergreen leaves are compound, comprising oblong, dark green leaflets. When a new leaf emerges, it is first fuzzy and silver and then elongates to look like a limp coppery handkerchief. Flowering occurs only after rains disrupt a long dry spell, or the long rainy season ends and the soil finally dries out. The orchid-like blossoms are held on branched clusters on the branch tips. An individual blossom has red petals and long filaments. Sometimes specks of yellow or white litter the red petals. Only in Burma, where natural insect pollinators exist, do the bicolored seed pods develop viable seeds. Curved and initially crimson and yellow, the seed pods ripen to brown.

Grow pride-of-Burma in full to partial sun in a spacious landscape. It prospers if sheltered from wind and grown where conditions are hot and humid. It is slow-growing overall, but grows best in deep, fertile soil with a neutral pH. Average drainage is acceptable. Soil should become dry in winter to trigger flowering anytime from winter to spring. Blooming may be triggered at other times of year following any dry period after rains. Use organic mulch to enrich the soil and promote the lushest growth. Pride-of-Burma makes a spectacular park shade tree for hot, humid tropical regions. It may also be grown as a specimen in a large conservatory. If soil moisture is high year round, flowering may never occur. This is an ultra-tropical plant that should never experience nighttime temperatures below 55 degrees F (12 degrees C), especially if flower development is desired during the tropical winter dry season.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 10

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    12 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H2

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    30'-40' / 9.1m - 12.2m

  • Width

    45'-125' / 13.7m - 38.1m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring, Winter, Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Southeastern Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Spreading

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Red, Crimson

  • Fruit Color

    Yellow, Red, Brown

  • Fruit Color Modifier

    Bicolor

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Dark Green, Copper

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green, Copper

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Gray, Slate Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Shade Trees, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No