Words from Kenya

The Flamboyant Tree

Flamboyant Tree

Outside my house is a Flamboyant tree. It is aptly named. Once a year, near the end of the long six months dry season, when everything, including itself, is just bare gray brown twigs and sticks, it burst into flower. This huge tree, without a single leaf, buds and in the space of a few days is draped with large red flowers. They cover every branch like a heavy red snowfall.

No other plants appear even to be alive at this time, in the last week or two of the deepest dryness before the rains. Consequently this tree’s overabundance of flowers becomes a magnet for insects from miles around. During the day it vibrates with wasps and flies of every description but mostly with African honey bees. You can hear the buzzing from a hundred yards and standing under the tree the noise drowns out all other natural sounds.

At night the tree belongs to the rather stupid brown beetles that start to swarm just before the rains. They are slow and very clingy and they adore this big sweet tree of flowers. The noise they make is like thousands of tiny engines, the whirring sound over powers even the noisiest of the cicadas.

When the rains come the flowers quickly fade and fall to form a thick red carpet under the tree. The tree unfurls long feathery leaves and the insects move on to the many other plants that burst into life with the rains. So yes, the tree is definitely flamboyant and timing its display to start before all others I think it is rather a show-off too.

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