Editor’s Note: This week Emina Darakjy, a very knowledgeable tree enthusiast we are lucky to call a Buzz contributor, introduces us to another stunning climate-appropriate tree. When we started this feature, we had just reported on the latest loss of a mature street tree. We hope these columns will inspire readers to plant new trees. Planting a tree is a simple step we can all take to combat climate change and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods. This magnificent ornamental tree will reward you for your efforts for years to come. Please feel free to email us at [email protected] if you have any tree questions for Emina!
The Corymbia ficifoli belongs to the Myrtaceae family and is native to Western Australia. This tree was originally named Eucalyptus ficifolia by Ferdinand Von Mueller in 1860 and described in a book he wrote. In 1995 the name was changed to Corymbia ficifolia. This practice of changing names is common among Botanists.
This is an evergreen tree with a slow to moderate growth rate. It can reach a height between 25 to 40 feet with an equal or greater spread and with a dense canopy making it a good shade tree. This tree is also considered one of the showiest among the eucalyptus family.
The trunk of this tree is medium gray to red-brown with a fibrous and fissured bark that also covers the tree’s branches.
The leaves are attractive, ovate, thick, dark green on top and pale green underneath.
In late spring to early summer, the tree is covered with a dazzling display of vivid red clusters of flowers that last through September. Flowers can also be seen sporadically on the tree throughout the year.
It is important to note that because the Corymbia ficifolia is propagated from seeds and not cuttings, an exact flower color cannot be 100% guaranteed. There have been cases where the flowers come out vermillion- orange, rose, and on some rare occasions creamy white. To make sure you end up with a vivid red color if that is what one prefers, buy a tree during the summer that is already blooming at a nursery. Regardless of what flower color you end up with, the trees always bloom profusely.
Following the flower display, clusters of persistent large gray-brown to reddish-brown seed capsules resembling urns appear. These capsules are very heavy and their weight can cause the branches to bend and break. It is recommended to remove them, especially on young trees in order to avoid this problem.
The tree is very hardy, prefers full sun and well-drained soil. The Corymbia ficifolia does very well in our coastal regions from San Diego to San Francisco but does not tolerate cold weather. The tree requires regular watering at first and is considered drought-tolerant once established. Damage to sidewalks from its roots is moderate. Keeping one’s tree healthy and stress-free is the best defense against pests. The Corymbia ficifolia does very well as a street tree or in a park.
The tree nectar attracts all sorts of wildlife from bees to birds and butterflies.
If one wants to plant a stunning ornamental tree in one’s garden, the Corymbia ficifolia is an excellent choice.
Emina Darakjy is a past president of Pasadena Beautiful and is its present Tree Program Chair. Darakjy says she has always had a passion for trees and that she is involved with several other tree organizations such as California Re-Leaf, the Arbor Day Foundation, and American Forests. She is a past president of Street Tree Seminar Inc. and the present president of the California Urban Forests Council.