Fountain tree, African tulip, flame of the forest and Gabon tulip tree are some of the names assigned to a very large African tree that is grown in parks and gardens around the world.

Several of Dubai's parks are decorated with this nearly evergreen tree which comes from the rainforests of equatorial Africa.

If you walk through these parks, you may come across a few showy, large trees with unusually red bunches of flowers decorating the top of the twigs.

Tree preferences

This tree loves sunlight and the UAE has no dearth of it, but because this is a desert we need to irrigate these regularly throughout the year. Mature trees could reach a height of about 25 metres but the usual ones are around 15 metres.

Their leaves are deeply veined, up to 60cm big and divided into five to nine pairs of leaflets. Its huge trunk is slightly buttressed which gives additional support to withstand high-velocity winds.

The pale brown bark appears a little rough with small warts; in nature it is a deeply rooted tree.

But in parks and gardens which are dependent on irrigated water, the fountain tree has more surface roots than deep primary roots.

Flower power

First the flowers appear as buds and these are boat-shaped or horn-like, velvety olive and form upturned whorls.

Soon, buds from the outer rim turn outward and transform into wrinkled bell- like petals resembling a tulip. The bud is full of water and the flowers have nectar attracting insects, birds and small mammals. In Dubai this exotic flower is utilised by exotic birds like mynas and parakeets.