The blossoms of the African tulip tree are visually stunning, but individuals should be warned that it has the potential to be very invasive. Typically used as a specimen tree, it will grow an average of 30 to 40 ft. in height. It can also be grown in containers, which will limit its growth and aids in preventing the spread of seeds.
The yellow to orange-red blossoms attract bees, birds and butterflies, but not other types of wildlife. It’s pollinated via birds and bats. The tree is drought tolerant but has little tolerance for salt. It’s the only species of its genus and native to central and western Africa. It’s a cousin to the trumpet vine.
The African tulip tree can be highly invasive and the woody fruit has a poisonous center. The World Conservation Union (IUCU) placed it on the list of the world’s 100 worst invasive species. Under optimal conditions, it can grow to 80 ft. in height, with an average growth rate of 6 ft. per year.
The tree produces an abundance of papery seeds that are easily disseminated by the wind and the seeds have the ability to ride the wind for miles. The seeds can take root virtually anywhere and the young saplings are shade tolerant. Saplings can quickly form dense thickets that stifle the growth of other species and take over an area.
In poor soil, it tends to grow straight up, has minimal branching, and is weakly rooted. The wood is soft and brittle, making it prone to damage and uprooting in the event of high winds or if flooding occurs. It also needs yearly trimming of dead branches.
The dropped blossoms can be a messy and sticky slip hazard. Surface roots have the ability to lift and break sidewalks, interfere with mowing, and can pose a hazard to foundations if planted too close to structures.
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