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Horticulturalists note lack of poinciana blooms

Floral “red umbrellas” that pop up across the island in summer have failed to come out in substantial numbers this year.

Horticulturalists said that a lack of rainfall or damage caused by Hurricane Humberto last year could be the root cause of why poinciana trees were not in full bloom.

Malcolm Griffiths, a past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society confirmed yesterday: “Yes, they are late — normally they start blooming about May.”

Mr Griffiths added: “It may still well be that they may flower because we've been in quite a prolonged drought.”

The Bermuda Weather Service website said yesterday that the island had 27.21 inches of rainfall so this year, compared with the usual level of 33.52in.

Mr Griffiths added: “At the moment we have what they call a ‘soil moisture deficit' of quite a few inches.”

Mr Griffiths pointed out that a combination of factors could have affected poinciana trees, but added that oleanders and hibiscus trees had bloomed while ebony trees were late to flower in 2020. He said: “If they are stressed, which they obviously are at the moment, that could well be part of a deterrent for them wanting to bloom, but they could still bloom if we get a lot of rain at some point; we might get a late flowering.”

Jeff Sousa, the founder of Sousa's Landscape Management and Sousa's Gardens, agreed there were “very few” blooming poincianas this year.

He said: “We had a magnificent show — one of the best I've ever seen was in June 2018, so that was two years ago.”

But he said Humberto had “devastated the island”.

Mr Sousa added that the damage caused by the hurricane, a Category 3 storm that passed to the north of the island, meant that residents did not see “these lovely red umbrellas or red lollipops” this summer.

He said the poinciana was a “large, flowering shade tree, one of our most magnificent trees”.

Mr Sousa, who has managed to spot some poincianas in bloom, said: “The old-timers would always say, when they would see a lot of flowers on the poincianas ... ‘I will tell you now, we're going to get a big blow'.

“It's just really common sense. If the poincianas and all the flowering trees and all the large trees have gone several years with no damage, it's just a matter of time before we get a hurricane because we happen to be in the middle of the ocean.”

He added: “If we are blessed to go hurricane-free this year, I predict that in 2021 we will have a fantastic show of colour once again.”

Eddie Simas, the manager at Brighton Nurseries, also highlighted the folk tale that an abundance of flowering poincianas predicted hurricanes.

He added: “I have noticed they haven't bloomed, but I'm not really unhappy about it.”

Mr Simas said: “If Humberto damaged the trees then they wouldn't get as many blooms — it's hard to say, but usually that's the case.”

Roger Sherratt, a keen gardener from Flatts, dismissed the notion that bursts of bright red signalled the arrival of hurricanes.

He said: “We can put that to rest right now because we're having a very poor year for poinciana bloom and they're forecasting a great increase in the number of hurricanes this year, so that doesn't quite add up.”

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned of an “extremely active” hurricane season in 2020 with up to 25 named storms.

Its prediction was increased by six after a record-setting nine named storms were logged so far, compared with the normal average of two.

Mr Sherratt said: “I've been here since 1964, I arrived late May, and within a couple of weeks the poincianas were blooming and it's something I see every year in June and July.

“I literally have not seen a single poinciana tree in full bloom this year; I've seen a few with some flowers.”

Mr Sherratt added that he was aware many poincianas appeared “very healthy”, with branches growing well but no flowers.

One of the few: Jeff Sousa was delighted to see poinciana flowers on Harbour Road on July 8 (Photograph by Jeff Sousa)

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Published August 13, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated August 13, 2020 at 7:52 am)

Horticulturalists note lack of poinciana blooms

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