Natural La Jolla

By Kelly Stewart

In early January, I begin looking for one of my favorite trees to produce its first bloom. On my daily bus ride to work during this time of year, I enjoy going past the Scripps Institution of Oceanography where spectacular specimens of this tree may be found.

Along the ocean side of the road winding up the hill, there are seven Flame of the Forest trees. They are twisted and gnarled and look like bonsai trees all grown up. This year I spotted the first bloom on Jan. 17 and the blooms have been increasing daily since then. Flame of the Forest trees lose their leaves over the winter and the beautiful red flowers arrive first, with the leaves coming later.

The Flame of the Forest is native to tropical southern Asia, but grows very well all over San Diego. In India, the flowers are used to produce dyes that are used in the Hindu celebration of Holi. This joyous spring festival begins on the last full-moon day of the winter season (March 20 this year) and is celebrated by people playfully throwing colored dyes and water at each other and throughout their neighborhoods, while bonfires are lit the night before in anticipation. Leaves are now beginning to appear on the trees but the gorgeous red flowers should last at least a couple more weeks.

Kelly Stewart writes about the natural wonders around La Jolla. Contact her at



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