I first set my eyes on these beautiful tropical trees in full bloom braving the summer of Delhi, but was surprised to find them on the way to B.R.Hills and many more in forests of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. I also read that this tree is the state tree of Kerala and national tree of Thailand. It is no wonder that this stunning tree is printed on a Re. 20 Indian postal stamp!
The botanical name of Amaltas is Cassia fistula belonging to Caesalpiniaceae (Gulmohar) family. In Hindi and Urdu it is known as Amaltas and is also known as Indian Laburnum, Vishu Konnai in Malayalam, Sonali in Bengali. In Kerala the flowers of this tree are used in Vishukkani arrangement during Vishu Festival celebration.
The tree when in bloom does not have space for any leaves and looks as though the tree is illuminated. Amaltas bloom in late spring. The flower bunches are pendulous, fragrant and yellow, which attracts bees and butterflies. Each flower has 5 petals and the flower is 4 to 7 cm in diameter. The tree grows up to 35 to 60 feet. The leaves are long, pinnate with 6 – 8 pairs of leaves on a stalk. The fruits are brown long capsules with flat poisonous seeds.
The trees are planted for their ornamental value and grow in full sun and well-drained soil. Parts of Amaltas tree are used in Ayurveda to cure illness.