Arroyo Quad Series: Belen’s Flowering Trees

Winner of 2020 Florida American Society of Landscape Architects Design Award!

Peter Strelkow RLA, ASLA | Landscape Architect | Contributing Writer



The botanical gardens at Belen Preparatory include several magnificent flowering trees. Like all

trees, they provide cooling shade and wildlife habitat. As a bonus, their intense and dramatic

flowers bring bold splashes of color to the quad at different times of the year.


White Kapok/Chorisia insgnus at Belen Prep, Miami
White Kapok/Chorisia insgnus at Belen Prep, Miami

A few of the trees lurking in the quad will grow to enormous size. Near the drop-off in the

xeriscape garden lives the giant White Kapok tree. Rarely seen in South Florida, but common

in much of South America, this deciduous tree (loses its leaves in winter) forms a massive

bulbous trunk. White flowers cover the canopy in the fall.


Red Silk Cotton Tree/ Bombax ceiba at Belen Prep, Miami
Red Silk Cotton Tree/ Bombax ceiba at Belen Prep, Miami

Another massive tree is the Red Silk Cotton near the cafeteria. In the genus Bombax, it is also

deciduous and hails from wet tropical regions in Asia. Famous as a street tree for centuries in

China, Myanmar, India, and Pakistan, this tree explodes with huge red flowers in late winter and

springtime.


Bahama Lignum vitae/Guaiacum officinale at Belen Prep, Miami
Bahama Lignum vitae/Guaiacum officinale at Belen Prep, Miami

At the drop-off area are a row of blue flowering Lignum Vitae trees. Slightly larger than our

native Lignum Vitae, it is the national tree of the Bahamas. These small and extremely tough

island trees were originally used for shipbuilding and medicinal uses. This little tree will surprise

you with a strong burst of attractive lilac flowers. Once the flowering is done, the tree forms

bright orange-yellow fruit capsules which open to brilliant vermillion red seeds.


Pink Powderpuff Tree/Calliandra haematocephala at Belen Prep, Miami
Pink Powderpuff Tree/Calliandra haematocephala at Belen Prep, Miami

Another Bahama native that is thriving in the garden is the White Dwarf Tabebuia. Seen near

the tennis courts in a large group, this elegant tree is at times covered in pale pink flowers.

The most prolific of all the flowering trees is the Pink Powderpuff tree, next to the Banyan. This

fast-growing beauty seems to flower constantly. It also attracts multitudes of yellow sulfur

butterflies and honeybees. If you are lucky, you will see small jewel-like that hummingbirds that

migrate through Florida in the Spring. How cool is that!


Verawood/Bulnesia arborea at Belen Prep, Miami
Verawood/Bulnesia arborea at Belen Prep, Miami

Bulnesia, a flowering evergreen tree also known as Verawood, is located across from the

Banyan. Native to Columbia and Venezuela, this large tree makes a stunning display of bright

canary yellow flowers several times during the year. Fast growing and durable, this beautiful

tree is becoming more common throughout South Florida.


Queen's Crepe Myrtle/Lagerstromia speciosa at Belen Prep, Miami
Queen's Crepe Myrtle/Lagerstromia speciosa at Belen Prep, Miami

Across from the pool is a small row of Crepe Myrtle trees that flower lavender for many months

each summer. These deciduous trees are tougher than nails and grow in almost any condition.

The ‘grande dame’ of the quad is the Queen Crepe Myrtle tree. Its gorgeous lavender flowers

dominate the rear area every summer. Native to India, it is also very attractive in winter as its

leaves show ‘fall color’ in shades of red.


As you explore the campus, keep an eye out for what is flowering throughout the year. Seasonal changes bring a kaleidoscope of color in flowering tropical trees, butterflies, and birds. This is one of the benefits of living in South Florida: enjoy it!!!

Peter Strelkow is a Registered Landscape Architect (FL#884) with his degree from the University of Florida. As Principal of HS2G INC, he has over 35 years’ experience in Landscape Architecture with projects in Florida, the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Ecuador. He has received numerous awards and several published projects. For an expanded version of this article or more information please refer to www.hs2g.net


For more information about building a garden for your estate in South Florida, please contact Peter Strelkow, principal at HS2G.


To read more you may also visit The Belen Jesuit school article