Jewels of the north

I’ve recently returned from my annual summer pilgrimage to the tropics, to Mullumbimby in far northern New South Wales, and thence to Lamington National Park in the Brisbane hinterland, a round trip of roughly 1700km. Along the way I saw some really gorgeous tropical trees. The map below shows the first part of the journey, from Mudgee to Mullumbimby in the Byron Bay hinterland.

Leaving hot, dry and very dusty Mudgee (western NSW had several severe dust storms throughout December), the road heads into the high country of the New England Tablelands to Glen Innes, a grand old town with Scottish heritage and a climate to match. Then there’s a steep, winding descent to the coast, passing through tall timbered country, several rainforested National Parks and the upper reaches of some wild coastal rivers.

Arriving at Grafton, the home of the jacaranda festival, I feel the exhilaration of being close to the sea, and knowing that from here on I can expect splendid displays of gorgeous tropical trees, in their full summer glory.

Grafton’s jacaranda trees are past their prime in December, but here and there their frothy purple blossoms can still be seen among the fresh, light green leaves of the new summer growth. I’ve included this file photograph for anyone reading who’s not familiar with the jacaranda.

Jacaranda in full blossom.

My next stop is in the hills behind Mullumbimby, where I meet my sister Margaret, and see this lovely tree. I’m hoping someone reading this can identify it for me.

Photograph by Margaret Spiropoulos.

Then we set off for Lamington National Park. With all these gorgeous trees to photograph, I’m very glad to have Marg with me.

The road out of Mullumbimby, Mount Chincogan in the background. Photograph by Margaret Spiropoulos.

The Poinciana is ubiquitous in the Australian tropical north. They have a graceful, spreading form, interesting twisted trunks and vibrant orange blossoms.

Poinciana blossom. Photograph by Margaret Spiropoulos.

For me, the Poinciana is the quintessential north coast tree that says “summer” and “holidays”!

Poinciana trunks.

I keep my eyes peeled for the Illawarra Flame Tree, Brachychiton acerifolius, a member of the Bottle Tree family. It’s one of the small number of deciduous Australian native tree species.

Brachychiton acerifolius. Photograph by Margaret Spiropoulos.

Their gorgeous crimson blossoms really stand out in a crowd.

Illawarra Flame Tree. Photograph by Margaret Spiropoulos.

At a dairy farm on the highway near Murwillumbah, we stop to photograph this Tulip Tree.

Tulip Tree.

And just when I think nothing is more perfect than the traditional white and yellow frangipani, there on the roadside is an irresistible pink frangipani…

Pink frangipani. Photograph by Margaret Spiropoulos.

For kilometre after kilometre these stately “Brown kurrajong” trees, Commersonia bartramia, are in great abundance. Their understated elegance enchants me.

Brown kurrajong. Photograph by Margaret Spiropoulos.

I can’t drive past a tall tree smothered in pink and white flowers.


It’s one I’ve never seen before. Up close the flowers are just luscious.

Detail of the lovely pink blossoms- this tree is new to me.

The north coast is bursting with life, the plants seem to be jumping out of the ground and racing to grow as fast as they can. That joy and vibrancy is like a shot in the arm after battling the rigours of the summer west of the Great Dividing Range.

Can you help me out with identification of these trees?

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Lyn Ebert says:

    It is a wonderful year for summer flowering trees around Brisbane this year. Check out Cassia fistula for the yellow flowered tree and try Cassia javanica for the pink one.

    1. My Dream Garden says:

      Great information, thank you Lyn!

    2. My Dream Garden says:

      Hi Lyn, yes they’re definitely the ones.

    3. tonytomeo says:

      I thought that at least the first one looks like a species of Cassia, but I do not recognize it.The second one looks related, but I would not know. There are only a few specie of Cassia here, and they are not very common. If the pink one were here, I would have thought it to be more like a species of Robinia. It is so cool to see summer in the middle of winter. It is also amusing to think of the tropics as being to the North. Jacarandas are something that are popular to the South.

      1. My Dream Garden says:

        Hi Tony, you’re right – Lyn Has confirmed Cassia fistula for the yellow one and Cassia Javanica for the pink one.

      2. tonytomeo says:

        Oh, those were not my guesses. I was just going along with it.

  2. Sallie Scoggin says:

    I knew that orange one was a flame tree! Did you know that Aussies often planted flame trees next to Jacarandas? I have this in my garden… x Sal

    1. My Dream Garden says:

      What a gorgeous combination. Lucky you! 🌸

  3. JoAnn says:

    Wow, stunning and beautiful!

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