When the build-up comes to Darwin, and the air seems hot enough to start a fire with every breath, if not for the humidity to sizzle it out in smoke, the flame trees know it’s time to bloom. Flame trees, a.k.a. delonix regia or the Royal Poinciana, is a sure sign that the year is zipping up to a sweaty close in the Top End. Her fiery display of florals is enough to make any walker stop in their tracks. I’ve chased the flame trees once before at East Point, but on a particular walk in the last few days of my practical in Darwin, I came across an old favourite in the Botanical Gardens. To be honest, I’d nearly forgot she was there.
At the bottom of the Botanic Gardens, in a scrap of land that has over the years been nothing of great importance, there is growing a flame tree with few to equal her. With the setting sun behind her boughs, she truly is magnificent to behold, and impossible to miss on approach. There’s a kind of magic to be ducking underneath the branches, heavy with red and orange blooms. It’s the magic of being inside something so beautiful, you barely have the words to describe the feeling all around you.
So, while my walking buddies wandered off without me, I took a moment to capture the brilliance of a flame tree at the peak of blossoms. My footsteps were softened by the cushion of all the blooms that came before these ones, and inside the boughs the light danced and ducked around me. Capturing the light as a photographer is always the challenge, but in this spot so much beauty meant all I really had to do was get the settings right, point and click.
When you’re in amongst the blooms, it’s hard to see why these trees have a ghost story attached to them. How can so much beauty be associated with something so dark as murder? But small towns make rumours grow big, and the tale of the Poinciana Woman is one that kept me up at night. It seems to me like it might be conspiracy to keep people away from the flame trees, and leave their magic to a select few. I’m glad to say that, this year at least, I was among them.