Island in Flames

Sometime between March and July each year, Saipan seems like an island in flames when seen from a distance.

This is the time when the Flame Trees are at its full bloom, displaying a brilliance that resembles flames and giving the whole island a spectacular look.

I arrived on Saipan on a February and did not pay much attention to the first few orange blossoms that peeped out from the seemingly dead twigs along Beach Road, but one morning, I looked around with wonder. It was as though somebody went around in the night, touched all the twigs and branches with a magic wand and sprayed the streets with the colorful blooms that I was to learn later as CNMI’s national tree.

the leafless twigs before the flame tree blossoms

If you had been here on island for eternity, you may just take it for granted but for the newcomers, it’s a whole new world.

For two years now, driving from the Flame Tree Avenue at the airport down to Garapan along Beach Road and to Marpi during these months has been wonderful and I just can’t seem to get enough photos. The vivid red and orange flowers stand in total contrast to the backdrop of bright green foliage, blue skies and seas that would make a photographer’s hand itch.

Try going up to the balcony of the 15th floor of the Palms Resort Saipan facing the road and you will see a spectacular panorama that will take your breath away.

I learned from the internet that the first Flame Trees or “Tronkun At’but” were brought to Saipan by Francisco Borja Kaipat when he worked for the Marianas agriculture program in the 1960s. I read that the Flame Tree has been described as the most colorful tree in the world. Somebody told me there is also a yellow variety of the Flame Trees but it is something that I still have to see. If you know of one, feel free to email me. Meanwhile, here are some of my flame tree favorite photos…

up close and personal


an idyllic spot at Smiling Cove made much more attractive by a sprinkling of flame tree flowers

The first few flame tree flowers create a huge difference to the ordinarily eerie atmosphere at the Suicide Cliffs in Marpi

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