Though they may not bear edible fruits, one cannot deny the elegance that ornamental trees bring to a place. They are the beauty of parks and gardens and add to the charm of a well-structured estate. In addition to landscaping, Prof B.N. Mbah a senior lecturer at the University of Nigeria Nsukka states that trees are important in controlling air and noise pollution, as windbreaks and in making the environment cool. If you have a place of your own, here is a list of different trees that might interest you.
Masquerade Tree (Polylathia longifolia)
The masquerade tree looks like narrow pyramids and is evergreen with long narrow leaves that are curled at the edges. They are arranged linearly on slender branches that point downwards.
They grow as thorny vines with flowers that have thin colourful petals that range from pink, purple, or white depending on the variety. They are usually grown on a trellis and used to form fences on walls or outdoor shades. Because of their thorns and twines, they serve as a natural barricade and thus are used as fencing plants.
Flamboyant Tree (Delonix regia)
This tree with tiny fern-like leaves and spreading branches serve as a suitable shade when mature. They produce bright red flowers and have seeds in dark brown pods.
They are identified by their waxy petals which depending on variety are a mixture of white, yellow, pink and orange. The tree barks are grey and their branches are gnarled, and their flowers produce a sweet fragrance.
Cycads look like short palms, but they are not palms. They have stiff deep green leaves that are attached directly to the trunk of the tree.
Yellow Bell (Tecoma stans)
The yellow bell is an almost forgotten plant in Nigeria (although it is not native to our country), and this is sad owing to the fact that it is the face of the 20 kobo stamp. The flowers are bright yellow and grow in clusters leaves are bright green and sharply toothed, and are either hairy or smooth. If not tamed, it can grow like a wild weed. However, its bright yellow adds a brilliant variety to gardens.
Before the medicinal properties were brought to the limelight, the moringa was commonly used as a plant for fencing. It might not be considered as ornamental, but like most trees, it adds an aesthetic value to the environment all the same and they grow tall very fast.
Conifers are known for their needle-like leaves, rough barks and conical shape. There are many different types of conifers but two groups are commonly used as ornamental trees –one type is short and round with the leaves arranged in a compact pattern and the other grows as high as 30m tall with a less dense leaf arrangement.
Palms also come in many varieties suitable for gardening some of which include the bottle palm, the royal palm, the cane palm, wine palms, fan palms, and many others.
The eucalyptus tree is elastic, with pale green leaves and a trunk which turns red-brown on exposure when its thin bark falls off. It is elegantly tall, growing between 20m to 50m, and a beautiful sight to behold when it sways in the wind. The most common species used for domestic beautification is the Eucalyptus deglupta.
The neem tree aka dogoyaro is not advisable to plant in small compounds. But in addition to arboreal aesthetics, its medicinal values make it a choice plant to be planted in large spaces.
Terminalia Umbrella Tree
Scientifically known as Terminalia mantaly, the leaves of this umbrella tree are like a tiny version of the leaves of the African almond popularly known as “fruit tree” in Nigeria and both are in the same group.
This tree looks like a banana or plantain tree whose leaves stand straight and spread out like a hand fan. The scientific name is Ravenala.
Though the mimosa is an attractive tree with colourful silk-like flowers, it may not be a landscaper’s choice plant because they have the potential to spread like invasive shrubs and their branches are prone to breakage. They are also identified by their sensitive leaves which fold inwards when touched and at night, a potential which is currently being explored for solar cell production by Nigerian scientists.
Ficus plants have deep green leaves and come in different varieties which could have long or round leaves. Landscapers use them to line hedges.