Peter Strelkow RLA, ASLA | Contributing Writer
The Arroyo Quad at Belen Jesuit includes 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. 

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 fall.  

Another massive tree is the Red Silk Cotton near the Dining Hall. 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.

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 that open to brilliant vermillion red seeds.

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

The 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.

Across from the Gian Zumpano Aquatic Center 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 colors’ 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.


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 visit
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Belen Jesuit Preparatory School was founded in 1854 in Havana, Cuba by Queen Isabel II of Spain.  The task of educating students was assigned to the priests and brothers of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), whose teaching tradition is synonymous with academic excellence and spiritual discipline.  In 1961, the new political regime of Cuba confiscated the School property and expelled the Jesuit faculty.  The School was re-established in Miami the same year, and over the next decade, continued to grow.  Today, Belen Jesuit sits on a 30-acre site in western Dade County, only minutes away from downtown Miami.