The tree is often grown as an ornamental for its strange appearance. This is a night blooming tree with glossy green leaves accented by tall spikes of flower clusters that begin their bloom cycle in a brilliant purple-red color turning to yellow as the flower ages. The long, podded fruits hang down from bear branches, looking like dangling sickles or swords in the night. The tree is also a night-bloomer and is pollinized naturally by bats. Additionally, after the large leaf stalks wither, they fall off the tree and collect near the base of the trunk, appearing to look like a pile of broken limb bones.
The cooked flowers, buds, young pods and young shoots are highly esteemed as a vegetable.