Variegata is a large tree, up to 100 feet in height, but commonly less in cultivation. It has a broad spreading crown of moderate density with many short branches, the bark is gray and smooth, but armed with curved spines. Leaves are green, alternate, deciduous and pinnate, with a prickly leafstalk about 10 inches long, and 3 broad leaflets, each 6 inches in length. Flowers appear before the new leaves come and are a spectacular show with long dense clusters of bright crimson blooms, 2 -3 inches long; hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers. Fruits are bean-like cylindrical pods about 15 inches long and constricted between the reddish brown seeds. Propagation by seed or cuttings. The plant has reported medicinal uses and livestock can feed on the foliage. Variegata tolerates a range of soil types, well-drained to seasonally waterlogged. It responds well to pruning. In addition to being a showy flowering plant for gardens, parks and along streets, variegata can be grown as a living fence, for shade, such as in coffee plantations, and associated with food crops to provide soil nitrogen.