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Bird of Paradise

Common names:  Bird of paradise bush, Mexican poinciana, pride-of-Barbados, paradise poinciana
Botanical name:  Caesalpinia gilliesii  (kie-sal-PEEN-ee-ah gi-LISS-ee-eye) Fabaceae (Legume or pea Family) The Fabaceae, Leguminosae or Papilionaceae, commonly known as the legume, pea, or bean family, are a large and economically important family of flowering plants.

Habit:  Bird of paradise is a small, delicate, woody plant with lacy foliage and long lasting colorful summer flowers. It grows 8 to 15 feet with a spread of 10 to 15 feet. Flowers are yellow with red stamens with textured interesting foliage. Flowers are showy with open racemes and usually yellow and red. Fruits are pods that often appear on the plant while it is still flowering that are dark brown to black at maturity. Pods are pubescent, which means fuzzy. The leaves are delicate, compound with 11 to 29 pinnae (primary divisions of a pinnate leaf) each with many leaflets.  The bark is smooth and brownish gray.

Culture:  Bird of paradise is relatively easy to grow and will be a perennial or permanent plant in zones 9 and warmer but will sometimes freeze in colder climates. It needs normal bed preparation and moderate water and fertilizer.
This introduced tree was originally collected from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. These plants prefer full sun and well-drained soil. The fertility level is not important. For use in the landscape, plant in full sun in an area that it will be protected from severe freezing weather. Caesalpinia mexicana is a yellow-flowering relative that is native to northern Mexico and grows wild in the far southern tip of Texas.

Uses:  This ornamental tree or bush can be used as a specimen feature, part of the border garden or in containers. Even used as an annual in northern gardens, it is a delightful plant to enjoy. 
Problems:  Other than freeze damage outside its comfort range I have seen almost no problems with this plant. Gardeners colder than zone 8 definitely need to use this little tree as a container plant and protect it n the winter.
Propagation:  Easy to grow from seed planted in the spring. The seeds are hard so scarifying is helpful. Use a small file and nick them. Treat with Garrett Juice as with all seed planting. I have never tried growing it from stem cuttings but it should be easy in the late winter just before bud break.
Notes:  It is kin to the Pride of Barbados that is used more as a perennial. Caesalpinia mexicana is a yellow flowering Texas native that grows wild in the far southern tip of the state. It is a completely different plant and not available in the nursery trade at this time. Bird of Paradise (Stelitzia reginae), also known as crane flower, is a beautiful exotic flower. It is native of South Africa derives its name from the unusual flowers, which resemble brightly colored birds in flight.


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