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Bird of Paradise



BOTANICAL NAME:    Caesalpinia gilliesii

PRONUNCIATION:     kie-sal-PEEN-ee-ah gi-LISS-ee-eye

FAMILY:   Fabaceae (Legume Family)

TYPE:     Semi tropical, ornamental tree

HEIGHT:   8 to 15 feet

SPREAD:   10 to 15 feet

FINAL SPACING: 8 to 10 feet

NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE:   This introduced tree was originally collected from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. According to Shinner’s and Mahler’s book several Texas species (C. drummondii, C. jamesii) are now placed in the genus Hoffmann seggia and Pomaria. All these plants prefer full sun and well-drained soil. The fertility level is not important. They prefer the southern half of the state to avoid freeze damage. For use in the landscape, plant in full sun in an area that it will be protected from severe freezing weather.

Pride of Barbados

IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION:  Bird of paradise is a small delicate ornamental with lacy foliage and long lasting colorful summer flowers.

FLOWERS AND FRUIT: 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.

FOLIAGE:  The leaves are delicate, compound with 11 to 29 pinnae (primary divisions of a pinnate leaf) each with many leaflets.

BARK:     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 the southern half of the state but will sometimes freeze in the northern portion. It needs normal bed preparation and moderate water and fertilizer.

PROBLEMS: Other than freeze damage I have seen almost no problems with this plant.

PROPAGATION:  Easy to grow from seed planted in the spring. I have never tried growing it from stem cuttings but it should be easy in the late winter just before bud break.

INSIGHT:  Caesalpinia mexicana is a yellow flowering Texas native that grows wild in the far southern tip of the state. There are also red and orange varieties that also have to be grown in the far southern part of the state or treated as annuals. It has been reported that the leaves of C. pulcherrima (Pride of Barbados) have been used as a fish poison in Central America and the seeds have been used to poison criminals.


Caesalpini gilliesii (kie-sal-PEEN-ee-ah gil-EEZ-ee-eye )

Deciduous Sun Height 8-15 feet Spread 10-15 feet Spacing 8-10 feet

HABIT: Small decorative tree or large shrub, dramatic yellow flowers spring and summer. Yellow flowers with red stamens a decorative and lacey flower with textured interesting foliage. Is kin to the pride of Barbados which is used more as a perennial?

CULTURE: Easy, any soil, drought tolerant.

USES: Ornamental tree, yellow summer flowers

PROBLEMS: Few if any. Freeze damage in north part of the state.

NOTES: Native central USA to Texas, Argentina and Uruguay. Caesalpinia mexicana is a yellow-flowering Texas native that grows wild in the far southern tip of the state.

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