While they may have similar common names, the Mexican Bird of Paradise is not related to the Birds of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae). Caesalpinia pulcherrima (ses-al-pin-ee-AY-see-ee pul-KAIR-ih-muh) is a plant native to the tropical and subtropical climates and belongs to Fabaceae, the pea family. Its exact origin is unknown, but the Mexican Bird of Paradise is thought to come from the West Indies.
Caesalpinia pulcherrima is an attractive, ornamental deciduous shrub/small tree that produces brilliant, showy 5-petaled flowers in yellow, orange or red with long, prominent red stamens. While the flowers are beautiful to look at, don’t get too close to the plant; it has sharp prickles along its stem. The leaves are flat and fern-like. The seed pod looks like a bean pod, with its long, flatten shape. In the wild, the plant can grow as tall as 15-20 feet tall!
The Mexican Bird of Paradise, which blooms profusely in the summer months, is widely cultivated in many public gardens with warm climates. This shrub is easy to grow, hardy and low maintenance. It is ideal for hedges and as screen backgrounds. Plus, the colourful flowers are also known to attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Plant in full sun, as it can get leggy in the shade. The Mexican Bird of Paradise can tolerate most soils, as long as it is well-drained. The flowering period is generally from early spring until summer. In tropical climates, it will flower all year round. It will self-sow, so deadhead if you don’t want the plant to spread. In additional to making a wonderful additional to your garden, the Mexican Bird of Paradise can also be potted and grown as a houseplant, given the appropriate conditions.
Climate Zones: 8-11
Fun Flower Facts about the Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima):
- Other Common Names: Peacock Flower, Red Bird of Paradise, Pride of Barbados, Dwarf Poinciana (as the flowers are similar to the royal poinciana)
- The genus name honours Andrea Caesalpino (1519-1603), an Italian botanist.
- It is the national flower of Barbados.
- The seeds are considered poisonous, if ingested. Though in some species, the green seeds are edible when cooked.
- The seeds can be used to make dyes.
- Caesalpinia pulcherrima has a history of traditional medicinal use. It is said to induce abortion after the first trimester of pregnancy.
- In Hawaii, the flowers are sometimes used to make leis.
- Fun Flower Facts: Birds of Paradise (Stelitizia reginae) (funflowerfacts.com)
- The Mexican Bird Of Paradise (hbmike2000.wordpress.com)