Caesalpinia pulcherrima: Unveiling the Tropical Beauty in Your Garden

The Caesalpinia pulcherrima is a large shrub or small tree that can reach up to 3 meters in height. Its branches are green or pinkish-green with sparse thorns.

The bipinnate compound leaves have 4 to 8 pairs of pinnae, oppositely arranged, with 7 to 11 pairs of leaflets that are oblong or obovate, asymmetric at the base, with a notched tip, and very short petiolules.

The inflorescence is a terminal or axillary raceme with circular, petiolate petals in orange or yellow, and flower stalks up to 7 centimeters long.

The pods are black, containing 6 to 9 seeds. Flowering and fruiting occur nearly year-round. Native to the West Indies, it is one of the valuable ornamental trees in tropical areas.

I. Morphological Characteristics

Caesalpinia pulcherrima

The Pride of Barbados is a large shrub or small tree with smooth branches in green or pinkish-green, sporadically bearing sparse thorns.

The bipinnate compound leaves are 12-26 centimeters long; pinnae are in 4-8 pairs, oppositely arranged, 6-12 centimeters long; leaflets are in 7-11 pairs, elliptical or obovate, 1-2 centimeters long and 4-8 millimeters wide, with a notched tip and sometimes a short pointed head, and a skewed base; petiolules are short.

The nearly umbel-like raceme is terminal or axillary, loose, and can grow up to 25 centimeters long; flower stalks vary in length from 4.5 to 7 centimeters; the torus is concave, forming a top-like shape, glabrous; there are 5 sepals, all glabrous, with the lowest one about 14 millimeters long and the rest about 10 millimeters long; petals are orange-red or yellow, circular, 1-2.5 centimeters long, with ruffled edges, and the stalk is almost the same length as the petals; filaments are red, protruding far beyond the petals, 5-6 centimeters long, thick at the base and hairy; the ovary is glabrous with a long, orange-yellow style.

Caesalpinia pulcherrima

The pod is narrow and thin, inversely lanceolate-elliptical, 6-10 centimeters long and 1.5-2 centimeters wide, wingless, with a long beak at the tip, glabrous, not dehiscent, and turns black-brown when ripe; it contains 6-9 seeds. The plant has a nearly year-round flowering and fruiting period.

II. Growing Environment

Its likely origin is the West Indies. It is one of the valuable ornamental trees in tropical regions.

Growth Habits

The Pride of Barbados is a tropical species that thrives in warm and humid climates. It has low cold tolerance and may suffer branch damage from prolonged exposure to temperatures of 5-8°C, and is frost-sensitive.

It is suitable for pot cultivation and should be moved indoors or to a greenhouse in winter, with room temperatures preferably not falling below 10°C.

The plant loves sunlight, is intolerant of shade, withstands high temperatures and direct sunlight, and should be planted where it can receive ample sunshine.

It is not particularly demanding of soil types, doing well in sandy or clay-heavy soils, prefers acidic soil, and is relatively drought-tolerant but can also withstand some waterlogging.

III. Propagation and Growth

The Pride of Barbados reproduces through seeds. From mid-June to mid-December, the pods mature sequentially, with the peak of maturity occurring between September and October.

Harvest the mature pods during this period, expose them to direct sunlight until they crack open, and release the seeds. Seeds can be sown immediately after harvesting, and seedlings require cold protection to overwinter.

Alternatively, store the seeds to sow in the following spring. The seeds have an approximate thousand seed weight of 132 grams and require temperatures above 20°C to germinate.

Optimal sowing time is in the latter half of March, and it is recommended to soak the seeds in 60°C water before sowing, followed by 12 hours of soaking after cooling.

Germination is rapid, usually beginning three days after sowing and completing within a week, with a germination rate of about 60%.

Use the drill seeding method for sowing. Seedlings grow at a moderate rate and should be fertilized with nitrogen 2-3 times during the seedling stage.

After October, cease nitrogen fertilization and apply potassium to encourage early woodification. During winter, protect the seedlings from frost with coverings.

Year-old seedlings are ready for transplanting to the nursery, and two-year-old saplings can bloom for ornamental purposes. If leaf spot disease occurs, treat with a 500 times dilution of 50% carbendazim wettable powder.

IV. Main Value

Ornamental Use

The Pride of Barbados is a legume from the genus Caesalpinia. It is an erect, evergreen shrub that can grow up to 3 meters tall.

Its flowers are a fiery mix of orange-red with golden yellow margins, blooming like flames or butterflies on the branches year-round. It is one of the valuable ornamental trees in tropical regions.

Among flowers, the Pride of Barbados stands out not for its fragrance but for its striking form and posture.

The unique shape of its flowers resembles a phoenix in flight, complete with head, tail, wings, and feet – a vivid and lifelike image that evokes the marvel of a phoenix soaring in the sky, inspiring awe at the wonders of nature’s craftsmanship.

Medicinal Use

The Pride of Barbados is a renowned herb in traditional Chinese medicine. Its seeds are used for their blood-activating and menstruation-regulating effects. The stem juice mixed with rice wine is taken as a medicinal remedy.

V. Plant Culture

Birthday Flower

In the 16th century, the Pride of Barbados was associated with the Frankish prince, Saint Clair. Christianity has a long-standing tradition of linking saints with specific flowers, rooted in the church’s practice of adorning altars with blossoms during saint commemorations.

Monasteries in the Middle Ages, akin to horticultural centers, cultivated a variety of flowers. Over time, the church paired each day’s saint with a different flower, creating what is known as a floral calendar.

Most monasteries were located in southern Europe, with its Mediterranean climate perfectly suited for growing flora. The Pride of Barbados, belonging to the Asteraceae family, was chosen to honor Saint Clair, the prince of the Frankish kingdom.

It is said that Saint Clair renounced his claim to the throne, preferring the monastic life. He was known for aiding the weak, caring for the suffering, and performing many miracles.

Floral Emblem

Exile

The Pride of Barbados was dedicated to the Frankish prince, Saint Clair. After the death of his father, he was pursued by an uncle who coveted the throne.

To save his life, he renounced his claim to the throne and entered the clergy. Thus, the floral emblem signifies “exile.” People blessed by this emblem tend to be reticent and might often be found observing from the corners at social gatherings.

However, when their loved one appears, they may undergo a dramatic change in character, adhering to their convictions about love.

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