Saturday, July 12, 2008

Peacock flower

PLANTING FLOWERING shrubs especially those that are always in flower is an easy way to make a garden colourful throughout the year.
One such useful shrub is Caesalpinea pulcherrima, which produces smaller Delonix regia or Gul Mohr-like orange-red flowers.
It is an ornamental shrub of medium height (3 to 3.5m) with occasional prickles. The leaf stalks are twice branched and the leaflets 1.5 cm long and of a pleasing green colour.
The plant bears flowers in large pagoda-like conical bunches on top of erect branches. The flowers have five clawed petals one of which is smaller and shaped differently. All the petals one of which is smaller and shaped differently. All the petals have crinkled edges. The stamens are scarlet and about five cm long. The petals turn dark and become scarlet with age. The plant gets the name `Peacock flower' from the closely arranged stamens that bear a fanciful resemblance to the crest of a peafowl.
Caesalpinia pulcherrima is believed to be a native of tropical America. The plant is also commonly known as `Barbados Pride'. Besides the orange-red type there is also a purely yellow flowered variety.
Though perennially blooming, the plant produces larger and more colourful flowers after the rains. The plant does well in a sunny situation.
The plant can be propagated through cuttings but it is mainly grown from seeds. Plenty of thin and long pods are produced each with ten or more seeds. The seeds germinate easily.
Caesalpinia pulcherrima is not very particular about the soil and thrives in any garden soil without much care.
Though an exotic one, the plant finds a place among our medicinal plants and infusion of the flowers is prescribed for asthma, bronchitis and malarial fevers.
Occasional watering and light trimming keeps the plant in good condition and shape. The shrub is suitable for hedging and as a colourful addition to the shrubbery.

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