Caesalpinia gilliesii

Bird of Paradise Bush - Caesalpinia gilliesii 
Bird of Paradise Bush
Hillsboro, New Mexico, USA

There are three reasons that I have not posted about Caesalpinia gilliesii, Bird of Paradise Bush, in the past.  But this year they are in their full glory and not to be denied.  The reasons for my oversight are straightforward: 1) the common is often overlooked, regardless of how beautiful; 2) the species is an exotic in our area, thought to have come from Argentina originally; and 3) there was a time years ago in the jungle of Costa Rica when my companion said, “Look, a Bird of Paradise”.  Being a birder, and forgetting that I was not in New Guinea, my heart leapt to overdrive and the binoculars were scanning every bit of foliage where a Bird-of-Paradise could be, perhaps a King Bird-of-Paradise.  Then I realised it was a flower that caused the excitement in my partner’s voice and I resigned myself to never taking a flower named Bird of Paradise very seriously.  Enough time has elapsed to erase, almost, the embarrassment, so today I recognize one of our common and very beautiful plants.  (Being careful not to tell the trumpites that it is from Argentina and probably does not have papers.  I can see the county’s backhoes in action.)

Since this species is an exotic (thankfully, it has not, as of yet, established itself in the Wilderness areas) it gives me an opportunity to deal with a different color scheme on the BONAP map (right) for this species’ range within the United States.  The bright blue color on the map means that the species is exotic, and present, within the county indicated.

This species goes by several common names (mostly with a “bird of paradise” descriptor) but it is not related to the Bird of Paradise plants in the genus Strelitzia found in the tropics (as in Costa Rica).  Its other English Common Names include Desert Bird of Paradise and Yellow Bird of Paradise.  In Spanish it is known as Barba de Chivo.  Its scientific synonyms include Poinciana gillesii.

It is native to the Amazon where shamans use it to cure fever, various sores, and persistent cough.  It is also used as an abortion drug.

© Robert Barnes 2018-2023