Caesalpinia pulcherrima – Peacock Flower – Ajaytao
Common name: Peacock Flower, Pride of Barbados, Poinciana, Red Bird of Paradise, Mexican Bird of Paradise, Dwarf Poinciana, Flamboyan-de-jardin.
Hindi: गुलेतूरा Guletura • Manipuri: ক্রিশ্নচূরা Krishnachura • Marathi: Sankasur • Telugu: Ratnagandhi • Kannada: Kenjige • Oriya: Krishnochuda • Tamil: Mayurkonrai • Malayalam: Settimandaram • Bengali: ক্রিশ্নচূড়া Krishnachura, রাধাচূড়া Radhachura • Sanskrit: Sidhakya
Botanical name: Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Family: Fabaceae, Caesalpiniaceae (Pea family)(Gulmohar family)
Species: C. pulcherrima
Caesalpinia pulcherrima is a species of flowering plant in the pea family, Fabaceae, that is native to the tropics and subtropics of the Americas and the world. It could be native to the West Indies, but its exact origin is unknown due to widespread cultivation, like many other plants, Peacock flower has escaped cultivation and become established in warm climate regions throughout the world, it flourishes during summer when the weather is hottest and other vegetation fades. Nobody can justify its origins but it was about 1680 that the tree was recorded as growing in the gardens of India.
The name Caesalpinia honors a 16th century botanist and philosopher ‘Andrea Caesalpini‘ and ‘Pulcherrima’ means “very pretty” is derived from a from a famous family ‘Leguminosae’ and it subfamily is Caesalpineae. The tree is famous in India and is known in hindi as ‘Kunish Churin‘, the Bengali people know it as ‘Krishna Chura‘ and ‘Radha Chura‘.
Peacock flower is an evergreen shrub or small tree in frost free climates, a deciduous to semi-deciduous shrub in areas with only occasional, slight frost, and a returning perennial in temperate climates with mild winters (down to 19°F (-7°C).
The tree can rise upto 25m and its low branches form an open and spreading bush. It is a shrub growing to 3 m tall. The leaves are bipinnate, 20–40 cm long, bearing 3-10 pairs of pinnae, each with 6-10 pairs of leaflets 15–25 mm long and 10–15 mm broad. The fruit is a pod 6–12 cm long. This exotic plant is used extensively for its extravagant, showy flowers and its incredible heat tolerance. The flowers are borne in terminal clusters 8-10″ (20-25 cm) tall throughout most of the year in tropical climates and in late summer and fall where frosts occur. The most common colours are red and orange or a combination of red and yellow, but there are also forms with pure yellow flowers (often called yellow bird of paradise) and forms with flowers in shades of pink.
The inch-wide flowers have slightly ruffled petals and 10 long, red protruding stamens as accents (except the pure yellow form). As the inflorescence elongates, it produces new flowers at the top 1/3, and promptly sheds the lower old flowers. The pods form quickly at the bottom of the inflorescence, and the flower buds open a few at a time, so that buds, flowers, and seed pods appear simultaneously. The flowers are borne in racemes up to 20 cm long, each flower with five yellow, orange or red petals. Flowers, which appear in clusters on long erect stems, are smalled than those of Gulmohar and have exceptionally long stamens and a prominent pistil which protrudes from the center. Beautifully fringed, orange and red blooms cover this magnificent,West Indian shrub with deeply divided foliage. The most common color is red-orange, but one variety has pure yellow flowers.
C. pulcherrima is the most widely cultivated species in the genus Caesalpinia. It is a striking ornamental plant, widely grown in domestic and public gardens and has a beautiful inflorescence in yellow, red and orange. Its small size and the fact that it tolerates pruning well allows it to be planted in groups to form a hedgerow; it can be also used to attract hummingbirds.
Culture: Peacock flower is very easy to grow in alkaline to acidic, well-drained soils. This is a fast growing plant and moderately tolerant of salty conditions. Fertilizer application is hardly necessary, especially if it is grown in adequately mulched soils.
Light: This plant enjoys full sun to light shade and loves heat. Best growth and flower production is in full sun. It gets leggy in shade and blooming is reduced.
Moisture: Peacock flower is drought tolerant once established, but performs best with regular irrigation while blooming.
Hardiness: Even under frost free conditions Peacock flower may lose some of its leaves when temperatures drop to 50-40°F (10-5°C), but it recovers quickly. It can also survive a yearly freeze. Peacock flower dies to the ground following periods of mild frost, but it comes back reliable, albeit late, in middle spring. Don’t give up on it! Peacock flower has survived temperatures as low as 18°F (-7.8°C). It can be grown as an annual in colder climates.
Propagation: Peacock flower is easy to start from seeds. Germination will be speeded up if the seeds are nicked with a file before planting. Under good growing conditions, peacock flower will self sow or spread by root suckers (not invasive though). Soak seed in warm water for 24 hours before sowing. Sow into pots or trays of moist soilbased potting mix and cover with a fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Place in a propagator or warm place, and keep at a constant temperature of between 20-25C (68- 77F). After sowing, do not exclude light as this helps germination. Keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged; germination can take 1-4 months.
Pruning: Peacock flower benefits from pruning, and can be shaped to tree form or shrubby bush form. It grows quickly before flowering, but while flowering growth virtually stops. Prune to any desired height in late autumn or winter to control height and spread. To get a bushier, more compact shrub you can even cut Peacock flower to the ground in winter andwill recover nicely. It flowers on new wood so do not prune in the spring as this could delay flowering until September, meaning four to five months of flowering loss.
Red Bird of Paradise is the National flower of the Caribbean island of Barbados, and is depicted on the Queen’s personal Barbadian flag.
The flower is considered sacred to the Siva of India and the Hindus think it is very much sacrosanct.
Food: All seeds of Caesalpinia are poisonous. However the seeds of some species are edible before the seed reach maturity (e.g immature seeds of C. pulcherrima) or with treatment (C. bonduc toxicity is reduced after roasting).
Is an antioxidant – that scavenges free radicals and prevents LDL cholesterol from being damaged. Behaves like an antihistamine. May help protect against heart disease and cancer. Falvonoids found in the plant possess anti-inflammatory activities.
1. Helps in cases of cholera.
2. For abortion
3. To prevent recurrence of diseases, like malaria.
4. Promotes menstrual flow.
5. As a purgative or the watery evacuation of the bowels.
6. For producing energy.
7. To relieve chest affections.
8. To reduce or eliminate fever.
9. Widely used for the cure of bronchitis, asthma and for malarial fevers.
How to Use:
The decoction of the roots is given for cholera.
The infusion of the leaves or the bark is used for abortion.
The infusion of the leaves is used to prevent recurrence like malaria, promote menstrual flow, work as a purgative, and for producing energy.
The infusion of the flowers is used to relieve chest affections, reduce or eliminate fever, cure bronchitis, asthma and malarial fevers.
A combination of the roots, bark, and leaves may be boiled into a medicinal tea, which is given to patients as a treatment for fever, jaundice, kidney disease, and gastrointestinal disorders. Gargling with the tea is also said to treat sores in the mouth or throat.
A liquid extracted from the flowers of the plant is often used topically as an eye wash or applied to the body as an insecticide. The liquid is sometimes consumed to treat a variety of other conditions. Patients with severe gastrointestinal disorders, including dysentery or severe diarrhea, may also be given the fruit of the plant, which is said to have astringent properties, to eat. These properties help the plant to dry out the intestinal tract.
The plant is known, however, to be an antiseptic and an anti-inflammatory. These qualities may make it useful in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders and internal or external wounds.
Preliminary medical studies have also indicated that Caesalpinia pulcherrima may also assist in weight loss. Mice given enzymes that are found in this plant were able to lose weight at a faster rate than the mice in the control group. Despite its potential medicinal uses.
Maroon medicine men in Suriname have long known some of the medicinal uses for Caesalpinia pulcherrima, which is known as ayoowiri. Four grams from the root is also said to induce abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Most references say that peacock flower is poisonous, but people in central Africa do eat the seeds, presumably after boiling in several changes of water. Don’t plant this sharply thorny shrub near pedestrian traffic.
Caesalpinia pulcherrima is also known to be toxic at certain doses, and it may be dangerous for patients to use folk cures that include this plant.
Toxicity: Toxic to Dogs, Toxic to Cats, Toxic to Horses
Toxic Principles: GI Irritants, Tannins
Clinical Signs: Vomiting and diarrhea.