Botanical Family: Nyctaginaceae

Common names:

  • English
  • French
  • Hausa
  • Djarma
  • Gourmanche
  • Tamashek
Evoking not only the true tropics but also sunny coasts as far north as the Mediterranean, Bougainvilleawas named after the French navigator, Luis de Bouganville, who came across it during an 18th-century visit to Brazil. The showy has since been extensively hybridized with forms and colors very different from those of the original plant. By nature, Bougainvillea is a climber or scan dent shrub with stems that can reach several meters in length, usually clinging with the aid of curved spines. It can also, however, be clipped to form a hedge or trained into tree like and topiary shapes with sizeable trunks. Most varieties have pale green ovate leaves in pairs ; there are also a form with variegated, green –and-white leaves. The true flowers are small, white, tubular, and insignificant, the bright color being provided by surrounding bracts that appear in profusion. The most common colors are purple or magenta, but cultivated forms are available in all hues, from pure white to orange, pink, and crimson. There are also varieties on which two colors-pink and white, for instance – appear on the same plant, and others with large double bracts. The bracts usually fall of their own accord, but those on the double-bract form remain after turning brown and must be removed by hand to keep the plant from looking unsightly. Bougainvillea glabra and Bougainvillea spectabilis are the species that have been most extensively cultivated, Bougainvillea peruviana is al widely used in dry regions. Crossbreeding and hybridization have produced a wide range of colors, bract sizes, and blooming frequency, along with an equally large numbers of names, which may vary from region to region. Bougainvillea always needs full sun to flower best and prefers dry or at least very well-drained soil, whether grown in a garden or as a pot plant. Many varieties flower profusely only during a prolonged dry period or, if grown in pots, when water is withheld or limited; they do particularly well in seaside gardens. Hard pruning after flowering promotes bushy growth and more flowers. Most forms are easily propagated by woody cuttings.

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