Caesalpinia gilliesii

A nod of appreciation to Roberta K. of Tucson, Arizona for sharing these night-time photographs with us. Roberta, a frequent commenter on BPotD, sent these along via email a few weeks ago. Thank you!

Like yesterday’s Cercis, Caesalpinia is a member of the legume family. It also belongs to the same subfamily — the Caesalpinioideae (occasionally recognized as its own family, the Caesalpiniaceae). Members of this group typically grow in tropical and subtropical areas, and Caesalpinia gilliesii is no exception. Its native range includes Argentina, Peru, Chile and Uruguay, though it is naturalized elsewhere (including dryland areas of the southern USA). This particular plant was grown from seed by Roberta.

Common names for the species include bird-of-paradise shrub (though it is not a Strelitzia), desert bird of paradise, yellow bird of paradise, barba de chivo, and cat’s claw (via Wikipedia).

Caesalpinia gilliesii
Caesalpinia gilliesii

17 responses to “Caesalpinia gilliesii”

  1. Judith Solberg

    A beautiful plant when in bloom–it grows as a weed on disturbed ground in Dona Ana County, New Mexico–but a pest otherwise. At least, that’s what farmers always told me. I have photographed it with enjoyment myself.

  2. TC

    What an odd looking plant. It would fit in nicely on board the USS Enterprise NCC-1701

  3. Mike Bone

    Those have been hardy in Denver for several years now.

  4. BruceJ

    I’m in Tucson, too, mine have just started blooming; they’ll bloom from early spring on into late fall, and the they sprout readily from seed.
    My yard is always sprouting volunteers.

  5. Beverley

    Caesalpinia gilliesii – Z8 – RHS Index of Garden Plants, Griffiths
    Caesalpinia gilliesii – Z9-11 – A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, Brickell, Cole, Zuk
    Caesalpinia kie-sal-pee-nee-a After Andreas Caesalpini (1519-1603] Italian botanist. gilliesii gi-leez-ee-ee. After John Gillies [1747-1836] Dictionary of Plant Names, Coombes

  6. david

    Of note the seed pods use explosive forces as they dry to launch the seeds away from the plant. The ones in my backyard can launch at least 10 ft away. They seem to shoot off at dusk and can be heard as a snap. I have been hit by the seeds as I work on my back patio.
    Quite an amazing means for seed distribution. We planted one and now have quite a few growing in our yard in a perimeter around the original.

  7. Roberta

    Thank you for posting my photos and for all the interesting comments. I had no idea they sprout volunteers and are considered a weed. I grew this one from a seed. I didn’t know that the pods spit out the seeds with such force either. I’ll beware when I’m on my patio or in my backyard. Another plant that releases its seed forcefully is Devil’s Claw. That one blooms in the monsoon (late summer). It’s also a beautiful flower and rich in folklore. I once tried transplanting one, but it didn’t take. I’ll post some photos of it next time I see one in bloom. Has anyone seen that Nature program about seeds, I think it’s called “The Seedy Side of Life”? It shows a Devil’s Claw releasing its seeds in time-lapse photography. Awesome show.

  8. elizabeth a airhart

    so many interesting peiople
    to meet and links to follow thank you
    as i was reading i thought about
    a plant called touch me not–one
    touch lightly and the seeds would pop out
    a plant of my little girl hood when flowers
    turned upside down made dresses and dolls
    i live in florida will this plant grow here

  9. BruceJ

    No, they don’t transplant well, at least from out of the ground, in my experience; I’ve never been successful.
    If you want one to grow in a certain place, plant a seed in a pot and plant it when it’s started getting established or just grow them from seed where you want them. They’ll sprout readily…I’ve got herbs in pots growing near mine and I’m constantly pulling seedlings out.
    Conversely, they’re also damned hard to kill…for example, I have one growing outside my kitchen window that’s growing right next to my foundation, I’ve cut it back to 4-6″ below the ground and it keeps coming back. They benefit from a drastic pruning during the dormant season, or they get pretty leggy.
    Yes, they grow in Florida…we gave some seeds to my mother-in-law, and she was even able to grow one in a pot in Ohio. Had to bring it in in winter, but it grew well. I’m fairly certain she said she got them going at her winter home in FL (Tampa area).

  10. Roberta

    Actually, the Red Bird of Paradise is more showy. It has bright red and orange flowers. The pods are almost identical,

  11. tracy

    hi i live in the canary isalnds just off the coast of africa and have a very hot and windy garden this plant seems to stand up to everything
    i dont know where it appeared from but it is very welcome in my garden!!! such stunning flowers

  12. Nancy Turner

    Hello, this is a beautiful photo. My name is Nancy Turner, and i am working on the finishing touches of a revision of a book on poisonous plants and mushrooms of north America. it is tentatively to be called “The Timber Press Handbook of Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms.” the very last photo we need is … guess what! Bird-of-paradise shrub (Caesalpinia gilliesii). Is there any way i could use this photo? or… would anybody in this discussion group have a good photo that we could use? thank you in advance. Perhaps Roberta could get in touch with me.

  13. Daniel Mosquin

    Just to follow up with this, Nancy located a photograph before I was able to contact her, so no need to send something along, Roberta.

  14. Karen Allen

    I dug up a Bird of Paradise tree from a neighbor (I live in Norfolk, VA). I transplanted it a week ago tomorrow, I have been watering twice a day for 30 minutes each time. The foliage is looking very bad….drying up. Is there anything I can do? I really like this tree and want to keep it. Any help would be appreciated. I planted it in some of the soil it was in plus Miracle Grow garden soil and some of the soil in my yard. Thanks for the help.

  15. Karen Allen

    Roberta, where can you get seeds for the Red Bird of Paradise? I would love to try them.

  16. Barbara A Band

    This lovely looking plant grows profusely in Anatolia, Turkey

  17. Ivica Ursic

Leave a Reply