On Page 1 we considered what is perhaps the most widely recognized type of bird of paradise, Strelitzia reginae, a plant of warm, humid regions. But Mexican bird of paradise plants, along with yellow bird of paradise and red bird of paradise, belong to a group of specimens that are desert plants rather than jungle plants....
Desert-Dwellers: Caesalpinia Plants
Unrelated to Strelitzia reginae are the following shrubs or small trees, native to tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Western Hemisphere, in the Caesalpinia genus and belonging to the legume family (the latter fact being easily surmised from a glance at their leaves):
- Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)
- Mexican Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana)
- Yellow Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii)
The flowers produced by these three types of bird of paradise are totally different from those on Strelitzia in size, shape and arrangement. Specifically, the flowers are smaller and, when fully open, resemble azalea flowers more than they do Strelitzia flowers. The flowers come in clusters and the plants' seeds are toxic.
As suggested by their names, red bird of paradise has red flowers (with some orange mixed in) and yellow bird of paradise has yellow flowers. Mexican bird of paradise also has yellow flowers. For research purposes, note that many people mistakenly refer to Caesalpinia pulcherrima (see picture) as "Mexican bird of paradise." To add to the confusion, other common names for Caesalpinia pulcherrima include: "Pride of Barbados," "peacock flower" and "Poinciana."
Red, yellow and Mexican bird of paradise plants thrive in dry conditions and, once established, are reliable drought-tolerant shrubs.