The most beautiful blossom in the world

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
The beautiful, individual blossom of the Pride of Barbados.

This garden beauty is drop dead gorgeous and should be planted in our Destin gardens. I bought mine while visiting in Austin, Texas and thought I would give it a try in my garden since both Austin and Destin fall into the same planting zone of 8b.  That was five years ago and I have found it to be a faithful perennial.

Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherrima (sez-al-PIN-ee-uh pul-KAIR-ih-muh) is a member of the pea family. Its blossom is the national flower of the Caribbean island of Barbados. Queen Elizabeth II has a personal standard of Bardados which depicts these red flowers in each of the top corners on a yellow field.  Many consider its blossom to be the most beautiful in the world.

When you see how many names a flower can be called you understand why the botanical name becomes so important. This plant can be called Dwarf Poinciana, Flowerfence, Peacock Flower, Mexican Bird of Paradise, Dwarf Flamboyan or Caesalpinia. The species name pulcherrima literally means “very pretty” and that is the understatement of the year. This dwarf is not related to the enormous Royal Poinciana tree.

This flamboyant beauty grabs your attention from across the garden with its burning colors that look like the brightest Destin sunset you have ever seen. The terminal flower clusters are made up of a mass of individual flowers. 

Each flower is made up of five crinkled, curving petals. The interior of the blossom is a deep electric orange with lemon yellow edges. Ten, six-inch-long stamens are bright, fiery red and, upon peak maturity, reaches upward with a royal, golden drop placed precariously on the very tip of each. Some of the flower clusters are rather densely populated and squatty while most others are reaching upward a foot or more.

Pride of Barbados has got to be one of the most dazzling choices for a medium-sized shrub in our planting zone.  If we don’t have a winter like this last one, it could be classified as evergreen.

The slammer we had last winter took my Pride of Barbados to the ground and I thought for sure I had lost it.  Oh, me of little faith found it emerging in early summer and it is already reaching about six feet tall.

My plant is gloriously covered with flowers and stays this way for months at a time. Once you get this plant started, it is easy to grow and absolutely flaunts its beauty to the sun.

It will take alkaline to acidic soil, is fast growing and tolerant of the slightly salty conditions I get here in my garden. It will take partial shade but seems to bloom best in the hot broiling sun. Once established it is considered drought tolerant. The butterflies go nuts over the enchanting blossoms.

At the end of a long, hot day the leaves, which are fernlike and twice compound, seem to wrap themselves into the gathered warmth of the day. The leaves curl up for a cozy sleep until the first rays of the new morning sun.  Early morning finds the leaves springing open with joy as it seems to reach for the sun humming, bring on the heat.

You can start the Pride of Barbados from seeds but you need to be pretty good at this. At the end of the season, the bush is covered with legume like seed pods three to four inches long and flat. As the seeds mature, the pods split open with a tiny crescendo of sound as the pods twists, opens and begins to drop the tiny brown beans hoping to begin life anew. If you gather the seeds, germination will be enhanced if seeds are rubbed with sandpaper, covered with a wet paper towel and placed in the warmth of the sun.

The most beautiful blossom in the world? A bold statement indeed, but many have concurred and I am mesmerized by its beauty every year. Is it possible that this might one day become the Pride of Destin?

Laura Hall is a longtime gardener and Destin resident.  She explores area gardens and other local topics with her cavalier spaniel Annie.  If you would like to show off your garden or be profiled in a future column, contact Laura at llhall4386@gmail.com.