The Brilliant Bougainvillea
By Susana Cortázar
The title tells it all. Vibrant reds. Dazzling purples. Glittering yellows. The bougainvillea comes in all those colors and then some. Native to South America, this colorful plant adorns Zoo Miami – from its long entrance to exhibits and as far as the end of the zoo – year round. And at 15 – 25 feet tall, you can’t miss them.
The colorful bougainvillea grows best in full sun or light shade and while it can tolerate hot, dry locations fairly well, the flowers do best in full sun with regular watering. You may want to prune this plant often as it grows “vigorously,” according to tree expert Sir Bob Beck, who adds that, “regular pruning may be necessary to shape the plant or direct its growth since the fast-growing shoots can stunt growth on the rest of the plant if left alone to develop.” A word of warning while pruning, though – make sure you wear gloves and/or long sleeves as the plant has one- to two-inch thorns which can easily scratch.
An interesting fact about bougainvilleas is that, “they come only with white flowers. The other colors come from the bracts, which are petal-like leaves growing just under or around the flower," adds Bob.
So during your next visit to Zoo Miami, make sure you look out your window as you drive in and enjoy the wonderful colors. And while walking around the zoo, notice how these plants stand out, complement and enhance the animal exhibits and walkways with their pulsating hues.
Photos by Bob Beck