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Celebrating island nature: the Beautiful Bougainvillea

March 30, 2015

One gorgeous example of island nature you'll most likely encounter on tropical island getaways? The beautiful bougainvillea. While bougainvillea certainly grows off-island, somehow it just becomes unforgettable in the midst of an island paradise, like Jamaica or Grenada. Let's say you're wandering through the streets of a small Caribbean town and stumble across this:

(Bougainvillea in Marigot, capital of St. Martin. Photo by Zickie Allgrove.)

 

The colors appear so vivid that they're seared onto your memory -- even if you don't happen to have a camera. Bougainvillea has always enchanted me, and I've always considered it a flower. But if you study this colorful growing thing carefully, you might come to the conclusion that it's...

(Do it look vine-like to you? Photo by Zickie Allgrove.)

 

in fact a vine, plant, or tree, and you would be right. The pink, purple, red, orange, yellow, or white petals that we so admire grow right next to its actual flowers, which are small and white.

 (The small white flowers. Photo by Lino M, Flickr.)

 

Bougainvillea is native to South America, and was named for French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville, who circumnavigated the globe in the late 1700s. Later, the plant was introduced to other regions, including Europe. Today you can spot lush, hot pink bougainvillea thriving in places like the Cote d'Azur...or on Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.

 (A Florida hedge. Photo by Laura Albritton.)

 

In some yards and gardens it's been trained into ornamental topiaries, while in other places, it grows into luxuriant hedges. But be careful! Bougainvilleas are prickly. Although they look stunning, their thorns can scratch up your arms and legs if you get too close.

(You can spot its white flowers up close. Photo by Laura Albritton.)

 

Another fact about this gorgeous places is that in places where it rains all year, the bougainvillea will bloom all year. On the other hand, if the region has a dry season, the bougainvillea is decidous, meaning it loses its leaves for a period.

 (Bougainvillea growing up a tree in south Florida. Photo by Laura Albritton.)

 

Have you ever noticed bougainvillea on an island runaway? Or maybe you live in a warm climate, and have bougainvillea growing right out your front door? It's just another example of the magical beauty we can discover in the amazing, tropical isles.

 

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