Caesalpinia pulcherrima. RED BIRD OF PARADISE. Caribbean ?
LEGUMINOSAE (Pea family)

A small tropical tree, also called dwarf poinciana, with characteristic bipinnate foliage, growing near the Art Gallery at the north entrance to Cummings Art Building. This tree has died to the ground for the last two winters. Last spring it resprouted, grew to 5 ft or so and produced beautiful red blooms in summer. We hope and expect it will do the same this year.

Illustrations (links open new windows): habit |

Additions/Revisions: Observed 5/25/05 plant cut off at ground level.

The Pea family is among the largest flowering plant families with about 18,000 species in 630 genera worldwide. Caesalpina is the type genus for the Fabaceae subfamily Caesalpinioideae, following Cronquist (1981). This subfamily is intermediate in flower morphology between the other two higher-level classifications Mimosoideae and Faboideae (or Papilionoideae). The latter and largest group includes plants with papilionaceous, "butterfly-like", corollas (with standard, wings, and keel)—as the common garden pea. For medicinal uses see Schiebinger (2004) Plants and Empire.

All subfamilies are well represented on campus for closer study. Caesalpinioideae and Mimosoideae include mainly tropical trees with pinnately or bipinnately compound, alternate leaves. Mimosoideae flowers are regular (radially symmetrical), the corolla with equal petals often fused into a tube. Campus representatives include Acacia, Albizia, and Gymnocladus. Caesalpinioideae flowers are usually more or less zygomorphic (divisible into equal halves in one plane only). As with Caesalpina spp., the petals are distinct, the uppermost often smaller than the laterals. Other campus members of the subfamily include Bauhinia, Cassia, Cercis, Gleditsia, and Parkinsonia. It would be instructive to work out the higher classification of the many other campus peas (genera listed in the family index) from field observation throughout the year.

— further reading: Zomlefer (1994) Guide to Flowering Plant Families.

Name derivation, genus | species: after Andrea Cesalpino (1519-1603), Italian botanist | very pretty

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Botanical name index | Common name index | Family home