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Caesalpinia pulcherrima is a species of flowering plant in the pea family, Fabaceae, native to the tropics and subtropics of the Americas. It could be native to the West Indies, but its exact origin is unknown due to widespread cultivation. Common names for this species include poinciana, peacock flower, red bird of paradise, Mexican bird of paradise, dwarf poinciana, pride of Barbados, flos pavonis, and flamboyant-de-jardin. The Hawaiian name for this plant is ʻohai aliʻi.
It is a shrub growing to 3 m tall. In climates with few to no frosts, this plant will grow larger and is semievergreen. Grown in climates with light to moderate freezing, plant will die back to the ground depending on cold, but will rebound in mid- to late spring. This species is more sensitive to cold than others. The leaves are bipinnate, 20–40 cm long, bearing three to 10 pairs of pinnae, each with six to 10 pairs of leaflets 15–25 mm long and 10–15 mm broad. The flowers are borne in racemes up to 20 cm long, each flower with five yellow, orange, or red petals. The fruit is a pod 6–12 cm long.
Poinciana pulcherrima is a synonym of Caesalpina pulcherrima.
All seeds of Caesalpinia are poisonous. However, the seeds of some species are edible before they reach maturity (e.g. immature seeds of C. pulcherrima) or after treatment (e.g. C. bonduc after roasting).
Maroon medicine men in Suriname have long known some of the medicinal uses for C. pulcherrima, which is known as ayoowiri. Four grams from the root are also said to induce abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.[medical citation needed]
Maria Sibylla Merian, a 17th-century artist, encountered this plant in the Dutch colony of Surinam. In her seminal work, Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, Marian recorded that African slaves and native Indian populations use the flos pavonis or peacock flower as an abortifacient. She wrote:
The Indians, who are not treated well by their Dutch masters, use the seeds [of this plant] to abort their children, so that their children will not become slaves like they are. The black slaves from Guinea and Angola have demanded to be well treated, threatening to refuse to have children. They told me this themselves.
C. pulcherrima is the most widely cultivated species in the genus Caesalpinia. It is a striking ornamental plant, widely grown in domestic and public gardens in warm climates with mild winters, and has a beautiful inflorescence in yellow, red, and orange. Its small size and the fact that it tolerates pruning well allows it to be planted in groups to form a hedgerow; it can be also used to attract hummingbirds.
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- "Caesalpinia pulcherrima". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2010-12-03.
- "Tropical Flower Guide". Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
- "Ohai Alii – Ceasalpinia pulcherrima". Hawaii Horticulture A blog about gardening and plants in Hawaii. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
- "Poinciana pulcherrima L. — The Plant List". www.theplantlist.org.
- Lewis Nelson; Richard D. Shih; Michael J. Balick. Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants.
- Counter, S. Allen (2006-07-24). "Amazon mystery: A medicine man understood the secrets of this plant long before we did. How?". The Boston Globe.
- Schiebinger, Londa L. (2004). Plants and empire: colonial bioprospecting in the Atlantic world. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-674-01487-9.
- Schiebinger, Londa (2007). Plants and empire : colonial bioprospecting in the Atlantic world ([Nachdr.]. ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674025684.
- Edwards, Stassa. "The History of Abortifacients". Jezebel.
- Frisch, J.D. & Frisch, C.D., Aves Brasileiras e Plantas que as atraem, São Paulo: Dalgas Ecotec, 2005, 398, ISBN 978-85-85015-07-7
- "RHS Plantfinder - Caesalpina pulcherrima". Retrieved 12 January 2018.