Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Baja Fairy Duster

Calliandra californica


I didn’t catch the flower of the Calliandra californica (Baja Fairy Duster) at its prime in this photo. The little puff-shaped stamens are already wilting and the red color is fading. In this heat the flowers go fast, but as you can see, there will be some more blooming in a day or two. The bloom cycle continues from early spring through September as long as it receives supplemental water. Before the flowers start to fade, they are a brilliant red, and they are a real hummingbird magnet. Bees, butterflies, and even hummingbird hawk moths love them too.

The Calliandra genus is part of the Pea (Fabaceae) family. Not surprisingly, the seedpods on this shrub resemble a pea pod. When ripe, the pods pop open and the seeds shoot out in a mini-explosion. Occasionally when I'm in my garden I’ll hear a soft cracking sound when the seedpods pop.

My 24-inch shrub froze to the ground during this past winter’s hard freeze, and I thought it was gone, but in early spring, it started growing again and is now about 12 inches tall. It is usually hardy in normal winters, so barring any more freezes it will reach, at maturity, a height of about four feet, and will be just as wide, or wider. Its branches grow in a criss-cross fashion so it’s not an easy shrub to prune. I just let it do its thing. I’ve located it in an area so pruning won't be necessary.

There are well over 100 species in the Calliandra genus native to Baja California, Madagascar and India. Another popular Calliandra species popular in the Phoenix area is the Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla) that has bright pink flowers. I prefer the bright red flowers and darker green foliage of the californica species.

8 comments:

chigiy at Gardeners Anonymous said...

Pretty plant. It looks sort of jacarandaesque.

My Wisteria seed pod explode in the dead of winter here and it sounds like a gunshot.

Julie said...

This is a spectacular bloom!!! What a beauty!
Julie

farmingfriends said...

I didn't realise how many lovely and unusual cacti plants there are. Are they all in your garden?
Sara from farmingfriends

No Rain said...

farmingfriends,
Yes, everything I write about is in my garden. All the photos are mine also. I have a little bit of everything, it seems, as I have a large property and I like it lush. My goal was to write about every single plant, sort of an online garden journal that keeps me sharp on my various plants and records what issues or successes I've had.

jocelyn said...

This is a lovely shrub; a nice, light, textural contrast to your cacti.

I am curious, however, about the classification. I have always known the pea family as "Leguminosae" NOT "Fabacea". Has this changed, or has the family been split? In my work I mostly deal with genus and species for classification, so I'm probably way behind the times! Please advise...

No Rain said...

Hi Jocelyn,
Thanks for visiting my garden blog. In answer to your question regarding Fabaceae vs. Leguminosae, apparently Leguminosae is an acceptable alternative to Fabaceae, so if you use it, you are not wrong. We learned to use the term Fabaceae rather than Leguminosae. All sources refer to Fabaceae as the botanical Family name for the Calliandra genus. Thanks for asking.

Betty said...

Do you know why the bark might separate from the stem? I have had two that have done this in the winter when the lows were only down to 28. They were in different areas of the yard. I did cover them since they were not very well established yet. It's possible that may have been the problem.

Aiyana said...

Betty,
I'm not sure what would cause peeling bark. Usually the Fairy Duster can take temps down to 20 degrees. Can you actually tell the is bark separated from the stem, or does it just look loose? You don't say where you are living, but in the Phoenix area the Fiary Dusters currently are flowering. If yours still has leaves and/or flowers, it will probably be ok. Don't do anything now and just wait and see if the plant thrives in spring.
Aiyana