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Bougainvillea: a beautiful ornamental plant


Beautiful Bougainvillea plant in a Philippines village

Bougainvillea plant in a village in the Philippines along with coconut palms and plantains around a home

This photo shows a Bougainvillea plant in a village neighborhood in the Philippines. As you can see, it is not properly tended. Other prominent plants in the picture are coconut palms and plantains (banana plants).

The Bougainvillea genus of flowering plants is perennial shrubs native to South America, and it has 4 to 18 species in the genus, as various authors identify the plants. They are thorny woody vines, can grow 1 to 12 meters tall. They are mostly evergreen with abundant green foliage.

What we generally see as the bougainvillea flowers are in fact their bracts, which structurally are similar to leaves with prominent veins and leaf blades, but brightly colored. The actual flower is small and generally white in color. Each cluster of three flowers is surrounded by three or six bracts with the bright colors ranging from red, orange, pink, magenta, purple, white, yellow, or other color variations. In the case of some species, or hybrids, a single bunch can contain bracts of two colors, either the entire bract being one color or partly one color and partly another color. The leaves of such plants may also appear as variegated leaves, as in the case of certain crotons, with yellow patches devoid of chlorophyll, but with yellow plastids that are incapable of photosynthesis.

Bougainvilleas are very popular ornamental plants in most areas with warm climates, including several African countries like Ethiopia, South Africa, Egypt and Libya, Asian countries such as Kuwait, U.A.E., Thailand, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, European countries such as Greece, Switzerland, and most other countries in the Mediterranean region including Cyprus, the Caribbean including Aruba (a Constituent country of the Netherlands), South American countries like Brazil, Peru and Argentina, Central America, Mexico, Australia, Turkey, and in the United States in Hawaii, California, Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, South Carolina, and southern Texas.

Over 300 species/varieties of bougainvilleas are found around the world, all of them being hybrids or crosses developed over the years because of interbreeding among three out of the eighteen South American species recognized by botanists. Because of repeated hybridization and/ or spontaneous natural mutations over several generations, it is very difficult to identify their origins or the exact species.

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