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Caesalpinia (Bird of Paradise Tree)

More Information About Caesalpinia

Caesalpinia is a genus of shrubs and trees in the Fabaceae family known for their beautiful flowers and fern-like leaves. Certain tropical species of Caesalpinia are also harvested for their exotic and expensive wood which is sold as Argentinian Brown Ebony or Partridgewood and is used in hardwood floors, cabinets, furniture, gun handles, violin bows, and guitar fingerboards. Although Caesalpinia is primarily a tropical genus , there are a few species that survive as low shrubs or dieback woody perennials in the southern US.

Caesalpinia was named for a 16th century Italian botanist named Andrea Cesalpino who was the first to classify plants based on their seed and fruit morphology and who worked at the botanic garden in Pisa in the late 1500s. He also created one of the very first herbaria in the world in the 1550s. Cesalpino later went on to be the personal physician of Pope Clement the VIII and to write dense books about Aristotelian philosophy. His writings on geology and fossils were hundreds of years ahead of their time. Quite a renaissance man!

Despite the common name Bird-of-Paradise, Caesalpinia is not related to the real Bird-of-Paradise, which is in the genus Strelitzia. Another common name Nicker, comes from an old English term for a marble and refers to the large rounded seeds of Caesalpinia which are used as game pieces and necklace beads in the Caribbean islands. Another common name, Holdback, refers to the long thorns present on some Caesalpinia species which are known to grab onto clothing.

Caesalpinia prefers full sun and well drained soil. Try combining Caesalpinia with other large exotic tropical looking perennials like Abutilon, Agave, Arundo, Brugmansia, Canna, Musa, Opuntia, Colocasia, and cold hardy palms. When you are ready to buy Caesalpinia for your garden, check out our online list of Caesalpinia for sale below.