The Pride of Barbados flower radiates wherever it is in bloom, its sunset colours lighting up its surroundings.
As a national symbol of Barbados, it can be seen across the island’s landscape, in the fields and hills that we call our very own. It is also embedded in the Coat of Arms as a symbol of its importance.
“Sometimes it is referred to as the Flame Tree, because it lights up the environment; it is also referred to as the Peacock Tree, because the petals are extremely pretty; [or] the Flowering Fence, because it is used as a fence around public buildings,” points out dendrologist at the National Botanical Gardens Nigel Jones.
The Cosmopolitan Shrub is another name which Jones says was used to describe the flower, because it is always around.
“It blooms almost throughout the year,” he says, adding that it provides a source of nectar for pollinating agents like bees, bats, and moths.
The national flower is also known as the Dwarf Poinciane; Krere-Krere; Tabachin and Tabaquin. Its scientific name, however, is Caesalpinia Pulcherrima L.
Jones explains that the latter part of that scientific name refers to its pretty petals.
The dendrologist says the Pride of Barbados flower is a member of the legume (pod) family, and can also be found throughout the Caribbean and other tropical regions. It usually grows to between 10 and 15 feet high.
There are 70 known varieties of the flower worldwide, with some bearing red, orange, yellow or pink flowers. Of the 70 varieties, six are found in Barbados, with the most common of these being the fiery red, often referred to as the Red Bird of Paradise, and one with a sunset yellow colour, known as the Yellow Bird of Paradise.
Jones explains that the red variety was first seen on the island in 1657, and is characterized by a yellow margin along the crinkled edge of the flower’s petal. This is recognized as Barbados’ national flower.
However, there is more to the flower than its beauty. The leaves are used by residents in Suriname to treat kidney stones, malaria fever and bronchitis. They are also used to relieve constipation.
As part of its contribution to Barbados’ 50th Anniversary of Independence, the National Conservation Commission is donating two of these plants to each school on the island.