The Daily News, May 19, 1995
Bougainvillea a hardy, beautiful
gift good to mark Mother's Day
Last Sabbath. I sat in church and
listened to a guest pastor as he
spoke about Mother's Day. The
scripture for the sermon was taken
from Genesis 17-18. "And it came
to pass. when she was in hard labor.
that the midwife said unto her. Fear
not: thou shalt have this son also.
And it came to pass as her soul was
departing (for she died), that she
called his name Ben-oni: but his
father called him Benjamin."
This past week, we were blessed
with rain. As a woman gives birth
to a child, so is life springing from
Mother Earth. The dry, dusty earth
burst with green grasses and trees
blossomed as the rain fell from
heaven. Animals. plants, human
beings and other organisms expend
a considerable amount of energy to
reproduce. After all, reproduction
ensures the next generation of a
Thus, the life cycle of any par-
ticular species comes to an end, but
its genes can be perpetuated as long
as reproduction has taken place. In
evolutionary terms, the most fit
species are the ones that adapt well
to any given environment.
The bougainvillea plant is a
species that adapts well to dry envi-
Between 1766 and 1769, Com-
merson. a traveler, collected the
first bougainvillea pants from
Brazil and named the'plant in honor
of the French navigator. L.A. De
Bougainville, with whom he trav-
These plants are hardy, bushy
and woody climbing vines.
The environment seems to have
a great deal more to do with the
proclivities of a vine than we can
imagine. It includes not only the
rainfall or drought conditions, but a
great many other factors not ordi-
narily taken into consideration.
When a climbing vine gets to the
top of a tree, it can go no higher.
Thus, the vine begins to spread
itself over the tree crown and pro-
duce many flowers, leaves and
Just as the human family is dis-
tinguished by race Negroid.
Mongolian. and Caucasian so
Bougainvilleas belong to the
Four O'clock family. Nyctagi-
naceae. The species bougainvillea
spectabills is a plant that has larger
bracts and are a deep rose color,
predominantly in dry conditions.
Another species. Boungainville
glabra, is a widely used species that
grows more than 10 feet with bright
rosy-red bracts that are distinctly
veined. (Bracts are leaf-like plant
parts that are beneath flowers or on
the stalk beneath flower clusters.)
The species Boungainville
glabra also is grown commercially
in pots as a dwarfed plant. Several
varieties have been developed from
the bougainvillea glabra species.
including Afterglow, with yellow to
orange bracts. Variegata, with var-
iegated leaves and Purity Moonlight
and Madonna, with white bracts.
The common colors of bougainvil-
lea found in Virgin Islands gardens
vary from red through purple to
True flowers of bougainvillea
are small structures surrounded by
enlarged and colorful bracts. The
leaves are somewhat triangular and
the margin has a wavy appearance.
The stems are armed with thorns.
which help the plant to attach as it
climbs on trees, fences or walls.
Bougainvilleas are self-sterile.
and rarely produce seeds to contin-
ue the species.
Thus. propagation is done by air
layering or cuttings. In some vari-
eties. flowers might blossom in II-
15 weeks by pruning them back or
using growth-retarding compounds.
Bougainvilleas are drought-tol-
crant plants and will grow well on
poor soils. But they suffer when
exposed to heavy sea blast if plant.
ed along the coast. The plants do
well in full sunlight, even though
they can tolerate some shade.
For fast growth and flowering, a
complete fertilizer of 10:10:10.
about % pound for a fully devel-
oped plant, should be applied four
times per year.
You know, we often give flow-
ers to our friends or loved ones
when they are sick. But most of us
never think of the positive effect
fresh flowers have on one's mental
and spiritual state. Bougainvillea
flowers are an excellent way to say
"I love you, mother."
Olasee Davis. who holds a mas-
ter of science degree in range man-
agement and forestry ecology, is a
St. Croix ecologist. activist and