Bougainvillea spectabilis (Paper Flower) Aka Buganvilla (Spain), Bugambilia (Mexico), Napoleón (Honduras), Veranera (Colombia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama), Trinitaria (Colombia, Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic & Venezuela), Santa Rita (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) or papelillo (northern Peru). It is a genus of thorny ornamental vines, bushes, and trees with flower-like spring leaves near its flowers. Different authors accept between four and 18 species in the genus. They are native plants of South America from Brazil west to Perú and south to southern Argentina (Chubut Province).
The true, perfect flower is small, tubular, commonly white or yellow, and surrounded by showy, vibrantly colourful petaloid bracts. “Bougainvillea” is the generic name after Philibert Commerson (1727-1773) in honor of Louis Antoine de Bougainville (1729-1811), French marine explorer who introduced the plant in Europe from Brazil and who was the botanist who travelled with him in his world expedition from 1766 to 1769. His publication was the “Antoine Laurent de Jussieu”, the Genera Plantarum (Jussieu), 91, in 1789.
Bougainvillea is a woody, scandent plant grown on walls and trellises, with brilliant red-purple, orange, yellowish, or white bracts providing spectacular color. It may persist about old dwellings, and occasionally in plant dumps and gardens in warmer parts of the flora area.
Bougainvillea spectabilis can grow in USDA hardiness zones 10-11, preferring full sun , dry conditions, and fertile soil. It can be propagated from stem and root cuttings. They need at least five hours of direct sun in well draining soil. The medium needs to be well drained to prevent a poor root system and reduced flowering. Avoid media with high peat content and water-retention levels. These types of media retain too much water and will contribute to root rot. Media pH should be 5.5–6.0.
Bougainvilleas behave very much like tropical lianas growing with various long-stemmed, woody vines that are rooted in the soil at ground level and use trees, as well as other means of vertical support.
Bougainvillea spectabilis grows as a woody vine or shrub, reaching 15 to 40 feet (4.6 to 12.2 m) with heart-shaped leaves and thorny, pubescent stems. They can easily reach the size of a medium tree. They must be pruned and be given space for its climbing growth habit.
They are drought and moderately salt tolerant, making them ideal for tropical climates. At this time of year they are in full bloom in P.R., yet they can also bloom all throughout the year more profusely now then diminishing somewhat but never stop blooming.
Once it becomes a liana it’s the most beautiful sight.
Bougainvillea spectabilis Willd. Brazil bougainvillea, Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, vol. 80 [ser. 3, vol. 10]: t. 4810 (1854) [W.H. Fitch]
drawing: W.H. Fitch