Bougainvillea Flowers – Beautiful to Behold, But Beware

Of all the amazing blooming plants found all throughout the Caribbean, the ones I love the most are bougainvillea flowers. They’re also the ones of which I’m most wary.

It’s easy to see why I, or anyone else for that matter, would love them. Bougainvillea positively burst with vibrant colors. This magenta bougainvillea that we came across at Two Sandals Bed and Breakfast in St. Thomas last year is fairly uncommon in my experience. More often you tend to see purple, red, orange, and yellow varieties.

All those brilliant colors, though, are not bougainvillea flowers.

The Actual Flowers in Bougainvillea Flowers

The flowers are actually the tiny white blooms at the ends of green stems within the brightly colored bracts. They’re usually found in clusters of three with the paper-like colorful bracts sprouting all around them.

bougainvillea colors
bougainvillea colors

Bougainvillea Colors

As we mentioned bougainvillea colors come not from the actual flowers, but from specialized leaves that surround the flower. And those leaves can come in an array of colors including magenta, purple, pink, orange, yellow, and white.

Even more interesting, though, may be the fact that bougainvillea colors can change! Yes, over time a pink bougainvillea could become a darker red over time.

This bougainvillea color change trick is thanks to the plants extensive crossbreeding and cultivation as well as changing conditions. Dry seasons, changes in soil, or other environmental issues can all combine to change the entire plant or even just a branch.

Bougainvillea Origins + Discovery

Bougainvillea flowers abound all over the Caribbean, though they’re not native to our islands. Their original home is South America; specifically, an area now shared by Brazil, Peru, and Argentina.

The flower is said to have been “discovered” in the 1760s by Philibert Commerçon. The French botanist just happened to be along on Louis Antoine de Bougainville’s quest to circumnavigate the world. Commerçon named the flower in honor of his host.

Bougainvillea National Flower

Bougainvillea is found all throughout the Caribbean. Nowhere, though, are they held in higher esteem than in Grenada. Bougainvillea is the national flower of Grenada, the Spice Island. The island’s coat of arms is even crowned by a wreath of red bougainvillea.

Bougainvillea Beware!

If you ever think of making a similarly-styled crown for yourself, well… don’t. Behind all that beauty, bougainvillea flowers hide some fairly nasty thorns. (This is where my wariness comes in.)

So yeah, you should definitely handle these cuties with care, or just admire them from afar.

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