Calliandra haematocephala

red powderpuff


Calliandra haematocephala

Hassk. 1855

pronounced: kall-ee-AND-ruh hee-mat-oh-KEF-uh-luh

(Mimosaceae — the wattle family)


common names: red powder-puff, powderpuff

The name Calliandra is derived from two Greek words, καλλος (kallos), beauty, and ανδρος (andros), a man, so means ‘beautiful male’, or ‘beautiful stamens’. The word haematocephala comes from two Greek words, 'αιματος (haimatos), of blood, and κεφαλη (kephalé), a head.

Calliandra grows as either a shrub or a small tree, native to tropical and sub-tropical North and South America, India and West Africa. These plants produce a fair amount of nectar, and attract the various honey-eating birds, as well as bees and butterflies. They are legumes, and so help soil fertility. The flowers are individually quite small, but are clustered in large and showy inflorescences. The leaves are pinnate, with the final pair of leaflets larger than the lower pairs.

The Red Powder-puff, native to Bolivia, is a fast-growing, multiple trunked, low-branching, evergreen shrub that, unless pruned, can grow up to about 3 metres tall and spread to about the same extent. There are many of these in roadside verges and gardens on the island, and also a number of a dwarf variety, Nana, that has smaller flowers and does not grow so high.

The compound leaves have between five and ten pairs of glossy green leaflets. The leaves display sleep movements: at night the leaflets fold forwards, and then spread during the day. New leaves emerge a yellowing bronze colour, and turn a metallic green as they mature.

The flower buds, before they open, look like raspberries, first green, then red. The flowers are small, and mostly composed of long extravagant stamens, clustered to form spherical inflorescences. The pink to red stamens are about three to four centimetres long. Nectar-feeding birds and butterflies are frequent visitors to the flowers.

The fruit is an explosively dehiscent pod, dull brown in colour, linear-lanceolate in shape, 6-11 cm in length by 5-13 mm in width. When the fruit is ripe, the valves open elastically from apex to base along sutures. They contain 5 or 6 brown oblong seeds.


Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2005-2015
Page last updated 26th October 2018