Bougainvillea



Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea sp.) is a popular tropical and sub-tropical ornamental flower tha belongs to the family Nyctaginaceae.1 The Nyctaginaceae plant family  consists of 28 genera and 250 species. Spectacular bougainvillea of different varieties have been cultivated and used in landscaping Singapore, helping to establish the Republic as a garden city.

Origins and distribution
Louis Antoine de Bougainville, a French navigator, first discovered the shrub in Brazil in the 18th century. The two most common species, Bougainvillea glabra and Bougainvillea spectabilis, were cross-bred and hybridised giving rise to numerous hybrid varieties. Bougainvillea soon established itself around the world as a decorative garden plant. In Latin, glaber means “smooth”, signifying the smooth appearance of the flowers of Bougainvillea glabra.3


There are 14 related species of bougainvillea in South America. Bougainvillea is one of the few plants in Singapore that exhibit spectacular displays of blossoms in the country’s year-round hot and wet conditions. Flowering is encouraged by withholding watering and fertilising, particularly nitrogen. The plants can be propagated through wood cuttings and air layering.4

Description
Botanical Features
Bougainvillea is an evergreen scrambling shrub that can grow to a height of 7 m. In cool or dry weather conditions, it can become semi-deciduous. Overgrown shoots of the plant attach themselves to surrounding support with the help of woody thorns.5

Leaves
They are ovate, simple, alternately arranged, with leaf stalks about 1 to 2.5 cm long.6

Flower
The “flower” is actually a coloured bract that carries an insignificant true white flower at its base. In Southeast Asia, the Bougainvillea glabra flowers perennially, whereas the flowers of the Bougainvillea spectabilis look best only in the dry season, as they require a lot of sunlight and well-drained soil. The most common bougainvillea colours are magenta or purple, while other hues range from pure white to orange and rich crimson. Some hybrids have two colours in the same plant – pink and white, for instance, or pink and orange – and are known as “rainbow” bougainvilleas.7 The five sepals, which look like petals, are joined in a narrow tube of about 1 to 2 cm long, with five whitish-pink lobes.8

Fruit
It is small, dry, five-ribbed and has one seed.9

Usage and potential
The flowers give the plant a full and bright appearance, and the plant can be layered or cut into desired shapes. It can be trained to grow as tree or scrambler, as well as in other shapes and ways. It can also be grown in pots, or nurtured as vines around a tall support or on the ground. This flexibility makes it popular for topiaries.10

Bougainvillea is also used for hedging and screening purposes in homes and gardens.11 This sun-loving plant is ideal for roadside cultivation, and is one of the few plants that can add spectacular masses of colour along roads and on overhead bridges all year round in aseasonal Singapore.12

Variant names
Scientific name: Bougainvillea sp.13
Malay names: Bunga Kertas, Buganvil, Buginvila (Malaysia), Kembang Kertas (Indonesia).14
Chinese name: Ye Zi Hua (Mandarin).15



Author
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja



References
1. Warren, W. (1996). Tropical flowers of Malaysia and Singapore. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 581.95957 WAR); Wee, Y. C. (2003). Tropical trees and shrubs: A selection for urban planting. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 582.16095957 WEE)
2. Wee, Y. C. (2003). Tropical trees and shrubs: A selection for urban planting. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 582.16095957 WEE)
3. Warren, W. (1996). Tropical flowers of Malaysia and Singapore. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 581.95957 WAR); Wee, Y. C. (2003). Tropical trees and shrubs: A selection for urban planting. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 582.16095957 WEE)
4. Wee, Y. C. (2003). Tropical trees and shrubs: A selection for urban planting. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 582.16095957 WEE)
5. Wee, Y. C. (2003). Tropical trees and shrubs: A selection for urban planting. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 582.16095957 WEE)
6. Wee, Y. C. (2003). Tropical trees and shrubs: A selection for urban planting. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 582.16095957 WEE)
7. Warren, W. (1996). Tropical flowers of Malaysia and Singapore. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 581.95957 WAR)
8. Wee, Y. C. (2003). Tropical trees and shrubs: A selection for urban planting. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 582.16095957 WEE)
9. Wee, Y. C. (2003). Tropical trees and shrubs: A selection for urban planting. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 582.16095957 WEE)
10. Warren, W. (1996). Tropical flowers of Malaysia and Singapore. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 581.95957 WAR)
11. Ecocrop. (2003–2007). Bougainvillea glabra. Retrieved 2016, September 27 from Ecocrop website: http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/cropView?id=3795
12. Ng, P. K. L., et al. (Eds.). (2011). Singapore biodiversity: An encyclopedia of the natural environment and sustainable development. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, p. 247. (Call no.: RSING 333.95095957 SIN)
13. Ng, P. K. L., et al. (Eds.). (2011). Singapore biodiversity: An encyclopedia of the natural environment and sustainable development. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, p. 247. (Call no.: RSING 333.95095957 SIN)
14. Warren, W. (1996). Tropical flowers of Malaysia and Singapore. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 581.95957 WAR)
15. EFloras. (n.d.). Chinese plant names. Retrieved 2016, September 27 from Efloras website: http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=3&taxon_id=104374



The information in this article is valid as at 25 June 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Science and technology>>Agriculture>>Horticulture>>Flowers and ornamental plants
Plants
Bougainvillea--Singapore
Nature>>Plants