Saturday, January 10, 2015

Fairy Dusters

Calliandra emarginata

 Here is the second installment of my New Year's resolution, which I am keeping. It is the pink fairy duster (don't you just love that name?)- also called powder puff plant or Calliandra emarginata
I have seen this at many conservatories including Matthaei Botanical Garden and the one pictured here  from the Anna Scripps Whitcomb conservatory on Belle Isle. (Belle Isle was just recently made a Michigan state park, and the changes in the conservatory under the new management are remarkable!)
The sign in the conservatory states that it is a pink powder puff plant. I'm not seeing any pink, but I'm assuming it is correctly labeled. The first thing you notice are the poofy (obviously a word I've made up) flowers. But, on further study, I've found that these flowers are really a ball of stamens. Calliandra is Greek for 'beautiful stamens'. The true flowers are in a cluster in the middle and when in bud looks like a raspberry. The flower has no petals. Logee's catalog describes it as looking like "exploding fireworks".  This species is native to Mexico and Central America and is pollinated by hummingbirds. It grows into a  3-6' tall shrub, making it perfect for the greenhouse. It can be trimmed, as it blooms on new growth and it is almost always in bloom. It takes sun to part shade and is drought tolerant after becoming established. I saw this plant on a bonsai page and they make great bonsai. And, because it is drought tolerant, is a perfect plant for the bonsai beginner. It is a beautiful plant adding color and interest to the conservatory.
Calliandra emarginata
A flower that is almost done.


  1. I've seen some at Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago. I learned something new after reading your post. :)

  2. Lovely photos and post. Curious that you don't see the pink as it appears quite pink in the photos to me.... It's 3 degrees outside and I wish we had a conservatory to visit in eastern MA. There are a few small ones, but nothing large with the diversity of plants that you show... Thanks for your inspiring writing.

    1. The Belle Isle conservatory isn't that large, but I love it! Thanks for the kind words!

  3. I love the flowers. Never seen these plants before. Thanks for sharing