Seed of the Week: Red Bird of Paradise

Our fascinating seeds in a pod from last week’s mystery were from a red bird of paradise, also called pride-of-Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima). In Phoenix it is sometimes mistakenly called a Mexican bird of paradise, which is a different plant.

The red bird of paradise is a popular landscape plant in Phoenix. It grows to be a tall shrub during the summer, with lovely orange/red flowers.

It has lacy compound leaves.

Originally from the tropics of South America and the West Indies, the red bird of paradise is frost sensitive and loses its leaves in the winter. Many people cut the plant nearly to the ground in the winter, but it grows back readily when the weather gets warm again.

The floral structure is unusual, with very long stamens.

The stamens are the male parts of the flower that produce pollen.

The flowers are favorites of bees, wasps, hummingbirds and butterflies. The plants are thought to be pollinated by butterflies.

Once pollinated, the plant produces seed pods,

and these interesting ridged seeds. Note:ย  Some websites have indicated the pods and seeds may be poisonous.

You probably won’t see the seeds in the pods once they mature.

The dried pods burst open on the plant and shoot the seeds. Cool!

Red bird of paradise plants have a number of interesting features, including having nectaries outside the flower that produce nectar for visiting insects.

Have you ever seen a red bird of paradise?


A special thank you to Heather for suggesting this plant. :-)

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17 Responses to Seed of the Week: Red Bird of Paradise

  1. Jenn says:

    Ok so I have been searching i found this plant in my gf backyard while i was helping her move so before i left i grab several seed pods and going to try to grow them.. i can tell u that the center of the bush/tree as thorns. Also it has a very nice honey/melon kinda fragrance even the seed pods smell amazing! I will try and update post one i get them to germinate. I wasn’t sure how to germinate so i just stuck them into a pot and lightly covered them in soil. >.< I have grown plenty of plumerias this was and works for me in this climate. (Central FL.. 9).

  2. Jenn says:

    Oh btw, I said bush/tree since it was almost twice my height! ( I’m 5’7) So yea… I was not sure, since other pics I have seen are very small shrub looking.

  3. Roberta says:

    Red bird of paradise bushes can get huge, so it just might be the right one.

    They shouldn’t be too hard to germinate from seed, as long as the seed was mature enough. The seeds do usually shoot out of the pods when they are ready.

  4. Lee says:

    My search was how to grow them from seed , your article did not mention this at all. I am going to soak them in water over night and plant them in starter containers and see what happens. I have been collecting seed pods from around the valley.
    If anyone has a better idea please let me know.

  5. Roberta says:

    Hi Lee,

    Usually finding the mature seeds is the problem, because once the seeds mature, the pods pop open and shoot them out.

    If you have been collecting seeds in the pods, they might not be mature yet. Hopefully they are close enough to germinate for you.

    Good luck.

  6. Dave says:

    Where do I purchase some of these seeds? I live in the California high desert and I’ve seen some type of a red bird of paradise but none of them are this colorful. I went to San Antonio, TX and found some of these growing and grabbed some pods. I was able to soak for a week in water. I wrapped tthe seed in about 10 napkins and soaked them then put in oven for about 20 minutes or so (I know, unscientific). The seeds cracked open and sprouted a little root. Planted it and they are growing up just fine (although still small). Seems like I have to water them a lot though. I’d like to get some more seeds and try it again.

  7. Roberta says:

    Most places around here sell plants, but you are in luck. Amazon has the seeds:

    Sounds like an interesting project.

  8. Dave says:

    Thank you very much for the info.

  9. Vernon says:

    I acquired some seed pods from a commercial lawn company’s beautiful RBOP and found information on the internet saying to lightly sand the flat sides of the seeds (I used an emery board) to remove some of the hard outer shell and then soak them in water for 6 to 8 hours before planting. I tried a few by soaking 8 hours and another few for only two hours and had equal results. I now have several healthy plants around east and south sides of our house outside of Houston, Texas. The east side plant has grown faster and has produced a goodly amount of seed this year and am soaking some for planting with my 11 yer old grandson as I type.

  10. Diana says:

    I now have seedlings that are about 2 inches high. How do I proceed from here? I have the seedlings in a bathroom that gets quite a bit of indirect sunlight. When do I move them outdoors and how much sunlight should these tender plants have?

  11. Roberta says:

    Congratulations on your seedlings!

    Red bird of paradise plants like a lot of sun and very warm weather. I would start moving them outside into a protected area as soon as it starts to warm up. Timing will vary with your location. has some general info for hardening off seedlings: Good luck. I just put some lemon tree seedlings out too quickly and they are looking a bit sunburned.

  12. Jeri says:

    I have a problem with the seeds. My golden retriever likes to eat plants & flowers. The seeds have cyanid in them. Is there a way to keep the pods & seeds off the plants?

  13. Roberta says:

    The seeds fly out of the pods as soon as they are mature. It is not very practical, but preventing the plant from flowering or pruning off the flowers would prevent it from making seeds and pods.

    Other options might be replacing the plants with ones that aren’t as likely to cause problems.

  14. terry schusterfred says:

    My girlfriend and i have been collecting beans๐Ÿ”นseeds in the valley for close to 10yrs now. ..every year we learn something new about the seeds or plants!๐Ÿ˜ƒ theyre pretty amazing ๐Ÿ˜ฎ . If anybody has any thing they think could help me out, lets hear it.๐Ÿ‘‚ ๐Ÿ“ข๐Ÿ”ฌ๐Ÿ˜ spill the beans …….. so to speak! Thx. BIG T.

  15. wendy saviola says:


  16. e.palmer says:

    have grown these birds for many years in my planter which faces the west. grows like a weed in the summer time after flowering i cut them back a lots then we had some more really hot hot 90* for 3 days and then they grew some more and blooms again wow i just found a article in a paper that this same plant was called a dwarf poinciana? WHAT?

  17. Roberta says:

    Aren’t common names fun? Yes, dwarf poinciana is another common name for this plant.

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