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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Fairy Duster World

There are two calliandras in my yard:

C. californica, aka baja fairy duster is a lower California native that grows as a loose wiry shrub about 6 feet tall and equally wide.  I planted this in the garden sometime in the past decade.

C. tweedii, aka Brazilian flame bush is native to Brazil and mine is a stout tree about 15 feet tall and wider.  This tree was already this size when I came to live here over 20 years ago, so I imagine it is quite a bit older than 20 years.

I was out poking around looking for critters and found only the bees, up early and foraging in the fairy duster flowers.  These plants produce a lot of nectar and attract not only the bees, but also hummingbirds and butterflies to assist with pollination.  After the flowers pollinate, legumes are produced, the pea-like pods that will eventually dry up and split, ejecting the seeds into the world in the hopes of propagating.  Both plants receive little or no supplemental water in our southern California garden, and bloom off and on all year.

Aside from the size difference between the two calliandras, there are some other distinctions:
The flowers on tweedii are larger and fuller, and the pods they produce are thicker, hairier and occur in clusters.

The pods on californica are beautifully translucent when still green.

The leaves on tweedii are more finely cut.

 And, I like the common name fairy duster better.

The bees and hummingbirds seem to enjoy both of them equally, although on this particular morning, the bees were only in the fairy dusters.