Weekly Wild

Calliandra haematocephala (Red Powder Puff)

Calliandra Red Powder Puff

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from researching species I see around Haikou, it’s that parks in China are more focused on ornamentals than native plants. Sure, there have been a few that grow wild in the area; however, the majority of plants I’ve identified are grown in nurseries and sometimes can’t even reproduce on their own.

I shouldn’t really be surprised. As I’ve said before, parks in the city are manicured for aesthetics, with few hints of the tropical rainforest ecosystem which once covered the island. Still, considering China is home to 1/8th of the plant species on the planet, I would expect to see more native species. One of these days I’ll find a way out of the city and explore wilds throughout Hainan island.

For now, I will continue to learn about pretty flowers I see throughout Haikou. This week:

Full Shrub = Red Powder Puff

Calliandra haematocephala

Family: Mimosaceae
Genus: Calliandra
Species: haematocephala

The red powder puff, C. haematocephala, is an evergreen shrub native to South America. It used to be included in the legume family, but was recently moved to the mimosa family. Sounds like a much better family to me!

Parts of the plant

The red parts of the flower are actually many stamens; the male organ. This is where the genus name is derived; ‘kalli’ is a Greek word for beautiful, and ‘andros’ means male. The flowers can also be found in white and pink varieties. Not only are these flowers beautiful, they also attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Bipinnately Compound Leaf Diagram
Diagram of a bi-pinnately compound leaf

The buds of these flowers kind of look like raspberries. The leaves are bipinnately compound (double compound), with 5-10 sub-leaflet pairs per leaflet (pinna). The description makes it sound complicated, but this diagram should help clarify.


Night Time Routine

Red powder puff plants are nyctinastic, which means that they move in response to darkness. In this case, the leaves close at night time. We don’t know much about this type of circadian rhythm or how it benefits the plants.

C. haematocephala was transported to other countries by boat as early as the 1840’s, and can now be found in parts of North American, Europe, and China. Later on, this lead to a lot of conflict about how to name the species, which had gone by different names in each part of the world it was found.


Davis, F. (2016). What Do Plants Do at Night? Understanding Nyctinastic Movement. Exploring Sound and Circadian Rhythms. Found HERE

Missouri Botanical Garden. Calliandra haematocephala. Missouri Botanical Garden. Found HERE

The University of Arizona. (2012). Calliandra haematocephala. University of Arizona Campus Arboretum. Found HERE


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