Bougainvillea Plant History - An Overview
Bougainvillea plant history starts in South America and Brazil, where the plant originated and grows as a native to these areas. The first European to see a bougainvillea was the French naturalist and explorer, Philibert Commercon, in 1768. Commercon was intrigued by the brightly colored bracts that looked like flowers but were actually a type of leaf. He had sailed on a supply ship to Rio de Janiero, where he discovered the showy plants. In Rio at the same time was a ship that had been commissioned by the French government to sail around the world on a voyage of discovery, under the expert command of mathematician Admiral Louis-Antoine de Bougainville. Commercon named the new plant after the Admiral, whose name has also been given to other places such as Bougainville Reef and Bougainville Island.
In 1775, when Botanical Gradens were established in St. Thomas in Jamaica by the British botanist, Thomas Clarke, bougainvillea plants were some of the first to be planted. These gardens are of particular note because they were the first of their kind to be established in the western hemisphere.
The first documented descriptive reference to bougainvilleas appeared in 1789 in a book by A.L. de Jusseau, called the Genera Plantarium. He mis-spelled the plant's name, however, and recorded it as buginvillea, an error not offically corrected until the 1930s when the Index Kewensis was published.
It was during the 19th century that two species of bougainvillea were officially described. These were the Bougainvillea Spectabilis and Bougainvillea Glabra. During this time, the two species were extensively propagated and started to be seen in European gardens, followed by other parts of the world. Additional species were found in other countries, like the Bougainvillea Peruviana which is from Peru, and the Bougainvillea Buttiana which was named after Mrs. R. Butt in whose garden it was found growing in Spain. These finds expanded the color-range of the plant to include red and orange. Botanists in 1980 recorded the two species of b. glabra and b. spectabilis as two distinct and separate species.
The beautiful bougainvillea is the national flower of several countries and regions of other countries. These include Grenada and Guam, Tagbilaran in the Philipines, San Clemente and Laguna Niguel in California, Ipoh in Malaysia, Lienchiang and Pingtung in Taiwan.
It has become a popular garden plant in many areas around the world and new hybrids have appeared to extend the colors to include white, mauve, yellow and various different shades of pink. Bougainvilleas can be seen in gardens around the world, climbinging vigorously over patios and fences or in pots on a sunny balcony.