With its spectacular mass of bright coloured bracts, the Bougainvillea is unrivalled both in beauty and utility, particularly in the gardens of the tropics and sub-tropics. The Bougainvillea, a native of South America, was first collected by Commerson, a French botanist at Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, who named it after Louis Antoine de Bougainvillea, the French navigator, with whom he went on a voyage round the world during 1766-1769. From its native home in South America, the Bougainvillea moved out to Europe during the 19th Century and from there it was introduced into tropical Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and other countries. It was first introduced to India in 1860.
The Bougainvillea belongs to the family Nyctaginaceae. Three species of Bougainvillea namely B.spectabilis, B.glabra and B.peruviana are considered to be of horticultural importance. Some botanists also list B.buttiana, a natural hybrid between, B. peruviana and B.glabra as a separate species. There are numerous cultivars developed in Bougainvillea, which have mainly arisen as, a result of bud sports, or as seedling variations as a result of chance crossing in our country. In India, the work on development of new Bougainvillea cultivars was taken up initially by some horticulturists and now systematic research work on the subject is being done by various Agricultural, Horticultural and Botanical Research Institutes. Some of the popular Bougainvillea cultivars developed in India are Dr.R.R.Pal, Mary Palmer, Princess Margaret Rose, Shubra, Scarlet Queen, Louisewathen, Enid Lancaster, Scarlet Glory, Mrs.H.C.Buck, Partha, Trinidad, Sachidananda, Srinivasa, Dr.B.P.Pal, Wajid Ali Shah. Begum Sikander, Mary Palmer Special, Spring Festival, Rao etc. The I.A.R.I., New Delhi is also the International Registration Authority for Bougainvilleas, and they have recently brought out a checklist of more than 300 different cultivars.
Bougainvillea is a very colourful plant with colour of bracts ranging from deep magenta to white, including purple, mauve, orange, red, scarlet, crimson, pink and yellow. There are also some varieties with flowers of two colours on the same plant and those in which the colour of the bracts changes with time, giving the effect of two or three colours. In recent years, a large number of multi-bracted or double bracted varieties have also been developed which have more than the usual three bracts.
There are also varieties with variegated leaves, which is a novelty by itself. Because of their easy-to grow attribute and versatility; Bougainvillea has become very popular with the garden lovers and landscape architects. The Bougainvilleas are commonly grown as pot plants, climbers, shrubs, bush specimens, hedges, arches or pergolas, espalier, up a tree or stump, on slopes and mounds etc.
The two varieties featured on the stamps i.e. Mahara & H. B. Singh are amongst the finest cultivars popularly grown in India.
Characterised by Carmine red (or deep pink), compact large bunches, the Mahara blooms freely for, major part of the year.
H. B. SINGH
: This variety has attractive bracts of mauve colour. The. gorgeous bloom is available for most of the year.
(Text by Dr Brijendra Singh and Dr. N. K. Dadlani)
Date of Issue: 5.6.1985