I am a cold weather person and love the snow. However, when temperatures are frigid and a North Wind is blowing, I do occasionally think of warmer climes. So today I will mention a beautiful, colorful plant that contrasts with the white wonderland outside my study window.
The fairyduster (Calliandra eriophylla) is a native perennial found in the deserts and grasslands of Arizona, New Mexico, California, Texas and Northern Mexico. This member of the Pea Family inhabits dry, gravelly, alkaline habitats below 5,000 feet.
Fairydusters are straggling shrubs at higher elevations and low bushes growing one to three feet in height at lower elevations. Fairyduster inflorescences are actually “puffs” that contain several flowers. These flower clusters can be white, pink or scarlet. The tassel-like appearance is due to the long stamens, more than 10 per flower united at the base. The flowers are prodigious nectar producers and attract bees, hummingbirds, flies and butterflies among other pollinators.
Belonging to a group of plants that includes acacias and mimosas, fairy duster leaves, with their leaflets, resemble the leaves of acacias and mimosas. The leaves are nutritious and highly palatable to deer and livestock. The leaves can be closely cropped without injuring the fairyduster plant because the plant vigorously spreads by underground sprouts.
Fairyduster fruits are flat, brown, velvety pods that contain smooth grey seeds.
Other colloquial names for C. eriophylla include calliandra, mesquitilla, false mesquite, huajillo, hairy-leaved calliandra. The scientific name derives from the Greek: the genus means “beautiful stamens” and the species is “woolly leaved”.
These fairydusters were photographed near Madera Canyon in the Coronado National Forest close to Green Valley AZ.