Bougainvillea X buttiana ‘Mistress Butt’

Subtropical and tropical America is the home of some 14 species of Bougainvillea, named after the famous French navigator de Bougainville. Only two, however, are of importance in cultivation: B. spec-tabilis and B. glabra, both from Brazil. The first is a robust, twining shrub with thick curved spines. The bracts of the type species are coloured lilac. The second is somewhat smaller, the foliage slightly to-mentose; it is also less spiny. The flowers are the same colour.

Both type species are extremely variable in the colour of the bracts. Cross-breeding has thus yielded many hybrids with bracts coloured white, pink, yellow-orange or yellow, and all shades of red and purplish-violet.

The cultivar (in older literature it is listed under the synonyms ‘Presas’ or ‘Crimson Lake’) is the product of the self-hybridization of B. glabra and B. peruviana and was named B. x buttiana. It was found in 1910 in the city of Cartagena, Colombia, and remains one of the most widely cultivated to this day. The principal hybridizations took place on the Riviera, in India and in Brazil, and it is there that one will find the largest assortment of these lovely plants.

Bougainvilleas may be said to be subtropical rather than tropical plants, for like most other plants of a woody nature, they require cool conditions in winter. During the rest period they drop most of their leaves and watering must be limited accordingly; they should be hard-pruned in spring. The prun-jngs may be used as cuttings, which should be inserted in a peat and sand mixture in a warm propagator where they will quickly form roots. They must be moved with great care for the roots are very fragile. When rooted, pot up using John Innes potting compost.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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