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Caesalpinia gilliesii (Wall. ex Hook.) Wall. ex D. Dietr.

Yellow bird-of-paradise, desert bird-of-paradise, bird-of-paradise shrub

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderFabalesLegumes (pea and bean families)
FamilyFabaceaeLegume family (peas and beans)
GenusCaesalpiniaNamed after Andrea Cesalpino (1519-1603) of Italy
SpeciesgilliesiiSeveral sources say it was named for John Gillies, an early 19th century botanist in Argentina; but the Darwin Correspondence Online Database has a reference to a John Gillies (1792-1834) who was a naval surgeon who went to Buenos Aires in 1820 and collected plants in Chile and Argentina, returning to Scotland in 1829

About plant names...

The yellow bird-of-paradise is a small tree or shrub, originally from Argentina. The plant has become naturalized through much of the American southwest. It is popular as an ornamental plant. See also the red bird-of-paradise.

Identification: Plants are as high as 10' (3 m), spreading 4-6' (1.2-1.8 m). Leaves are "bipinnate"—in opposing groups of opposing groups. Enlarge the photo below to see the leaves. The fruits are curled fuzzy tan pods. The bright yellow flowers have long thin red stamens.

Caesalpinia gilliesii (yellow bird-of-paradise, desert bird-of-paradise, bird-of-paradise shrub)

By Stan Shebs

Edibility: Skull & Crossbones Seeds and seedpods are very poisonous.

Online References:

Vascular Plants of the Gila Wilderness

as Compiled by the Master Gardeners of the University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension


Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers and the Plants of the Sonoran Desert


Wikimedia Commons

Chris A. Martin's site at Arizona State University

SEINet—the Southwest Environmental Information Network

Poinciana gilliesii Wall. ex Hook.


Caesalpinia gilliesii description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.

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Caesalpinia gilliesii (yellow bird-of-paradise, desert bird-of-paradise, bird-of-paradise shrub)

5/24/2009 · Kaylors, Peoria, Ari­zona
≈ 3½ × 6" (9.4 × 14 cm)


About this map...