Calliandra or Powderpuff Trees
Belonging to the mimosa subfamily of the legume family, this group of around 200 small trees and shrubs comes from South and Central America and the West Indies. The ones we grow in New Zealand generally have balls of many-stamened flowers, sometimes occurring in great numbers, in colours from white to pink to red. In their natural habitat they are pollinated by hummingbirds but here bees enjoy the nectar and occasionally pollinate the flowers to produce stiff, flattened pods.
Leaves usually look very similar to wattle leaves and tend to be on the smaller side and the plants tend to be bushy and mostly evergreen.
These plants generally come from areas which have a distinctly dry period so can handle dry times well. They also respond well to cutting back and can make a good hedge. Some species are frost tender.
With the right species selection some Calliandras can be in flower all the year. Calliandra haematocephala (red) and C. haematocephala Alba (white) flower over the winter and into the spring. Next to flower is scented C. surinamensis (white stamens with pink tips) then C. brevipes producing massed flushes of pink over the summer. Also summer flowering is C. tweedii in bright red. C. portoricensis has fluffy, scented balls of white flowers on long stems flowers in the autumn.
These are but part of an interesting group of plants which are colourful, generally drought resistant and well worth planting.