Visions of Pink – One Pretty, One Amusing and the Other Unique

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Queen's Wreath, Coral Vine

I want to share with you three amazing plants that I encountered on Saturday, each with pink flowers, yet each one so different from the other.  I spent the afternoon at the Arboretum at Arizona State University (my alma mater).  Many people are surprised to find out that they have a wonderful arboretum that encompasses the entire main campus.  I had a wonderful time just walking around and taking pictures of beautiful trees and plants, my husband patiently trailing behind me with the kids.

OK, first the pretty…

amazing plants

  Queen’s Wreath, Coral Vine (Antigonon leptopus)

Queen’s Wreath is a beautiful vine that is native to Mexico and Central America.  Stunning pink sprays of flowers appear in spring and last until the first frost.  The most common variety has vibrant pink blossoms.  However, there is a scarlet variety ‘Baja Red’ and also a rare white variety as well.  Bees are attracted to the flowers, and the leaves are an attractive heart-shape.

amazing plants

Queen’s Wreath can grow in full sun including areas of reflected heat.  It will also grow in light shade although flowering will be reduced.

amazing plants

This beautiful vine will die back at the first frost, but it’s roots are hardy to 20 degrees F.   In the spring, it quickly grows back and requires a trellis, fence or an arbor for support.

**When we bought our first home in Phoenix, there was support made up of twine tied between two Palm trees.  We had no idea why, but it sure looked ugly.  Well, before we had time to remove it, beautiful, light green, heart-shaped leaves began climbing up the twine support and quickly covered it.  Then gorgeous sprays of pink flowers promptly followed, which was a pleasant surprise.

Next, the amusing…..

amazing plants
amazing plants

 Chinese Lantern Tree, Sickle Bush (Dichrostachys cinerea)

I had to laugh when I saw this flower.  I think it looks like it is having a bad hair day.  You can see why some people call it Chinese Lantern tree because the flowers do resemble them and it sounds better than calling it “Bad Hair Day Tree.” 

amazing plants

The tree itself is relatively unremarkable.  The flowers are not distinct.  It is native to the tropical areas of Africa, parts of Southeast Asia and Australia.  It grows well in full sun or filtered shade.  In wet, tropical areas, it can be invasive.  However, in our dry climate, that is not a problem.

amazing plants

 Seed Pods

**Okay, I have to admit, that I had to look up information on this Chinese Lantern tree – I hate admitting that.  I do not profess to know about every type of plant; this is easily evidenced by my travels to colder climates where I know about only a fraction of what the plants are there.   But this one was in my backyard.  I had never seen this type of tree before and had never learned about it either.  So, I went through my countless dry climate plant books hoping to find what type of tree this was, and only one book had it listed, (which made me feel better).  It is not common here in Arizona, but I guarantee that I will never forget it.

Now finally, the unique…

Floss Silk Tree

 Floss Silk Tree (Ceiba speciosa, formerly Chorisia speciosa)

The flowers of this tree make you stop in your tracks – they are that beautiful and unique.  Unfortunately, the flowers were all gone except for the one above, which was almost ready to fall.  The flowers are produced primarily in fall and winter months.  Some trees will produce flowers once they drop their leaves in winter, while other varieties flower both with and without the leaves being present.  Although the flowers are a striking feature, there is more…


Their trunk is covered with cone-shaped thorns.


This beautiful tree does well in full sun or part shade.  They do grow quite large, up to 40 ft. Wide and 50 ft. Tall.  Silk Floss trees are native to Brazil and Argentina.

**So, I was done for the day.  I had two memory cards full of photos, sore feet, and a patient husband and kids, walking with me to the car.  I was about to get in when I saw the Silk Floss tree next to the parking garage.  So my husband, who knows me all too well, wordlessly unpacked the camera so I could take the last few photos.  Occasionally see these trees around the Phoenix area, but rarely, so I was thrilled to get these pictures.

I hoped you enjoyed my visions of pink.  I will post more of my expedition at a later time.  I’m pretty sure it will take me a long time to catalog all of the photos I took.

Can You Over Water Your Plants in the Desert ?

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
26 replies
  1. Nell Jean
    Nell Jean says:

    Antigonon grows well here; we know it as Coral Vine. I never started any because I battle undesirable vines so much I haven't the heart to actually plant a perennial vine.

    Your Bad Hair tree has leaves similar to our Mimosa (Albizzia) and the blossoms are vaguely similar. Did it have a faint fragrance?

    I have never seen the third one, I think we're probably too humid for it.

    They were all interesting to see and read about, thanks. You had a productive day.

  2. Catherine@AGardenerinProgress
    Catherine@AGardenerinProgress says:

    These were all such pretty and unique flowers. I love the Coral vine! The Chinese Lantern flowers were so neat, they looked liked little heads. It's great seeing what grows for you there, I've never heard of so many of them.

  3. fairegarden
    fairegarden says:

    Thanks for showing us the pink beauties, Noelle. The story about the string trellis made me laugh, you never know what is growing in a garden unless you wait at least a year. The pointy bark on the tree looks kind of scary, good for Halloween! 🙂

  4. Gail
    Gail says:

    The cone shaped thorns of the Floss Silk Tree are impressive, but it's beautiful orchid flower more so! All these plants are new to me. I hope I can remember them…it would be fun to impress Mr I if we ever visit AZ! gail

  5. Kiki
    Kiki says:

    Wow, I am super drawn to those first photos..just fabulous..radiant and the color!! Your posts are always so FULL of new things! Lovely!

  6. James Missier
    James Missier says:

    I like your coral vine plant, this one grows wildly here and very much considered as a weed.
    The chinese lantern look very much like a mimosa plant.
    Above all, You have a very supportive husband who patiently bears your passion. Not everyone blessed with a spouse like yours.

  7. Janet
    Janet says:

    Great collection of very interesting plants Noelle. I do like the hedge of the coral vine, such pretty blooms. Your other two are most unusual. The last one with that stem….oh my!!!

  8. sweet bay
    sweet bay says:

    Very interesting plants! The Queen's Wreath is gorgeous. The tree with the thorny trunk reminds me a little bit of our Devil's Walking Stick, although the trunk on the Floss Silk Tree is more picturesque. I love the flowers of all three, they're so different from each other.

  9. Kanak Hagjer
    Kanak Hagjer says:

    Truly amazing trees/blooms. The bad hair day blooms aren't like anything I've seen before. We have the Antigonon in the neighbourhood…such a pleasure to see the blooms. The silk floss tree has pretty flowers too. The bark reminds me of the Coral tree. But I don't think I've seen dark thorns like that.

  10. LeSan
    LeSan says:

    Chalk me up as one of those people who didn't know about the arboretum. You have an uncanny knack for showing me how much I missed when I lived in Arizona. I'm beginning to feel like I should go back and apologize. 😉
    Another great post!

  11. JGH
    JGH says:

    Aww – sounds like you have a sweet husband!

    I wasn't familiar with most of these – thanks for introducing them to me. I really love that Queens wreath. We have a chinese lantern plant growing here, but it's not a tree and doesn't look at all like yours!

  12. chuck b.
    chuck b. says:


    Ceiba is not too uncommon in California, which is not to say that it's common either… I think it's more common in Los Angeles. Last year I drove by a half-mile of it in Beverly Hills. I can only think of a few of them in the Bay Area.

    I've never seen the other two, and I really like the Dichrostachys cinerea. The foliage looks like acacia, and the flowers look like…nothing else! Eucalyptus sideroxylon has fuzzy part that's similar tho'.

  13. Msrobin
    Msrobin says:

    I should have studied your blog before our trip, because then I would know which plant was which! I remember seeing a tree with green bark in Phoenix, and it appears it was the "Bad Hair Day" tree! LOL It reminds me of the Bottlebrush tree in my mom's yard in Florida.

  14. Arati
    Arati says:

    thank you for visiting my blog – and for leading me to yours! i love desert plants!
    we have the chinese lantern a.k.a sickle bush tree and the antigonon here in the tropics as well – typically they grow in the tropical dry evergreen forests here.

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