I moved into a new house this week and immediately fell in love with the flowering vine on the back porch. Bugambilia (BOO-gam-bill-EE-uh) is fun to say—try it. It's even more wonderful to behold. Here are seven things you should know about one of Mexico’s favorite flowers:
1. The scientific name of bugambilia is Bougainvillea, so named after Louis-Antoine de Bougainville. Celebrated as France’s first circumnavigator, de Bougainville took to the seas between 1766 and 1769, stopping at many islands to collect native flora and fauna. His professional naturalist, Philibert Commerson, christened the new genus in hommage to his captain. De Bougainville is buried in Paris' Panthéon for "outstanding service to [his] country" but his name lives on with worldwide recognition, in no small part due to the flowering climber that bears his name.
2. Bugambilia is not indigenous to Mexico—which may come as a surprise to some Mexicans. In fact, it likely came to Mexico only as early as 1900. Although the plant is now enjoyed across the globe in warm, dry climates, it is native to Brazil (and perhaps Colombia). Regardless, this tropical tree lends its name to dozens of restaurants, hotels, streets, neighborhoods, and plazas throughout Mexico.
3. Bugambilia provides a dazzling splash of color year-round. With frequent pruning and not too much water, the vine can continue to produce flowers all year long. Many colorful varieties exist: magenta, orange, burgundy, yellow, and white. Some rainbow varieties combine multiple colors.
4. The vibrant and colorful blooms of the bugambilia are no blooms at all! The flower itself is a trumpet-shaped white or yellow blossom ensconced in three papery leaves, called bracts. These bracts are the most colorful part of the plant, which is a feature shared by the poinsettia.
5. Bugambilia is known by various names and spellings throughout the world. From bougainvillea comes: boganvilla, buganvilla, buganvilia, bugenvil, and bugambilia. Other names are: Napoleón, veranera, veranilla, trinitaria, Santa Rita, papelillo, primavera, camelina, flor de papel, enredadera de papel, jahanamiya, and pokok bunga kertas.
6. Bugambilia is used in some herbal remedies for respiratory issues, including: coughs, asthma, bronchitis, and the flu. A tea infusion can be made with the bracts and flowers. Add a little lime and honey to prepare a rosy drink that Mexican herbalists will recommend imbibing 3-5 times per day.
7. Bugambilia (1945) is the name of a classic black-and-white film directed by Emilio Fernández and starring Mexico’s darling, Dolores del Rio. She plays the daughter of a wealthy mine owner who falls in love with a lowly gallero in Guanajuato. It won Best Costume Design and was nominated for Best Cinematography in the Mexican Academy Awards. One commentator described the film as a tribute of a director surrendered to the beauty of his beloved actress.
Editor's Note: If you would like to partner with Isaiah as he serves on the mission field in México, follow this link to read more. Isaiah is dedicating his time and sharing his love of Jesus and education with the young men at Hope House.
Bougainvillea. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bhg.com/gardening/plant-dictionary/vine/bougainvillea/
Bugambilia (1945). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0036678/
Bugambilia mamey (Bougainvillea glabra). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.naturalista.mx/taxa/159346-Bougainvillea-glabra
Dunmore, J. (2005). Storms and Dreams: Louis de Bougainville: Soldier, Navigator, Statesmen. Exisle Publishing.
La bugambilia y sus propiedades medicinales. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.mexicodesconocido.com.mx/bugambilia.html
Lack, H. W. (2012). The discovery, naming and typification of Bougainvillea spectabilis (Nyctaginaceae). Willdenowia, 42(1), 117-126. doi:10.3372/wi.42.42114
Lundman, S. (2018). How to Make Bougainvillea Bloom. Retrieved from http://homeguides.sfgate.com/make-bougainvillea-bloom-70528.html
Trujillo, E. (n.d.). Historia de una Bugambilia. Retrieved from http://rutabonsai.com/trabajos/item/163-historia-de-una-bugambilia