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The Starburst Bush: Colors, Care, and Characteristics

MsDora grew up, received early education and taught school in the Caribbean. Read her love and pride of the region—people and place.

The flower resembles a shooting star or a firecracker.

The flower resembles a shooting star or a firecracker.

Thanks to Google Lens and my phone camera I have ready help in identifying my garden plants by name. Take a picture, submit it to Google Lens, and the name appears. This is exciting for me, being challenged in both technological and botanical knowledge. Now, it’s fun for me to point out and refer to my starburst, which until recently was just a beautiful two-color bush.

Not until its flowers bloom does the meaning of its name become clear. The flower resembles a shooting star or a firecracker, flinging out radiant beams while sitting stationary on a supportive stem. When the tree is full of shooting stars, first-time spectators are likely to react in the same way they would to the marvel of a shooting star in the heavens.

Starburst (Clerodendrum quadriloculare) is a member of the mint family. Its preferred common name is bronze-leaved clerodendrum, but it is also known internationally as starburst, starburst bush, shooting star, firecracker, and fireworks. It is native to New Guinea and the Philippines and has become established on islands in the Pacific Ocean, as well as in Hawaii, Singapore, and Puerto Rico. On these islands, it grows commonly along roadsides and on vacant lands. Lucid Central lists its distribution to North America and the Caribbean as restricted.

The leaf is bright green on the top or inner side and dark purple on the outside.

The leaf is bright green on the top or inner side and dark purple on the outside.

Colors

Before I knew that the plant bore flowers, the leaves were my first attraction to the starburst plant. The inner part of the leaf displays a bright green, while the outer side shows off a dark purple. Even without flowers, the foliage is still attractive.

Two years after my tree was planted, the flowers first bloomed during Easter. This year they bloomed in January. Generally, they bloom during mid-winter and in early spring. The individual sprigs of the flower resemble bright pink Q-tips with white elongated pads at the end. Before the sprigs extend fully, the white ends exhibit pink streaks along the sides and a pink center, which add to their unique beauty. Only nature could blend green, purple, white, and pink so effectively. The lowest end of the tree trunk adds a tan bark that gets rougher with age.

Nature does a good job of blending green, purple, white, and pink effectively.

Nature does a good job of blending green, purple, white, and pink effectively.

Care

The starburst clerodendrum thrives better in full sunshine, and in moist, well-drained soil; but established plants can survive droughts and cold spells. In shady areas, the flowers do not last as long as they do in sunshine, and the leaves display a lesser glow.

Minimal pruning will keep the tree in shape, but if it ever requires heavy pruning, it is recommended to wait until the flowering period is past.

Starburst is a perennial and considered invasive. Root suckers show up in my lawn constantly, and one of my neighbors can soon expect fireworks sparkling on her side of the fence. Mowing slows but does not prevent the spread.

The plant is also distributed by seeds carried by birds and other animals, and by cuttings. In fertile soils, in sunshine or shade, it can produce rapidly growing hedges. Unwanted growth must be dug out for complete removal.

In full bloom, the tips convert into  tiny, curly flowers.

In full bloom, the tips convert into tiny, curly flowers.

Characteristics

Left alone, the starburst plant can grow to a height of 15 feet. The pink tubes within the flower extends out 7 centimeters, and the while lobes at the end are about 1.5 centimeters. In full bloom, the tips convert into tiny, curly flowers.

The sweet nectar in its flowers attracts and energizes hummingbirds and butterflies; and its beautiful bunchy flowers make it attractive to folks in search of unique ornamental flowers. Because of its invasive trend in the north and southwest Pacific, in Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean islands, Lucid Central warns that “Countries not yet infested should consider all likely pathways for entry, and apply quarantine measures accordingly.”

In the Philippines, the starburst bush is used as a traditional medicine for treatment of wounds and ulcers. Dave’s Garden informs that parts of the plant can be poisonous if ingested. No matter its use, growth should be closely monitored.

References

  • CABI: Invasive Species Compendium, Clerodendrum quadriloculare, 21 November 2019
  • Lucid Central: Pacific Pests, Pathogens & Weeds - Fireworks (445), Copyright 2020
  • University of Florida: Gardening Solutions, Starburst Clerodendrum, Copyright 2020

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Dora Weithers

Comments

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 11, 2021:

Rachel, if we ever get thought the COVID strains, you can include the Caribbean when you make your travel list. Cruising is a great way to see many of the islands on one trip.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 11, 2021:

Robert, if at first you don't succeed . . . you know. The second time around, you'd be better prepared with the compost. You made me smile. Thanks for your comment.

Rachelle Williams from Tempe, AZ on February 10, 2021:

Hey Ms. Dora! I would LOVE TO VISIT! :)

Robert Levine from Brookline, Massachusetts on February 09, 2021:

Hi Ms. Dora, thank you for this well-written, well-organized, & informative article. I'll have to read more about your gardening adventures. I love nature, but have no green thumb; all I ever got out of my few gardening attempts was a good compost pile.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 04, 2021:

Thanks, Brenda. I thought someone would benefit from that Google Lens tip. I just had to share that beautiful flower. Happy that you like it. Thanks for your comment.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on February 04, 2021:

Ms Dora,

This is an awesome plant. I love those flower blooms.

Starburst is a great name for this one.

Whoever thought...Google Lens?

I have this on my phone but it never dawned on me to use it for identifying flowers.

Thanks for that tip.

Have a great day.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 04, 2021:

Rachelle, good to see you. Just in case you should visit, I don't want you to be surprised. This plant is actually in my front yard, but it is mostly well-- manicured, and yes, it's beautiful. Thanks for your comment.

Rachelle Williams from Tempe, AZ on February 03, 2021:

"Google Lens," isn't technology awesome? I have seen this flower many times, but I never knew what it was called. I think my favorite thing about the Starburst bush flower is its unique look. It must be a beautiful sight to be able to glance at in your back yard - thank you for sharing this beauty!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 03, 2021:

Thanks, Louise, on behalf of the starburst. Happy to share the view.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 03, 2021:

Marlene, thanks for stopping by. It seems that many of my readers will have to make do with just the image of the plant. Happy to share its beauty.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on February 03, 2021:

That is really beautiful, Dora. I've never seen this before.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on February 03, 2021:

This is a beautiful plant. The bush, in and of itself is beautiful, then the way the flowers bloom, looking like starbursts and frills. It is gorgeous. I wish I could have one of these in my back yard.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 03, 2021:

Well, Pam. I bet you have some beautiful plants that we don't have. At least, we can share the view. Thanks for your comment.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 03, 2021:

Shauna, you're welcome. Well, some people are both beautiful and rude, so why not some plants? Kidding! You're right about the flower resembling the honeysuckle. The birds and butterflies gets all the nectar.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 03, 2021:

Peggy, they're not everywhere, and may even be forbidden in some areas because they're so invasive. Happy that I can show them to you.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 03, 2021:

This tree may be invasive, but it is so beautiful! Hummingbirds and butterflies are also a plus in my mind. I didn't know it was so easy to identify a particular plant.

This is a wonderful article, Ms Dora. I wish we could grow them here

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 03, 2021:

Dora, this plant is beautiful. How can such a beauty be invasive? But, I get it.

The curly flowers that emerge remind me of honeysuckle. I'm sure that's what attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to it.

Thank you for sharing this beauty.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 03, 2021:

What a beautiful plant! Like you wrote, the two-toned leaves are beautiful, and those blossoms are spectacular! I have not seen them growing in our area.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 03, 2021:

Thanks for the complimentary part of your comment, as well as the very interesting insight at the end. It's exciting that we still find things to marvel about. Because of our healthy concept of beauty on the inside, we find beauty on the outside, around us. It's great to be alive!

manatita44 from london on February 03, 2021:

Exquisite, Dee.

We have already had the The Writer, the culinary expert, the Biologist and now we have the Botanist, with some Google help. Charming! You've done a great job here, but the tree itself is so big! Interesting!

Note: Maybe our Caribbean soil is richer. Haha. Great write and 'cute' diversion.

Further note:

You're wondering about the amazement of God. Recently, I have been wondering about the amazement of man. Look at a new building ... a complex network of flats housing 500 people. Take in the design. It's a bit like studying the intricacies of Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridge, or the wonders of the Eiffel Tower.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 03, 2021:

Bill, you're welcome. You may be in an area where the bush is not allowed. Somethings we have to love from a distance, like I love snow. (Smile)

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 03, 2021:

As a gardener, I always love to read about plants I have never heard of before. That is to say I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Starburst Bush. Thank you for the information.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 03, 2021:

Thanks, Devika. Sure, I had to research the facts about the starburst, and I learned some interesting facts. Educational for me too.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 03, 2021:

Umesh, thanks for your encouraging comment. I appreciate you.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 03, 2021:

Oh, Liz. You made my day. I surely don't want to share the cold and the grey, but glad to add to the brightness.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 03, 2021:

Chitrangada, Its possible that its not in your area, so I'm happy that you have this chance to be acquainted with it. Yes, it is beautiful.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 03, 2021:

Dora this is an amazing and detailed hub about the Starburst Bush. You have created an educational and well-researched hub and shared it with great interest.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 03, 2021:

Very nicely presented. Thanks.

Liz Westwood from UK on February 03, 2021:

What a beautiful plant and a well-written article with lovely photos. You are very fortunate to have this in your garden. Your article has brightened up a cold and grey winter's day in the UK..

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 03, 2021:

Starburst plant and it's flowers appear so beautiful to me. I don't think, I have seen them before. Although I am a keen observer of plants and trees. May be they don't grow in this part of the World.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful information with us.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 03, 2021:

Rosina, it has several surprises for me too, now that I've studied it. Nature's so amazing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on February 03, 2021:

John, it's my new pleasure. Almost suddenly, my plants seem more attractive, and their beauty worth sharing.

Rosina S Khan on February 03, 2021:

The starburst bush was new and full of enigma to me. That it can be used as a traditional medicine for treatment of wounds and ulcers further impressed me. Thank you, Dora, for an amazing share.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on February 03, 2021:

What a beautiful tree/bush. Both the foliage and flowers are stunning. thank you for sharing MsDora.

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