Absurd in their little fringed skirts shaking
salsa with the wind. So flash. So
flirtatious, strutting their wares. Kiss Me
Pink. Desert Night Red more fluorescent
than any lipstick and the bees
dive right in, sip enchantment.
Come late summer there’s that soft crackling sound,
pods explode, seeds shoot out everywhere
tickling the fancy. The audacity!
Tarty little plant, flicking those skirts,
flinging those seeds. Wah hoo!
Desert washes and foothills.
A small shrub—a few inches high to some four feet—that when in bloom lives up to the Latin name of its genus, Calliandra, or “beautiful stamen,” for the long, primarily pink stamens that look like rays of starlight in a photograph. The bean family apparently evolved an imitation of fireworks before fireworks were invented.
Pollinated by butterflies, the fairy duster is a nitrogen-fixer “through symbiotic actions of bacteria harbored in the root tissue,” one guide says. The mimosa- or mesquitelike leaves are eaten by cows and deer. The fairy duster can be seen in desert landscaping in towns and cities. Another name suggests the ethereal lure of the fairy duster: cabeza angel—“angel head.”
“Fairy Duster” by Christine Baines from The Sonoran Desert, A Literary Field Guide edited by Eric Magrane, Christopher Cokinos, and Paul Mirocha. © 2016 the Arizona Board of Regents. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press.