Bolivia is a country often found at odds within its boundaries. Drawn on a map using physical boundaries, the country of Bolivia seems to fit neatly into South America, but with two very distinct cultures living within the borders of the country, it’s become natural for the people of Bolivia to have two of just about everything to appease both cultures – two capital cities and two state flowers. The two flowers are grown in the two distinct regions of the country. The kantuta tricolor represents the western culture and the patuju represents the eastern regions of the country.
The Bolivian government passed a law declaring both flowers the national flowers of Bolivia on April 27, 1990 but also dictated that when you draw the two state flowers, they lean toward each over as “an interlaced symbol of union between the regions, ethnic groups, cultures, and natural resources of the Republic.” Whether the state flowers have helped this culturally divided nation find a peaceful coexist is unclear, but both flowers are stunning.
The kantuta is a brilliant flower that grows in the Andes Mountains. It is small and delicate and is increasingly rare grown in the wild. The flower is linked to the Incas through ancient legends. The first national flower of Bolivia, these bell-shaped flowers are tubular and elegant. The bright colors of the kantuta are the same red and green as the Bolivian flag. This is true of the patuju as well.
Unlike the kantuta in its rarity, the patuju is prolific throughout South America and can be grown in almost any garden with a very temperate climate. The patuju is a tropical plant related to the bird of paradise plant and is found in the Bolivian rainforest. The large red and green blossoms on the plant grow downward toward the ground and are stunning.
A scrappy shrub, kantuta can be purchased in select nurseries and grown in well-drained soil. The kantuta will flower with amazing bursts of color and might even sport a variety of colors in its flowers on the same shrub. The shrub grows up to six feet and does not flower when planted in a pot making it hard to find commercially.