Code: k214
Latin name: Bougainvillea spp.
Family: Nyctaginaceae
Common names: Bougainvillea
Most garden Bougainvilleas are hybrids of Bougainvillea spectabilis (B. Brasiliensis) and B. glabra.
Occupational Allergen, Pollen
A plant species producing pollen, which may infrequently induce hayfever, asthma and conjunctivitis in sensitised individuals.

Allergen Exposure

Geographical distribution
Bougainvilleas are beautiful plants indigenous to tropical South America but now found widely in tropical and temperate regions, and even in colder climates in greenhouses. These members of the Nyctaginaceae (Four-O'Clock) family are very vigorous vines, deciduous but long-flowering. Their thin, woody stems are clothed with small, dark-green leaves and sharp thorns. The small, unnoticeable flowers are surrounded by large, papery bracts in a variety of brilliant colours.
Bougainvilleas grow and bloom in cycles. The bloom cycle is usually about 5 to 6 weeks long, and after it all the bracts fall off. The plant then goes into a 6- to 8-week period when no bracts are produced. During this cycle, new leaves and stems grow.
Bougainvilleas are immensely popular for their toughness and adaptability, qualities that place them among the world’s most familiar garden plants. They are insect-resistant and do well with minimal care in most soils, as long as they have direct sunlight. The plant can take many forms, from Bonsais, through potted plants of varying sizes, to small flowering trees, to climbing forms to clipped hedges. In a temperate climate, blooming starts early in spring and lasts until the first cold spells. Late in autumn, after blooming has ceased, the foliage turns yellow and drops.
No allergens from this plant have yet been characterised.

Potential Cross-Reactivity

An extensive cross-reactivity among the different individual species of the Nyctaginaceae family could be expected but has not been documented to date (1).

Clinical Experience

IgE-mediated reactions
Bougainvillea pollen does not appear to be a major component in the atmosphere, as shown by aerobiological monitoring (2), but may nevertheless uncommonly induce symptoms of asthma, rhinitis and conjunctivitis in sensitised individuals.
Compiled by Dr Harris Steinman,


  1. Yman L. Botanical relations and immunological cross-reactions in pollen allergy. 2nd ed. Pharmacia Diagnostics AB. Uppsala. Sweden. 1982: ISBN 91-970475-09
  2. Mishra RP, Singh B, Oommachan M. Airborne pollen flora of Jabalur - the central India. Aerobiologia 2002;18:73-81

As in all diagnostic testing, the diagnosis is made by the physican based on both test results and the patient history.