Bauhinia variegata L.

Orchid Tree

Medium-sized more or less deciduous tree, in cool climates 5-9 m tall, branching near the base into ascending branches. Leaves alternate, 2-lobed, 8-12 cm long, 5-6 cm wide, with mostly 11 veins radiating from the base. Leaf stalk thick, to 4 cm long, with a swollen base. Flowers axillary or terminal, in clusters of 3-6, each flower about 8 cm wide, faintly scented; spring to early summer. Petals pink with red and yellow markings, with darker veins and paler at the base, the lowermost petal larger and darker. Fruit pods 15-18 cm long.

Rarely grown in the south and better suited to warmer districts, a common street tree in Brisbane. The hardiest of the cultivated species, surviving mild frosts in the Blue Mtns, NSW.

var. candida Roxb. is white-flowered, fragrant and has one petal yellowish green. Generally a smaller tree than the type.

B. × blakeana Dunn. is a hybrid, B. purpurea × B. variegata, grown for the prolific larger and darker coloured flowers. B. purpurea L., Butterfly Tree, from the Himalaya, Burma and S China is an evergreen or partly deciduous tree generally no more than 6 m tall with a broad crown. Similar to B. variegata but a smaller, less frequently grown tree with more deeply divided leaves and 3(4) fertile stamens. The explosive fruit dehiscence has thrown seed about 15 m. There is a white form, 'Alba'.

Himalaya, S China, Malaysia.

Source: Spencer, R. (2002). Caesalpiniaceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 3. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 2. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

Hero image
kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Rosanae
order      Fabales
family       Fabaceae
genus        Bauhinia L.