Plant Collector: bauhinia

bauhinia (1)I have a sentimental attachment to bauhinias with a personal memory of Mark bringing me a bauhinia flower in our early days together. It was just the most exotic and beautiful bloom. So they caught my eye, growing in southern China in the Xishuangbanna area (near the border with Burma).

IMG_7893The bauhinia family is huge – around 500 different species – and in the fabaceae family (so a legume). I can’t unravel them to identify the ones I photographed, though the dark pink may be Bauhinia x blakeana, otherwise known as the Hong Kong Orchid Tree and the floral emblem of that island. They are not orchids, they just look as they should be. Or maybe exotic butterflies.

The one Mark picked all those years ago was from a small tree growing in the garden here – a leggy, rangy specimen maybe 5 metres tall. History does not recall if it died out or his late father removed it. In our garden conditions, it was not a specimen of beauty and was somewhat shy on blooming. Essentially these are tropical trees, extending into the sub tropics. While we grow many sub tropical plants here, we are actually temperate (not sub tropical). Just because a plant can be grown here, doesn’t necessarily mean it performs to its peak or even justifies its space in the garden. These days, I just have to admire bauhinia blooms when we travel to warmer climes. Though, I should maybe add that when I think about it, even in the tropics it is all about the flowers. The trees themselves were not sensational in form or foliage.

bauhinia (4)

Advertisements