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Bauhinia purpurea - L.

Common Name Orchid Tree, Purple Butterfly Tree, Mountain Ebony, Geranium Tree, Purple Bauhinia
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 9-12
Known Hazards In India, the bark is extensively applied in glandular diseases and as a poison antidote while the leaves are administered as cough medicine. The flowers are said to be laxative and used in curries and pickles.
Habitats Common in the mixed and sal forests of the sub-Himalayan tract, ascending to 1,200 metres. It is characteristic of mixed deciduous forests, often of a dry type, occurring on hill slopes, in valleys, and along streams[ 652 ].
Range E. Asia - India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Bauhinia purpurea Orchid Tree, Purple Butterfly Tree, Mountain Ebony, Geranium Tree, Purple Bauhinia


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Bauhinia purpurea Orchid Tree, Purple Butterfly Tree, Mountain Ebony, Geranium Tree, Purple Bauhinia
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Summary

Orchid tree, Bauhinia purpurea, is a tropical, evergreen small tree or shrub up to 4 - 10 m tall and 2 m across. It has an erect and slender stem, crooked branches, green leaves, and large, purple and orchid like flowers. It is native to South China and Southeast Asia. Orchid tree exhibits medicinal properties. Its root is carminative, flowers are laxative, and the bark, roots and flowers, when mixed with rice-water, are used in poultice form as a maturant. It is also a food plant. The leaves, flower buds, flowers, and young seedpods are cooked and eaten as vegetable. The flower buds can also be pickled and used in curries. Aside from the abovementioned uses of the plant, it also yields a gum. The bark is a source of tannins and fibre, and is used for dyeing. The fine wood is hard and durable and is used in carpentry and fuel. Orchid tree is also cultivated as an ornamental tree. Common names: Orchid Tree, Purple Butterfly Tree, Mountain Ebony, Geranium Tree, Purple Bauhinia. Other Names: Alibangbang, Barada, Bol-megong, Bunga kupu-kupu, Ching-kho, Chuvannamandaram, Dev-Kanchan, Deva kanchan, Guiral, Jia telong, Kachnar, Kachner, Kairwal, Kanchanam, Kandan, Kaniar, Karalli, Karar, Keelra, Koiralo, Koliar, Kurul, Levosii, Mandari, Mong bo hoa tim, Msekese, Phak-siew, Purple Bauhinia, Rakia kanchan, Rakia-kanchan, Rato kanchan, Sarul, Shivapa, Sona, Tanki, Tapak kuda, Tapak unta, Vaubeh, Vau-fa-vang, Zi Yangtija.


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Bauhinia purpurea is an evergreen Tree growing to 10 m (32ft) by 9 m (29ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Bees.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Bauhinia castrata Blanco Bauhinia coromandeliana DC. Bauhinia platyphylla Zipp. ex Spanoghe Bauhinia

Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Fruit  Leaves  Seed  Seedpod
Edible Uses:

Edible portion: Flowers, Leaves, Seeds, Fruit, Gum. Leaves - cooked and eaten as a vegetable[ 287 , 301 ]. They are used in curries. Flower buds and flowers - cooked and eaten as a vegetable[ 287 , 301 ]. The flower buds are often pickled or used in curries[ 287 , 301 ]. Young seedpods - cooked and eaten as a vegetable[ 287 ]. The seeds are fried and eaten. The gum is edible.

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.


The root is carminative[ 480 ]. The flowers are laxative[ 480 ]. The bark, roots and flowers, when mixed with rice-water, are used in poultice form as a maturant[ 480 ].

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Other Uses

Other uses rating: High (4/5). Landscape Uses: Pest tolerant, Aggressive surface roots possible, Specimen, Blooms are very showy. Form: Rounded, Vase. Agroforestry Uses: This tree should make an excellent pioneer with its ease of establishment, rapid growth and hardiness. Some thought should be given, however, to the possibility of it escaping from cultivation[ K ]. Other Uses The plant yields a gum[ 287 ]. The bark is a source of tannins[ 287 ]. It is also used for dyeing[ 480 ]. A fibre is obtained from the bark[ 287 , 454 ]. The wood is rosy-white in colour, turning brown upon exposure to the atmosphere. Fine and closely grained, it is hard and durable[ 480 ]. It is used for carpentry and joinery when large enough; otherwise it is used for agricultural implements[ 146 , 287 , 480 ]. The wood is used for fuel[ 287 ].

Cultivation details

A plant of subtropical to tropical regions where it can usually be found at elevations from 500 - 2,000 metres, exceptionally to 3,000 metres. The mean annual temperature in its natural habitat ranges from 12° - 21°c; it experiences an absolute maximum shade temperature of 38 - 46c and an absolute minimum of -1° - +9°c[ 652 ]. Severe frost kills the leaves of seedlings and saplings, but they can recover during the growing season[ 303 ]. It grows in areas with a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 - 5,000mm[ 303 , 652 ]. Grows best in a sunny position[ 200 , 652 ]. Prefers a fertile, moisture-retentive but well-drained, sandy, loamy or gravelly soil[ 200 , 303 ]. The tree actually flowers best when growing on drier soils[ 303 ]. The plant is commonly cultivated in the tropics, where it sometimes escapes from cultivation. There are reports that it can become established in some areas and has been reported as 'invasive' in some Pacific Islands[ 305 ]. The growth of young plants is very rapid under favourable conditions. They have been known to attain heights of 3 metres within 12 months and to be almost 5 metres tall and flowering by the end of their second year[ 652 ]. The pods develop quickly, some attaining a good length whilst the tree is still in flower[ 652 ]. Although many species within the family Fabaceae have a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, this species is said to be devoid of such a relationship and therefore does not fix atmospheric nitrogen[ 755 ]. Production: It begins flowering at an early age.

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Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

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Propagation

Seed - it germinates readily, with up to 100% germinating after 14 months storage[ 652 ]. Sow in a nursery seedbed in light shade. Germination is very rapid, with seedlings appearing within 4 - 10 days[ 652 ]. Seedlings grow rapidly and, under good conditions, can be more than 1 metre tall within 2 months of germinating[ 652 ]. The seedlings are somewhat difficult to transplant and so are best moved to their permanent positions whilst still small. If larger plants are moved then they should be pruned back to allow easier establishment[ 652 ]. Layering Cuttings of half-ripe wood.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Common names: Orchid Tree, Purple Butterfly Tree, Mountain Ebony, Geranium Tree, Purple Bauhinia. Other Names: Alibangbang, Barada, Bol-megong, Bunga kupu-kupu, Ching-kho, Chuvannamandaram, Dev-Kanchan, Deva kanchan, Guiral, Jia telong, Kachnar, Kachner, Kairwal, Kanchanam, Kandan, Kaniar, Karalli, Karar, Keelra, Koiralo, Koliar, Kurul, Levosii, Mandari, Mong bo hoa tim, Msekese, Phak-siew, Purple Bauhinia, Rakia kanchan, Rakia-kanchan, Rato kanchan, Sarul, Shivapa, Sona, Tanki, Tapak kuda, Tapak unta, Vaubeh, Vau-fa-vang, Zi Yangtija.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Found In: Africa, Asia, Australia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Burma*, Central Africa, Central America, China, Congo, Costa Rica, East Africa, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Hawaii, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Iraq, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Martinique, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, North Africa, North America, Northeastern India, Pacific, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Philippines, Puerto Rico, SE Asia, Sierra Leone, Sikkim, South Africa, Southern Africa, Sri Lanka, St Lucia, Swaziland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad-Tobago, Uganda, USA, Vietnam, West Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

There are reports that it can become established in some areas and has been reported as 'invasive' in some Pacific Islands and Cuba.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Least Concern

Related Plants
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Bauhinia thonningiiCamel's foot tree, monkey bread32
Bauhinia vahliiMalu Creeper, Adda Leaf, Pahur Camel's Foot Creeper23
Bauhinia variegataMountain Ebony12

 

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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