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BAUHINIA purpurea

Image of Bauhinia purpurea

Maureen Gilmer

Family

Fabaceae

Botanical Name

BAUHINIA purpurea

Plant Common Name

Butterfly Tree, Orchid Tree

General Description

Extraordinary orchid-like blossoms make this tropical tree one of the most beautiful available. Orchid tree is native to Southeast Asia and is well adapted to hot tropical climates as well as more mild ones. It grows to a medium height and has an open canopy.

This semi-evergreen tree loses its leaves in early spring just before it blooms, which really helps the showy flowers stand out. The exotic blossoms are spidery and rich magenta to pink in color. They literally cloak the entire tree creating a spectacular show. The messy fruits that follow are foot-long flat brown pods filled with rounded seeds just smaller than a dime. These self sow prodigiously in sandy soils and may become invasive where conditions are right. The soft green, distinctly two-lobed leaves reappear shortly after flowering begins.

This tough tree requires perfectly drained soil and full sun. It is very drought tolerant once established but if conditions are too dry it may become stunted but will not withhold bloom. This is a perfect problem solver for warm drought stressed areas in need of colorful accent trees.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 9

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 13

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 9, 10, 11, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    15'-25' / 4.6m - 7.6m

  • Width

    15'-20' / 4.6m - 6.1m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring, Spring

  • Native To

    South-Eastern Asia, Southeastern Asia, China

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Light Pink, Magenta, Violet

  • Fruit Color

    Green, Sandy Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Gray Green, Yellow Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Gray Green, Yellow Green

  • Bark Color

    Sandy Brown, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Semi-Evergreen

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Shade Trees, Street Trees, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes