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BAUHINIA tomentosa

Image of Bauhinia tomentosa

James Burghardt

Family

Fabaceae

Botanical Name

BAUHINIA tomentosa

Plant Common Name

St. Thomas Tree

General Description

The St. Thomas tree produces delicate pale yellow flowers with dark throats from spring to fall. This large tropical shrub or small tree is native to much of the Old World Tropics, from eastern Africa to southeastern China.

The smooth, rounded, papery leaves of this subtly pretty tree are green with blue-green tones. During the warm months, when moisture is available, the branches become filled with bell-shaped flowers that resemble hibiscus blossoms. In high heat flowering may cease. The petals are pale yellow and overlap, opening to reveal one petal with a prominent dark brown spot. The flowers age to rosy lavender before dropping. Moths or butterflies pollinate the blooms and small seed pods follow.

Plant St. Thomas tree in full to partial sun and well-drained soil that is relatively fertile and not overly alkaline. It is not hardy, but will rejuvenate from the roots if lightly touched by frost. It can be trained into a tidy small tree by trimming away the lowest branches, but be aware it is not as fast growing as other Bauhinia species. St. Thomas tree is a lovely plant for a small, sunny courtyard or an accent tree for a building foundation.

This is a variable species. Some individuals can have slightly larger leaves or deeper yellow flowers. The natural form concolor has blossoms that are pure light yellow and do not change color with age.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 9

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 24

  • Plant Type

    Shrub

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    15'-30' / 4.6m - 9.1m

  • Width

    10'-18' / 3.0m - 5.5m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring, Late Spring, Early Summer, Early Fall, Fall, Late Fall, Early Winter

  • Native To

    Eastern Africa, Southern Asia, India, China

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Light Yellow, Rose, Chocolate, Ivory

  • Flower Color Modifier

    Bicolor

  • Fruit Color

    Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green

  • Bark Color

    Brown, Sandy Brown

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Fissured

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Mixed Border, Shade Trees, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds, Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes