Bauhinia sp.


The genus Bauhinia is a large woody shrub to small tree genus in the Fabaceae, Legume family. There are 300 or so species in the genus and most are native to tropical areas. One species Bauhinia lunarioides is listed as a south Texas native with common name of Texas plume (Note there is an herbarium record of this species from Shreveport). The most common common name is orchid tree but other common names include camel's foot, butterfly tree, mountain ebony and kachnar. The leaves are alternate simple, and with palmate major veins. The tip of the blade is split into two lobes hence the camel foot name. The base of the petiole is swollen into a pulvinus as in redbud. The flowers are legume like thus with bilateral symmetry or zygomorphic or irregular shaped. This bilateral shape is very similar to orchids. Flower color ranges from white to pink to purple or even red. The commonly cultivated species seems to be variegata and there are some trees of this genus and I think the species variegata in New Orleans. I have had one (not sure which species) in the ground for several years here at Allen Acres but it has not flowered. I just added another plant from south Texas and hopefully one of both of these will flower next year. Caterpillars of the Long-tailed Skipper butterfly, Omnivorous Platynota Moth, and Evergreen Bagworm Moth are reported to eat leaves of this genus. The flower buds are called kachnar buds and can be used in Indian curry. In our recent south Texas trip, we saw lots of butterfly nectar use of the white flowered lunarioides species and a picture by Susan is included.