This serves as a personal note on Identification of Orchid Trees - Bauhinia variegata(宮粉羊蹄甲)or Bauhinia purpurea(紅花羊蹄甲), which are easily mixed up with Hong Kong Orchid Tree - Bauhinia blakeana.


There past studies revealed that Bauhinia blakeana (B. blakeana) is actually a sterile butterfly-flowered tree form from a hybrid of two known species: the pink-butterfly-flowered tree Bauhinia varigata (B. variegate), and the purple-bauhinia-flowered tree Phanera/Bauhinia purpurea (B. purpurea). [Note 1]

It is said that the first Hong Kong Orchid Tree was discovered by a French Catholic missionary - Delavay, near a ruined building. He found a single tree with incredible magenta flowers, and took a cutting.

Some years after Delavay’s discovery, a cutting was passed to what is now the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Garden. There it was named Bauhinia blakeana by Linnaeus, in honour of the then-departed British governor of Hong Kong Sir Henry Blake.

Instead of forming the hybrid of B. variegate and B. purpurea again by natural means, the usual reproduction of this tree is by “grafting” (or cuttings). All trees of B. blakeana propagated by grafting of a single mother plant are genetically identical. Over 25,000 trees of this species are found in Hong Kong, as well as in China, the USA, Australia and elsewhere since the plant was discovered.

Being both butterfly-flowered trees, the most distinguishable characteristic between Orchid Trees and Hong Kong Orchid Trees is:-
Orchid Trees can be reproduced by seeds while Hong Kong Orchid Trees cannot.

Written on 6 February 2019

Note 1:
I think the studies results were published on American Journal of Botany (Volume 92, Issue 3) at:

Classification of Bauhinia blakeana:
Kingdom [Plantae] > Clade [Angiosperms (dicotyledons) > Eudicots > Rosids] > Order [Fabales] > Family [Fabaceae] > Subfamily [Cercidoideae] > Tribe [Bauhinieae] > Genus [Bauhinia] > Species [Bauhinia blakeana]

Bauhinia is a genus of more than 500 species of flowering plants in the subfamily Cercidoideae and tribe Bauhinieae, in the large flowering plant family Fabaceae (legume), with a pantropical distribution. The genus was named after two 17th-Century Swiss-French botanists, the Bauhin brothers - Gaspard and Jean Bauhin.

Bauhinia purpurea (B. purpurea) or Phanera purpurea, is purple-butterfly-flowered, native to South China (which includes Hong Kong) and Southeast Asia. Common names include orchid tree, purple bauhinia, camel’s foot, butterfly tree, and Hawaiian orchid tree.

Classification of Bauhinia purpurea: Kingdom [Plantae] > Clade [Angiosperms (dicotyledons) > Eudicots > Rosids] > Order [Fabales] > Family [Fabaceae] > Subfamily [Caesalpinioideae] > Genus [Phanera] > Species [Phanera purpurea/Bauhinia purpurea]

Bauhinia variegata (B. variegata) is pink-butterfly-flowered, native to South Asia and Southeast Asia, from southern China, Burma, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Common names include orchid tree, camel’s foot tree, kachnar and mountain-ebony.

Classification of Bauhinia variegata: Kingdom [Plantae] > Clade [Angiosperms (dicotyledons) > Eudicots > Rosids] > Order [Fabales] > Family [Fabaceae] > Subfamily [Cercidoideae] > Tribe [Bauhinieae] > Genus [Bauhinia] > Species [Bauhinia variegata]

Posted by lunababy22 lunababy22, 06 February, 2019 08:58


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