Purple Orchid Tree (Bauhinia purpurea)
is a species of flowering plant in the family Fabaceae, native to the Indian subcontinent and Myanmar, and widely introduced elsewhere in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Common names include orchid tree, purple bauhinia, camel's foot, butterfly tree, and Hawaiian orchid tree.
The Purple Orchid Tree is an exotic tropical tree that blooms over a long period of time. The beautiful & fragrant, classic, Orchid-like flowers of Bauhinia purpurea makes this small tree, native to India, a favourite of many plant lovers. In fall, before the leaves drop, Orchid-Tree is festooned with many showy and delightfully fragrant, five-inch-wide blossoms, the narrow purple, pink, and lavender petals arranged to closely resemble an orchid. These flowers appear on the trees from September through November and are a beautiful sight to see, creating a vivid splash of color in the autumn landscape. Curiously, the flower colors varies quite a lot. There are some trees which have white flowers with only some streaks of purple in them. Purple orchid tree can be easily distinguished from Orchid Tree (Bauhinia variegata
) in that the petals of Purple orchid tree are narrower and do not overlap. On the other hand, the petals of Bauhinia variegata
are broad and overlap - it never open fully flat. The flowers are followed by 12-inch-long, slender, brown, flat seedpods which usually persist on the tree throughout the winter. The foliage light green and deeply notched at the tip. Bauhinia purpurea can reach up to 20 feet tall and have a 25 foot crown.
The young leaves and flowers of Purple Orchid Tree are edible. In the Philippines, B. purpurea
is known as alibangbang
(lit. "butterfly"). The leaves have a citrusy and sour taste and are used as a souring agent for sinigang
and similar dishes in Philippine cuisine.
In Indian traditional medicine, the leaves are used to treat coughs while the bark is used for glandular diseases and as an antidote for poisons. The flowers are also used in pickles and curries and is regarded as a laxative.