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Bauhinia × blakeana

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Title: Bauhinia × blakeana  
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Subject: Regional symbols of Hong Kong, Culture of Hong Kong
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Bauhinia × blakeana

Bauhinia × blakeana
Bauhinia × blakeana flower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Bauhinia
Species: B. × blakeana
Binomial name
Bauhinia × blakeana

Bauhinia × blakeana commonly called the Hong Kong Orchid Tree[1] is a legume tree of the genus Bauhinia, with large thick leaves and striking purplish red flowers. The fragrant, orchid-like flowers are usually 10 to 15 centimetres (3.9 to 5.9 in) across, and bloom from early November to the end of March. Although now cultivated in many areas, it originated in Hong Kong in 1880 and apparently all of the cultivated trees derive from one cultivated at the Hong Kong Botanic Gardens and widely planted in Hong Kong starting in 1914.[2] It is referred to as bauhinia in non-scientific literature though this is the name of the genus. It is sometimes called the Hong Kong orchid (香港蘭). Commonly called by the people of Hong Kong by its Chinese name "洋紫荊".

The Bauhinia double-lobed leaf is similar in shape to a heart or a butterfly. A typical leaf is 7 to 10 centimetres (2.8 to 3.9 in) long and 10 to 13 centimetres (3.9 to 5.1 in) wide, with a deep cleft dividing the apex. In Hong Kong the leaf is known as the "clever leaf" (聰明葉), and is regarded as a symbol of wisdom. Some people use the leaves to make bookmarks in the hope that they will bring them good luck in their studies.

It is sterile, which means it does not generally produce seeds or fruits, and is a hybrid between Bauhinia variegata and Bauhinia purpurea.[2][3] The 2008 research was able to identify the female parent as Bauhinia purpurea, but it could not differentiate the male parent from Bauhinia variegata var. variegata or Bauhinia variegata var. candida. This is not unexpected, as Bauhinia variegata var. candida is a white-flowered form of Bauhinia variegata var. variegata, and not a separate species or sub-species. The 2005 research suggested Bauhinia × blakeana is genetically closer to Bauhinia variegata, while the 2008 research indicated it is closer to Bauhinia purpurea instead.

Propagation is by grafting, cuttings and air-layering. As it is only known in cultivation, it can also be named as a cultivar: Bauhinia 'Blakeana'.[2] Hong Kong orchid trees are usually sterile, yet here, too, there are exceptions. One tree has been found in Hong Kong that produces seeds, perhaps indicating that evolution or mutation has occurred, or that even though Bauhinia × blakeana is perhaps sterile when self-pollinated (the scientific study in 2005 established the low fertility of Bauhinia × blakeana's pollen when compared with its parental species Bauhinia purpurea or Bauhinia variegata), however, it may perhaps be able to produce seeds when pollinated instead by its parental species Bauhinia purpurea or Bauhinia variegata or other related Bauhinia species. More scientific research will need to be carried out, e.g., artificial controlled cross-pollination experiments to confirm the ability of Bauhinia × blakeana in backcross or outcross to produce (fertile) seeds.

Lawrence Ramsden of the University of Hong Kong's Department of Botany is conducting the search to find out if there are any more individuals that can produce seeds – if so, they could benefit propagation of the tree for horticulture.[4] Two previous instances of seeds found from Bauhinia × blakeana specimens failed to germinate.[3]


  • History 1
  • Usage as an emblem 2
  • Gallery 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Hong Kong Orchid tree flower.

This tree was discovered in around 1880 by a French Catholic Missionary of the Paris Foreign Missions (MEP), near the ruins of a house above the shore-line of western Hong Kong island near Pok Fu Lam and propagated to the formal botanical gardens in Victoria/Central.[2]

The first thorough scientific description of the tree was made by Stephen Troyte Dunn, Superintendent of the Botanical and Forestry Department, who assigned it to the genus Bauhinia in his paper of 1908.[5] Dunn named the tree for "Sir Henry and Lady Blake", the former being Sir Henry Blake, British Governor of Hong Kong, from 1898 to 1903. Sir Henry and Lady Blake were thus thanked for their promotion of the Hong Kong Botanic Gardens.

Dunn's description was based on the trees in the Botanical Gardens, which had been grown from cuttings taken from trees cultivated in the French Mission at Pokfulam, on the west coast of Hong Kong Island, which in turn were derived from a tree (or trees) found nearby. As far as is known, all the French Mission cuttings were taken from a single tree, so all Hong Kong orchid trees today would be clones of the original tree. Dr Lawrence Ramsden of the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Botany estimates that this clonal origin would mean that B. × blakeana could be susceptible to decimation by epidemics, though it has so far avoided major diseases.

Usage as an emblem

Bauhinia × blakeana was adopted as the floral emblem of Hong Kong by the Urban Council in 1965. Since 1997 the flower appears on Hong Kong's coat of arm, its flag and its coins; its Chinese name has also been frequently shortened as 紫荊/紫荆 (洋 yáng means "foreign" in Chinese, and this would be deemed inappropriate by the PRC government), although 紫荊/紫荆 refers to another genus called Cercis. A statue of the plant has been erected in Golden Bauhinia Square in Hong Kong.

Although the flowers are bright pinkish purple in colour, they are depicted in white on the Flag of Hong Kong.

The endemic plant of Hong Kong was introduced to Taiwan in 1967. In 1984 it was chosen to be the city flower of Chiayi City, in southwestern Taiwan.

Bauhinia × blakeana
Traditional Chinese 洋紫荊
Simplified Chinese 洋紫荆



  1. ^ "USDA GRIN Taxonomy". 
  2. ^ a b c d Lau, C. P. Y.; Ramsden, L.; Saunders, R. M. K. (2005), "Hybrid origin of "Bauhinia blakeana" (Leguminosae: Caesalpinioideae), inferred using morphological, reproductive, and molecular data", American Journal of Botany 92 (3): 525–33,  
  3. ^ a b Mak, Cy; Cheung, Ks; Yip, Py; Kwan, Hs (Jan 2008), "Molecular evidence for the hybrid origin of Bauhinia blakeana (Caesalpinioideae)", Journal of integrative plant biology 50 (1): 111–8,  
  4. ^ Seeds"Bauhinia"How to Join the Hunt for . Retrieved 2014-07-15. 
  5. ^ S. T. Dunn (1908). "New Chinese Plants". Journal of botany, British and foreign 46 (550): 324–326. , Page 325

External links

  • Bauhinia – Hong Kong emblem
  • Hong Kong Bauhinias
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