Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bauhinia blakeana

Bauhinia blakeana is an evergreen tree, in the genus ''Bauhinia'', with large thick leaves and striking purplish red flowers. The fragrant, orchid-like flowers are usually 10-15 cm across, and bloom from early November to the end of March. This unique flower is special of Hong Kong's ecosystem. It is referred to as bauhinia in non-scientific literature though this is the name of the genus. It is sometimes called Hong Kong orchid tree .

The ''Bauhinia'' double-lobed leaf is similar in shape to a heart, or a butterfly. A typical leaf is 7-10 cm long and 10-13 cm broad, with a deep cleft dividing the apex. Local people call the leaf ''chungmingyip'' , and regard it as a symbol of cleverness. Some people use the leaves to make bookmarks in the hope that it will assist them to study well.

It is usually sterile , suggesting a origin, probably between ''Bauhinia variegata'' and ''Bauhinia purpurea'', though this is still a matter of debate. Propagation is by cuttings and air-layering, and the tree prefers a sheltered sunny position with good soil.


It is named after Sir Henry Blake who was the from 1898 to 1903. An enthusiastic botanist, he discovered it in 1880 near the ruins of a house on the shore of Hong Kong Island near Pok Fu Lam. The first scientific description of the Hong Kong orchid tree was published in 1908 by S. T. Dunn, superintendent of the Botanical and Forestry Department, who assigned it to the genus ''Bauhinia'' and named it after Sir Henry Blake.

Usage as an emblem

''Bauhinia blakeana'' was adopted as the of Hong Kong by the Urban Council in 1965. Since 1997 it has become the floral emblem for the City of Hong Kong and appears on and ; its Chinese name has also been frequently shortened as 紫荊 , although 紫荊 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 plant of Hong Kong was introduced to Taiwan in 1967. In 1984 it was chosen to be the city flower of , in southwestern Taiwan.


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