National Flower Series – East Asia 6 – Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China – Bauhinia Blakeana
Bauhinia blakeana or Hong Kong Orchid Tree is an orchid tree of the genus Bauhinia with large thick leaves and striking purplish red flowers. It is a native species discovered in Hong Kong was chosen as the logo of the Urban Council in 1965, it was later incorporated in the flag and emblem of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China after the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floral_emblem#Hong_Kong)
|Scientific name:||Bauhinia blakeana|
|Common name(s):||Hong Kong Orchid-Tree, Hong Kong Bauhinia, Butterfly Tree|
|Chinese name:||红花羊蹄甲 洋艳紫荊, 香港兰|
Bauhinia Blakeana is a garden legume which is a close relative to garden peas and can grow until 20 to 40 feet in height. The leaves are large twin lobes, with grayish green color and can be as large as 6 to 8 inch in diameter.
The large, orchid-like flowers are rich magenta purple with paler veins, and the uppermost petal is darker towards the base.
The Hong Kong orchid tree is now widely planted as an ornamental within the Special Administrative Regions and many other tropical countries. Flowering seasons usually begins around December and closes in March each year.
A distinct species or A cultivar……?
Though the flower has been Hong Kong’s emblem since 1965, however, there are still debates if the trees is a true species by its own or a hybrid between Bauhinia Purpurea or Bauhinia Variegata. In in the American Journal of Botany article published in November 2004, “Hybrid origin of “Bauhinia blakeana” (Leguminosae: Caesalpinioideae), inferred using morphological, reproductive, and molecular data” , it was written :
“…………..It is therefore evident that although B. blakeana is a hybrid that has resulted from a cross (probably natural) between B. purpurea and B. Variegate, it has only been perpetuated genetically by artificial horticultural practices: it is not capable of reproducing itself independently. It is therefore inappropriate to regard it as a distinct species and is better referred to as an artificially maintained cultivar. A new cultivar name is accordingly formally published here, replacing the previous specific binomial published by Dunn (1908): Bauhinia purpurea × variegata ‘Blakeana’, cv. nov. “ (Source：http://www.amjbot.org/content/92/3/525.full)
However, it was written in Wikipedia that:
“….A 2008 research was able to identify the female parent as Bauhinia purpurea, but it could not differentiate the male parent as 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 specie or sub-specie. Interestingly, the 2005 research suggested Bauhinia blakeana is genetically closer to Bauhinia variegata, while the 2008 research indicated it is closer to Bauhinia purpurea instead.”
|Bauhinia purpurea||Bauhinia variegata var. candida|
Bauhinia Blakeana is very similar to Bauhinia Purpurea. One way of differentiating them is the number of stigmas/ Bauhinia Blakeana have 5-6 stamens whereas Bauhinia Purpurea have 3-4 stamens.
Another distinct differentiation is Bauhinia Blakeana can only be perpetuated by horticultural practices (e.g. Grafting) and seed pods are seldom noted. Whereas in Bauhinia Purpurea, being a parent plant, long seedpods are always being produced for future reproductions. In the above Bauhinia purpurea picture, take note of a brownish seed pod next to the flower.
Hong Kong and Bauhinia Blakeana
- Hong Kong people call the leaf “clever leaf” (聰明葉/聪明叶), and regard it as a symbol of cleverness. Some people use the leaves to make bookmarks in the hope that the bookmarks will bring them good luck in their studies.
- It is the official flower emblem of Hong Kong and appeared in Hong Kong’s state flag. Besides, it also appeared in coins, stamps of Hong Kong.
- In North Wan Chai, outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, there is an open area with a 6 meter high giant statute of a golden Bauhinia Blakeana. This area is called The Golden Bauhinia Square (Chinese: 金紫荊廣場) and it is the place where the ceremonies for the handover of Hong Kong and the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was held in July 1997. The major part is composed of a bauhinia on a base of red grantite pillar on a pyramid. It became a tourist attraction and a flag-raising ceremony is held every day at 8:00am.
- The Genus “Bauhinia” is named after the 16th Swiss botanists and brothers, John and Caspar Bauhin and the twin lobe leaves were said to represent the two brothers.
- Bauhinia Blakeana blooms can be used as cut flowers and in flower arrangements.
Theoretically, I have already finished the East Asia series of National Flowers after my post on Taiwan’s national flowers here, but I have decided to include two Special Administrative Regions of People’s Republic of China namely Hong Kong and Macau. Too bad, Mongolia does not have national flowers.
Rest be assured that this series (national flower series) will be continued and I am aiming to complete the series in one years’ time.
Thank for reading.