"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Leaf of the Day: Bauhinia or Butterfly Tree

On the nearby charmingly named Gay Rd is a small retirement complex and this lovely tree must bring delight to whichever lucky resident has an adjacent room. I am presuming, from this leaf, that it is the Bauhinia purpurea: Purple Orchid-Tree
This genus of tree was named to honor the work of the Bauhini brothers, 16th century Swiss botanists and herbalists who each wrote extensively on horticulture and the use of plants.
There are many varieties of Bauhinia and in India, the Apta, as it is known, is celebrated both in myth and for its medical uses especially in ayurvedic medicine. In legend, the tree was showered with gold during a fight between Kuba the god of wealth and King Raghu. I think that is a very beautiful image and one of the observances of festival of Dussehra is the exchange of Apta leaves as a symbol of a gift of gold.

Leaf Description
This beautiful leaf is bi-lobed, so really made up of twin leaflets, joined in the middle and I have seen other examples that are more deeply divided. The interesting shape also earns it the name butterfly tree or more prosaically, cow’s foot. I have a proper botanical description of these leaves from the AgroForestryTree Database
“Leaves have minute stipules 1-2 mm, early caducous; petiole puberulous to glabrous, 3-4 cm; lamina broadly ovate to circular, often broader than long, 6-16 cm diameter; 11-13 nerved; tips of lobes broadly rounded, base cordate; upper surface glabrous, lower glaucous but glabrous when fully grown”

Taxonomy
And I am learning more about the taxonomy of plants too.. so here, for the scholarly, from the USA Department of Agriculture is the correct classification for the lovely butterfly tree.
Kingdom: Plantae ( plants)
Subkingdom: Trachebionta (Vascular plants)
Superdivision: Spermatophyta (Seed plants)
Division: Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
Class: Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
Subclass: Rosidae
Order:
Fabales
Family: Fabaceae (pea)
Genus:
Bauhinia
Species: Bauhinia purpurea (butterfly tree)


There is so much to learn and understand... what joy!

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The Butterfly Tree

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