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

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Leaf of the Day: Bauhinia Assorted

While I was at Leu Gardens the other day I noticed a little grove of bauhinia trees, they really are so pretty. I had drawn one leaf on the 22nd January post, here with some general background information. I loved the elegant shape and they were very new to me then.
Here at the Gardens, there must be six or seven varieties in the group, differing widely in the size and shape of their leaves and in the colour and structure of their flowers.
I have recently come across a charming book by a Mrs D V Cowen "Flowering trees and shrubs of India" published in the 1950's. It seems that Mrs Cowen was a naturalist and artist and painted not only flowers but birds too, illustrating books by the great Indian ornithologist Salim Ali. I intend to find out more about her, but here is a short extract from her book plus her illustration of the purple and variegated Bauhinias.

"...Edging the golf course of the club was a glorious sweep of glowing purple. Even before I was near enough to identify the trees, the rich, heady perfume which filled the air told me they were Bauhinias. The sight left me breathless and it was then I realised how difficult was the attempt I was making to describe in mere words the trees I know better how to paint..." ("Flowering trees and shrubs of India")




As ever, I am interested in the leaf shapes.. they are quite different but all with the distinctive bi-lobed leaf construction.
Here are six of the varieties with their flowers.

Bauhinia Divaricata, Elegant leaves with pointed lobes.




Bauhinia bowkeri... A more rounded leaf and first found by a Colonel James Henry Bowker (1822-1900), in the Eastern Cape. The Afrikaans name beesklou (cattle foot) is applied to most of the bauhinias and refers to the resemblance of the leaf the cloven footprints of cows.




Bauhinia grandidieri... A tiny leaved dwarf bauhinia tree.




Bauhinia galpinii ... A more rounded leaf shape with very prominent veins and red flowers




Bauhinia travapotensis... A very large leaf with these beautiful spidery white flowers.




Bauhinia yunnanensis ... A tiny twining vine from Yunan in southwest China with pink orchid-like flowers veined with purple.



These super photos are from the Florida Flowering Tree Society website

One interesting thing about these leaves is at the base of many is a small arc shaped structure a 'pulvinus' ..L. pulvinus: cushion, pillow. Described as "a group of cells at the base of a leaf or petiole that in certain plants by rapidly losing water, brings about changes in the position of the leaves. "
This explains why, when I got the leaves home, some of them had folded in half only to open out again in water. The mimosa (sensitive plant) has the same mechanism for folding its leaves if touched or injured.
I had made some little drawings of the folded leaf in the first post.
The bauhinias also have interesting seed pods.. tomorrows drawing.
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Bauhinia Assorted




1 comment:

Wicked Gardener said...

Ooooh, I like these, especially the Bauhinia travapotensis. I didn't see it on the internet. I guess I just have to get myself down to Leu Gardens, huh?