The orchid tree that’s spreading a pink carpet across the city grows easily

Not as showy as the May Flower or the Tabebuias, the Camel Foot (Bauhinia variegata) which is blooming now across the city also spreads a pretty pink carpet of petals below its thick canopy. Rose ringed parakeets squabble among its branches, fighting over its long green, seed pods which they strip for the seeds.

Also known as the orchid tree, the seed pods when dry disperse the seeds rather far from the parent tree, where they invariably take root very easily. We have dozens of little saplings growing on our lawn, from the seeds dispersed from a tree on our pavement.

Erica Mohinani Saldanha a yoga instructor in the city says: “People use the flowers in salads. It contains anti-oxidants.”

The tree is a great avenue tree and easy to grow by anyone who wants to plant a roadside tree to increase our green cover, as it has a small, but spreading canopy. During the rains when the leaves are washed clean of all aphids and parasites it looks very attractive. One can pick up a sapling from any government nursery.

Arun Kumar N., a student of Botany from St. Joseph’s college says: “The camel foot tree is a common sight in Bangalore’s streets. It’s a small to medium sized tree with very characteristic camel footprint (or cows or goats) shaped leaves. Rarely do we get to see a healthy disease free tree, as most of them are infested with white flies on the leaf undersides, but the flower is sure to amaze anyone. Called the poor man’s orchid, its fragrant pink flowers grow into long flat pods.”

“This tree is so common that I for one barely gave it another glance till one day a friend remarked that it was actually a special tree,” says Susy Matthew, the Bangalore-based author of In a Bubble of Time. Looking closer it seemed covered with a thousand green butterflies — its uniquely shaped leaves! Its flowers, orchid shaped and blooming in clusters, could have easily been at the end of a single stemmed, smaller plant, hidden in a dense tropical jungle. The briefest of research showed up even more tantalising facts – the bark, roots, flowers, seeds have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial properties that help in treating ulcers, stomach ailments, wounds and swollen glands.”

Passionate urban farmer Ananya Mehta says, “It’s got an ornamental appeal, with beautiful foliage, both the shape and shade of tree and its venation pattern. Very celebrated culturally in poetry and song I remember it especially in the Bollywood film Waqt Hamara Hai and the song about the kachnaar tree called ‘Kacchi kali kachnaar ki’. The film has Akshay Kumar and Ayesha Jhulka starring in it and the song was about the Kachnaar, or the pink butterfly tree.”

Keywords: orchid tree