FLIP: Florida Invasive Plants

Bauhinia variegata

Common Name(s): Orchid tree, mountain ebony


Eastern Asia (India, China)

Ecological Impact

Displaces native vegetation in hammock margins and occasionally in globally imperiled pine rocklands. Reported now from natural areas in four counties: Pinellas, Lee, Dade, and Palm Beach, including the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades National Park (EPPC 1996). Listed as a category I invasive species by Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council.


Semideciduous tree up to 15 m (50 ft) in height, with a spreading crown. Leaves alternate, long petioled (to 3 cm [1.25 in] long), thin-leathery, simple but deeply cleft at apex, forming 2 large rounded lobes; lower surfaces downy, especially at top of petiole; blades with 11-13 veins extending from heart-shaped or rounded base. Flowers showy, fragrant, in few-flowered clusters near stem tips, appearing during leaf fall (early spring); 5 petals, clawed, overlapping, pale magenta to indigo (occasionally white), with dark red and yellow also on upper petal; 5 stamens (rarely 6). Fruit a flat, oblong pod, to 30 cm (1 ft) long, 10-15-seeded.

Identification Tips

May be confused with another naturalized exotic Bauhinia purpurea L., which flowers in the fall with leaves on the tree, and has many-flowered clusters, 3 (rarely 4) stamens, and petals not overlapping.


Introduced into Florida in 1936 as an ornamental.


In Florida, herbarium specimens have been deposited from Brevard, Polk, Lee, and Dade counties (Wunderlin et al. 1996). Because the tree is fairly cold hardy (USDA Zones 9B-11), it can be grown throughout much of peninsular Florida.

Management Strategies

Do not plant. Remove plant and root system. Herbicide treatment, basal bark: 10% Garlon® 4. Herbicide treatment, cut stump: 50% Garlon® 3A.


Most photos courtesy of the Atlas of Florida Plants; click for additional plant details.

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Florida Invasive Plants