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Trees, Shrubs, Aloes, Grasses and Ground Covers.
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Red Orchid Tree / Bush
Pride of de Kaap
Umvangatane Usololo (Z)
Arguably one of the most resplendent of its genus, this vigorous, rambling, half climber half shrub has a distinctively flaccid and wide-spreading growth habit, with slender branches that either tumble to the ground or creep into adjacent vegetation. It is extremely alluring when in full flower, as it produces masses of large, loose flower sprays consisting of striking, vivid crimson to deep apricot coloured, nasturtium-like flowers with five paddle shaped petals. The colourful flowers, which are often produced freely throughout summer, form an eye-catching contrast to the curious, deeply bi-lobed, heart-shaped blue-green leaves. It makes a hardy, rewarding garden plant, and may grow into a lovely, low-spreading small tree.
Fabaceae or Leguminosae (Legume or pod-bearing family).
This family is also divided into 3 subfamilies; mimosa or acacia subfamily, cassia and pea.
Regarded as one of the largest, as well as economically significant families, its members have been cultivated since early times for their plethora of uses – as food, medicine, fodder, for practical use (tannins) and ornamental displays.
These scrubs or small, scrambling trees are most often found in the warmer parts of southern and eastern South Africa, from elevations of about 200 m to just above 1000 m.
They mostly occur in various types of woodland, at the margins of forests, in riverine and stream bank thickets and bushy, predominantly moderate to high rainfall areas.
The Red Bauhinia can also be found growing, although less frequently, on rocky hillsides and near or on termite mounds, as well as scrubby areas and boulder strewn, semi- mountainous slopes.
From Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, wetter parts of the Transvaal, to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and into tropical Africa.
It is most often multi-stemmed and tends to naturally scramble and clamber onto surrounding vegetation.
The bark varies in colour from light grey-brown to darker grey-brown, and has a smooth, yet somewhat powdery texture.
New branches are often densely covered with a layer of soft, short and downy hairs.
Alternately arranged, simple and bi-lobed leaves.
The symmetrically rounded lobes (70 x 70 mm), are obliquely and broadly obovate to ovate, and start at the apex of the leaf, covering about a quarter of its length.
Several veins can be seen running from the base of the leaves, and these eventually curl towards the margin and branch outwards.
The venation is more prominent underneath, and the leaves are deeply notched, with lobes bases, and entire or smooth margins.
The leaves mature from a fresh, light grey-green to dark green, and the leafstalk is 10-25 mm long.
Large, branched clusters (150-200 mm diameter), of up to 10 flowers, carried at the tips of branchlets, and usually produced in profusion.
The flowers are a deep orange-red to brick or salmon red, but deep pinkish-red varieties have been observed.
They have a diameter of between 60 -80 mm each, and the five petals (30-40 mm), are somewhat paddle-shaped instead of being long and slender.
September – March.
An elongated or oblong, compact, woody and dehiscent pod (60-100 x 20-30 mm).
Immature pods may be slightly hairy, but they usually become glabrous as they mature.
Khaki brown to dark brown in colour, containing numerous russet-brown, irregularly ovoid seeds.
1.8 – 5 m
2- 6 m
The long, often quite supple and pliant stems are traditionally used to weave basket ware and other similar household items.
Roof beams are also occasionally constructed using these flexible branches.
These small trees are susceptible to attacks from aphids and borer, and they should regularly be checked for signs of infestation.
The flowers provide food for insects, bees, butterflies and nectarivorous bird species.
Certain birds, such as Louries also eat the flower buds.
The leaves and pods are also a source of food for several moth and butterfly species.
Two species of Playboy (Deudorix) butterflies, as well as the stunning Emperor butterfly, breed inside the pods, and the larvae then feed off the seeds.
It provides fodder for black rhino and several species of antelope, as well as farm animals and livestock.
The densely scrambling twigs provide a safe nesting site for smaller birds.
Its naturally sprawling, rambling nature makes it the ideal plant for covering large, open slopes or embankments.
It tolerates poor soil conditions and is relatively fast growing.
The Red Bauhinia looks simply stunning when left to cascade over a wall or any other large structure, such as fences and trellis.
It is a natural climber and can grow quite large, but responds very well to pruning and regular trimming, which is recommended.
It does not have an aggressive root system, so it is safe to plant it in close proximity of permanent structures.
Makes a lovely bonsai subject and container plant.
Water-wise, ideal for rockeries.
It is a sturdy windbreak, and works well as either a mixed, formal or informal hedge or screening plant.
The floral display is brilliant and usually long-lasting, so it therefore makes an excellent and showy feature or accent plant.
Once they are properly established, these small trees can tolerate a fair amount of drought, but they perform and flower best when given a steady supply of water, especially during the summer months.
They naturally thrive in areas with moderately high annual and summer rainfall, where winters are dry and cool, not freezing.
They are rather frost tender, but can withstand light frosts, and are usually able to recover from damages caused by low temperatures.
Generally, they can withstand temperatures as low as -2 °C, but may be severely or fatally damaged at -6°C.
In areas that experience severely cold conditions, it is recommended that it be grown as an indoor specimen, at least for the first few years of its life, to help improve its resistance to cold.
It can also be planted in a sheltered position, e.g. against a north facing wall.
Plant in spring or early summer to maximize establishment before winter arrives.
They are resistant to strong winds.
In warmer climates, the growth rate is quite fast, between 600 – 900 mm per year.
It can also be remarkably long lived, reaching ages of more than 120 years, but usually 20-35.
Prefers a mostly sunny position, but will accept light, dappled shade.
Soil & Water
Plant the Red Bauhinia in moist but well-drained and nutrient rich sandy, peaty or loamy soil, with a more acidic ph.
They will tolerate slightly clay, moisture retentive soils.
Soils that are too alkaline may hamper nutrient absorption and cause leaf yellowing.
It does not need a lot of maintenance but will appreciate extra watering during hot, dry weather and in summer, with an occasional feeding. of e.g. liquid fertiliser during the early stages of spring.
Mostly grown from seed but can also be propagated from semi-hardwood cuttings taken in mid-summer.
It is advisable to soak the seeds in warm water overnight to help soften the germination inhibiting, hard outer layers. In early spring, these can be sown into deep seedlings trays filled with a well-drained mixture of equal parts river sand and rich loam or compost.
Place the trays in a warm, temperate and brightly lit area and keep the soil moist.
Germination usually occurs within a few weeks, and as soon as the seedlings have developed their first set of true leaves, they can be transplanted into their individual containers.
If growing from cuttings, place these in a similar growing medium and mist them often.