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Trees, Shrubs, Aloes, Grasses and Ground Covers.
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Bush Neat’s Foot
Yellow (Bell) Orchid Tree
Yellow Bell Bauhinia
St. Thomas Tree
Yellow Tree Bauhinia
Belonging to one of the most extensive and economically important plant families in the world, these decorative, sprawling and scandent shrubs or small, elegant and multi-stemmed trees add life and vibrancy to any landscape, and also provide food for a variety of garden critters. Each tree has many, slender and arching, somewhat hairy branches that spread and droop outwards to create a lovely fountain shape. During the spring and summer months, these trees light up with masses of radiant, canary yellow, bell-shaped flowers, each with a distinct purple throat. The bright, cheery flowers are very distinct against the fresh, pastel green, deeply two-lobed leaves, but their vivid colour only lasts for one day, thereafter they turn a dusky, pinkish brown before being shed. The flowers are followed by attractive, velvety golden pods, which often remain on the tree for a long time. The species epithet tomentosa refers to the dense, interwoven hairs present on some parts of the 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.
This species of Bauhinia grows from the coastal Eastern Cape and southern Natal to Limpopo and Mpumalanga, as well as the north eastern parts of Gauteng, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and further into tropical Africa.
They most often grow in low-altitude (coast to 1200 m), forests and on their fringes, in woodland and bushveld, grassland and riverine thickets.
They also form part of the coastal sand dune bush and forests and can sometimes be found in the scrub near rocky slopes.
These trees are most often multi-stemmed, with numerous smooth, drooping, slender, grey-brown and hirsute branches.
As they age, the tree loses much of its hairiness.
Evergreen in a temperate climate but can be deciduous in colder or drier areas.
Simple, bi-lobed leaves that are deeply divided for nearly half their length, joining up nearly halfway, with suborbicular to ovate-elliptic, smallish lobes (25 -75 x 25-40 mm).
The leaves have a small apical appendage between the lobes where they meet, and they have a rather thin, slightly leathery texture.
Light, pale, fresh green in colour, smooth and hairless above, slightly more hairy beneath, with 7-9 somewhat obscure veins.
The tips of the lobes are broadly tapering to almost rounded, and the entire base is cursorily lobed.
They have entire margins, linear stipules (leaf-like appendages at base of leafstalk), and slender petioles of up to 30 mm in length.
Solitary, pendulous and rather large (50-70 mm), bell-shaped flowers, with numerous broadly ovate petals.
They are a bright, lemon-yellow in colour, and a few of the petals have a very dark reddish-brown spot at their centres.
After one day their colour typically fades to a dull coppery-brown or pale mauve.
December – March.
Slender (100-140 x 10-20 mm), compressed, woody-textured and slightly sharp tipped pods.
They are covered with a layer of finely velvety hairs, and have a pale, golden-brown colour.
Dehiscent, splitting to reveal 5-12 compacted, russet coloured and glossy seeds.
April – July.
3 – 8 m
2- 4 m
Decoctions of the root and stem bark are used as vermifuges, to treat abdominal complaints and are applied topically to treat various skin disorders, abscesses and swollen glands.
The stems are used to make an astringent gargle for sore throats, and infusions of the flowers and buds are said to provide relief from dysentery and diarrhoea.
The fruits are said to have diuretic properties, and a paste made with the seeds and other additives is applied to animal bites.
The leaves are sometimes made into a plaster-like substance which is applied to abscesses.
Extracts have shown strong activity against Gram-positive bacteria and are said to help kill intestinal parasites.
The wood if these small trees is quite durable, hard and heavyweight, and takes a relatively good finish.
It is not widely used as a general timber because the pieces obtainable are often too small or warped, but traditionally roof beams have been constructed from it.
The fibrous inner bark has been used to weave baskets, and a yellow dye can be extracted from the leaves.
A variety of wildlife can be lured to the garden with this strictive little tree.
The flowers are rich in both pollen and nectar, and attract butterflies, bees and a host of other insect life.
They are also eaten by Louries and certain moth species.
Some Deudorix butterfly species lay their eggs inside the pods, and the larvae feed off the seeds.
The leaves, although not frequently eaten by livestock, are browsed by rhino and certain antelope.
A variety of birds will be enticed to pay these trees a visit, as they provide a safe nesting site, and food for insectivorous, nectarivorous and seed eating species.
These scrambling shrubs make excellent hedges, both formal and informal, and are a splendid addition to a mixed shrub border.
They respond very well to the occasional pruning.
This species of Bauhinia will make a sturdy windbreak or effective screen if kept properly trimmed.
The Yellow Bauhinia provides food for a number of animals and is a definitive must have in a bird or wildlife attracting garden.
They are very decorative and make fine specimen or accent plants.
In warmer climates, they are prolific flowerers, and often produce flowers freely and continuously throughout much of the year.
They are semi water-wise plants and will make lovely rockery additions.
Their naturally small statures make them good container plants and also makes them suitable for smaller gardens.
As they do not have aggressive or invasive root systems, it is safe to plant them in close proximity of permanent structures and paving.
against extreme fluctuations in temperature for at least the first 3-4 years of their lives.
The Yellow Bauhinia can withstand the occasional dry spell, but only has a moderate resistance to drought.
During the dormant winter months, it can be pruned back quite hard to encourage more profuse flowering the following spring.
Soil & Water
Plant in a loose and well-drained, compost enriched loamy or peaty soil, with a slightly acidic pH for optimal health.
They will accept somewhat sandy and clayish, moisture retentive soils, but will require added fertiliser, bone-meal or liquid fertilisers once every so often in spring.
If planting in a very clay soil, water less frequently.
They have moderate water needs, and will require water on a regular basis, especially in summer.
Young plants need a generous amount of water on a regular basis to help them become established.
An added layer of mulch over the surrounding soil will greatly benefit moisture retention, and this will need to be replenished every few weeks.
The Yellow Bauhinia is mostly propagated from seed.
These can be soaked overnight to help soften the hard-outer layer, which may inhibit germination.
Sow the seeds in spring or very early summer, into deep seedling trays filled with equal parts washed, fine river sand and compost.
Place the trays in a well ventilated, temperate and warm, brightly lit area and mist them often, but take care to not let the soil become too waterlogged.
Germination will typically occur within 3-4 weeks, and the seedlings grow rapidly.
Once they have developed their first set of proper leaves, they can be transplanted into their permanent homes.