The Hong Kong Orchid
By Susana Cortázar
Among the many beautiful trees, plants and flowers at Zoo Miami, one stands out because of its sheer size and the vibrant color of its flower. We’re talking about the Hong Kong orchid (Bauhinia x blakeana), which can be found on the edge of the walkway in front of the zoo’s Cuban Crocodile exhibit.
Reaching up to 50 feet in height, this tree is the official floral emblem of Hong Kong, where it was discovered along the seashore in 1908. According to tree expert Sir Bob Beck, who is bursting with interesting plant facts, “the Hong Kong orchid isn't found in the wild; it was first cultivated by monks in a monastery in Southern China.” It is believed to be a hybrid of Bauhinia purpurea x Bauhinia variegata and is sterile, so there are no pods or seeds.
Its leaves are one of the largest found – around eight inches wide – and the flower is a deep magenta with lavender markings, creating a striking contrast against the blue sky when the tree gets tall. The peak flowering season is September to October although flowers appear between February and November. Bob tells us “this particular species of Bauhinia is considered to be the hardiest, longest blooming and most beautiful of all.
This is the perfect time of year to come to Zoo Miami because it is blooming and patrons will be able to enjoy its great beauty and color.” The Hong Kong orchid does well in “fertile, open, well-drained soil, and full sun,” adds Bob. In other words, Zoo Miami is the perfect terrain and environment for this orchid to thrive.
Make sure to check it out next time you’re at Zoo Miami. It will make a beautiful background for a photo of you and your family and friends!
Photos by Sir Bob Beck