Craig recognized our mystery seeds and seed pods from last week as coming from orchid trees (Bauhinia sp.)


Orchid trees are named for their absolutely breathtaking, orchid-like flowers.

orchid-tree-branch and leaves-12

A few weeks ago our local orchid trees were masses of brilliant flowers.

Orchid trees were originally from Asia, but are now grown in warm areas throughout the world. The trees can withstand a light frost, but are killed by colder temperatures.



The pods and seeds in the mystery seed post most likely were from Bauhinia variegata, which is also called “mountain ebony.”

Bauhinia variegata seeds(Public domain photograph by Steve Hurst, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)

Unlike the immature green mystery seeds, Bauhinia variegata seeds are light brown when mature.


Orchid trees are easy to identify when they are not in bloom because they have unusual bi-lobed leaves.


Another type of orchid tree that grows in Arizona is the Hong Kong orchid tree, Bauhinia blakeana. The Hong Kong orchid tree is actually a hybrid and does not produce seeds.


Hong Kong orchid trees have darker magenta or reddish purple flowers.

Given the long stamens and pistil of the orchid tree flowers, it is not surprising to learn that they are often pollinated by large moths (see pollination by butterflies post for more information).

Have you every seen an orchid tree in full bloom? Aren’t they amazing?