NATIVE PLANT FOCUS | Anacacho Orchid Tree | Bauhinia congesta
While appearing fragile, the anacacho orchid tree is a tough Texas native that offers a profusion of benefits for the home landscape. This member of the pea family blooms in spring, unfurling five-inch-wide clusters of white to pink flowers. Heavy summer rains can bring on a repeat performance of these showy, fragrant, orchid-like flowers, creating a frilly appearance in the landscape.
In The Woodlands (Plant Hardiness Zone 9a), the orchid tree is semi-evergreen The light green butterfly-shaped leaves contrast with the silvery bark and attractive limbs to create an outstanding understory tree or shrub. After getting established over the first year, the orchid tree grows rapidly to about 6’ at maturity. The plant will tolerate part shade although it will produce more blooms in full sun. It is hardy to 15 degrees F and is cold and drought tolerant.
Makes its Own Fertilizer
Maintenance of the orchid tree is easy. The plant makes a beautiful multi-trunked shrub, requiring little to no pruning. No fertilizer is needed because the orchid tree makes its own! This nitrogen-fixing tree hosts soil bacterial known as rhizobia in its roots, which do the actual work of converting nitrogen from the atmosphere into a usable form for plants in exchange for sugars. Avoid planting in turf or other areas you are likely to apply fertilizers, as this native plant becomes lanky and flowering is reduced when the plant is given excess nitrogen.
Orchid trees offer high value to pollinators. It is the host plant for the long-tailed skipper butterfly and the flower nectar attracts many other pollinators including other butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.
Good Things Can Be Hard to Find
Locating an anacacho orchid tree may require an online search since it is a plant not commonly sold in stores. Local organizations such as the Texas Native Plant Society and Master Gardener Association sometimes sell this plant in their seasonal plant sales. Plant nurseries located in south Texas also frequently sell the anacacho orchid tree. Your search will be rewarded with an outstanding plant to add to the home landscape.
Learn More About Native Trees This Saturday
Learn much more about home landscaping with native Texas trees by joining us online on Saturday, April 15 from 9 am to 11 am. Michael Merritt, Urban and Community Forestry Program Leader for the Texas A&M Forest Service will share his lifelong expertise with native Texas trees. Michael will guide us through selection, care, and maintenance of trees; specific trees for the home landscape; caring for trees during drought, common tree pests, and the many benefits of trees. Michael was honored in 2021 by his selection as Texas State Arborist of the Year. Register today for this exciting, informative, FREE presentation.