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The Duchess of Phitsanulok

March 26, 2012

Back in 2002 the Danish and Thai botanists Kai and Supee Larsen described a climbing Bauhinia new to science: Bauhinia siamensis (Fabaceae, Caesalpinioideae). Since vernacular names are necessary to create an interest in tropical botany, I simply coin the English name ‘Duchess of Phitsanulok’, alluding to the grace of this plant and its home province in Thailand. The discovery is attributed to Mr Thawatchai Wongprasert.

Flowers are often ephemeral, but leaves can be admired much longer. The beauty of leaf shapes and leaf patterns in a garden constitute another dimension. Like with a beautiful lady, you do not need to see her top-less flowers all the time, her hair is enough to arouse admiration. The Duchess of Phitsanulok has a very beautiful hair.

The Dokmai Garden specimen is still waiting for the rainy season in its pot. Planting it now in the hot dry season would only cause stress for the plant and the gardener, so better wait until June. I intend to select a shady spot under an arbour so that the liana can reach the sun but still stay at eye-level. Her fragile feet would shrivel up if planted in the full sun. Here she is unfolding her young pink and yellow leaves in the Dokmai Garden nursery.

The full description of the species can be read here: Larsen, K. & S.S. Larsen. 2002. Bauhinia siamensis (Leguminosae-Caesalpinoideae), an Extraordinary New Species from Thailand. Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society (Nat. Hist. Bull. Siam Soc. ). 50: 99-104.

Some other Thai Bauhinia species grown at Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai:

Princess of fire (Bauhinia strychnifolia) is in splendid blossom right now!

Golden leaf bauhinia (Bauhinia aureifolia) has just made new silvery-bronze leaves.

Cherry bauhinia (Bauhinia variegata) has already flowered.

(The genus Bauhinia has recently been revised and split into several genera, transferring many Southeast Asian lianas to the new genus Phanera.)

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2012 12:30 PM

    lovely plant how big does it grow

    • March 26, 2012 12:39 PM

      It is only known from its type locality, a slope towards a stream in a bamboo-rich deciduous forest on granite bedrock. I guess we have to grow it to know its maximum size, although most lianas aim at the canopies. The flowering raceme may reach 75 cm!

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