Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Bauhinia variegata
(mountain ebony)



Bauhinia variegata (mountain ebony)


  • Last modified
  • 30 October 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Bauhinia variegata
  • Preferred Common Name
  • mountain ebony
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • B. variegata is a fast-growing tree often planted as an ornamental in many tropical and subtropical regions of the world (...

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TitleTree habit
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Tree habit©K.M. Siddiqui
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Crown©K.M. Siddiqui
Planting stock in polythene tubes.
CaptionPlanting stock in polythene tubes.
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Planting stock in polythene tubes.
SeedlingsPlanting stock in polythene tubes.©K.M. Siddiqui
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Seedling©K.M. Siddiqui
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Foliage©K.M. Siddiqui
TitleAvenue planting
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Avenue planting©K.M. Siddiqui


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Bauhinia variegata L.

Preferred Common Name

  • mountain ebony

Other Scientific Names

  • Bauhinia chinensis (DC.) Vogel
  • Bauhinia decora Uribe
  • Bauhinia variegata var. candida Voigt
  • Bauhinia variegata var. chinensis DC.
  • Phanera variegata (L.) Benth.

International Common Names

  • English: Buddhist bauhinia; butterfly tree; kachnar; orchid tree; paper mulberry; pink orchid tree; poor man's orchid; purple orchid tree
  • Spanish: gorro de Napoleón; mariposa; orchidea de pobre; orquidea de palo; puente de mono
  • French: arbre à orchidées; arbre de Saint-Thomas; bois de boeuf; sabot boeuf
  • Chinese: yang zi jing
  • Portuguese: árvore-de-São-Thomaz

Local Common Names

  • Bangladesh: rakta-kamhar; swet-kanchan
  • Brazil: unha-de-vacca
  • Cuba: bauhinia
  • Dominican Republic: flamboyán; orquídea
  • Haiti: flamboyant
  • India: bahari kachnar; barial; bogakatra; bondantam; borara; botantam; chemmandarei; chuvanna-mandara; devakanchanaman; deva-kanchanmu; guiral; kachan; kachnar; kaliar; kanarai; kanchanar; kanchavala; kanchavalado; khwairai; kotava; kotidaram; kotora; kovidara; kurol; mandari; padrian; rakta-kamhar; raktha-kanchan; segapu-manchori; swet-kanchan; tamrapushpi; thaur
  • Malaysia: akbar tapak kerbau; kotidaram; kupu-kupu
  • Nepal: koiralo
  • Pakistan: kachnar
  • Puerto Rico: palo de orquídeas

EPPO code

  • BAUVA (Bauhinia variegata)

Trade name

  • kachnar

Summary of Invasiveness

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B. variegata is a fast-growing tree often planted as an ornamental in many tropical and subtropical regions of the world (Connor, 2002). This species has wind-dispersed seeds which easily escaped from cultivation and have successfully established in a wide variety of habitats (Connor, 2002; Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011; PIER, 2014). Once established, B. variegata often become weedy and it has the potential to displace native vegetation. It is also difficult to manage because its seeds can remain viable for more than a year (Langeland et al., 2008; Smith, 2010; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012). B. variegata is considered an environmental weed and invasive species in Cuba, the Bahamas, Australia, New Caledonia and the USA (MacKee, 1994; Langeland et al., 2008; Smith, 2010; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012; PIER, 2014; USDA-NRCS, 2014). It is also known to be present and considered invasive in Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Subfamily: Caesalpinioideae
  •                                 Genus: Bauhinia
  •                                     Species: Bauhinia variegata

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Bauhinia is listed within the Cercideae clade in the Caesalpinoideae subfamily. This genus comprises about 250 species of trees, lianas, and shrubs distributed principally in tropical and temperate regions of the world (Connor, 2002; Stevens, 2012). They are easily recognized by two leaflets united for a portion of their length, forming a bilobed palmately veined leaf. Bauhinia species are frequently planted as ornamentals for their showy flowers and foliage (Connor, 2002). Bauhinia was named in honour of Jean and Caspar Bauhin, who were 16th century Swiss botanists (Parker, 1956). The two lobes of the leaf exemplify the two brothers. The specific name refers to the variegation of the flowers (Orwa et al., 2009).


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B. variegata is a deciduous tree, up to 15 m tall. Bark dark brownish, nearly smooth; branches gray puberulent when young, later glabrous. Petiole 2.5-3.5 cm; leaf blade suborbicular or broadly ovate, 5-9 × 7-11 cm, subleathery, abaxially almost glabrous, adaxially glabrous, primary veins 9-13, secondary and higher order veins protruding, base shallowly to deeply cordate, apex bifid to 1/3, lobes rounded at apex. Inflorescence a raceme, few flowered, sometimes corymblike, axillary or terminal. Flower buds fusi-form, smooth, subsessile. Calyx open as a spathe into 2 lobes. Petals white, or with pink or purplish spots, obovate or oblan­ceolate, 4-5 cm, clawed. Fertile stamens 5; filaments approximately as long as petals, slender. Staminodes 1-5 and small, or absent. Ovary stalked, puberulent; style curved; stigma small. Legume linear, flat, 15-25 × 1.5-2 cm; valves woody. Seeds 10-15, com­pressed, suborbicular, approximately 10 mm in diameter (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014). 

Plant Type

Top of page Perennial
Seed propagated


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B. variegata is native to temperate and tropical China, the Indian Sub-continent (i.e. Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan) and south-eastern Asia (i.e. Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand). It was introduced and can be found cultivated and naturalized in Africa, tropical America, the West Indies, and on several islands in the Indian and Pacific Ocean (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014; ILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014). 

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes


BangladeshPresentILDIS, 2014
BhutanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AnhuiPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-FujianPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-GansuPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-GuangdongPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-GuangxiPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-GuizhouPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-HebeiPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-HeilongjiangPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-HenanPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-Hong KongPresentIntroducedWu, 2001Cultivated
-HubeiPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-HunanPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-JiangsuPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-JiangxiPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-JilinPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-LiaoningPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-NingxiaPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-ShaanxiPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-ShandongPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-ShanxiPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-SichuanPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
-YunnanPresentNativeFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014
-ZhejiangPresentNativeChadburn, 2012
IndiaPresentPlanted, Natural
-Andhra PradeshPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-Arunachal PradeshPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-AssamPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-BiharPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-DelhiPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-GoaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-GujaratPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-HaryanaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-Himachal PradeshPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-Indian PunjabPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-Jammu and KashmirPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-KarnatakaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-KeralaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-Madhya PradeshPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-MaharashtraPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-ManipurPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-MeghalayaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-MizoramPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-NagalandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-OdishaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-RajasthanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-SikkimPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-Tamil NaduPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-TripuraPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-Uttar PradeshPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-West BengalPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
IndonesiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-JavaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-Nusa TenggaraPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
IraqPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
LaosPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
MalaysiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
MyanmarPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
NepalPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
PakistanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
SingaporePresentIntroducedChong et al., 2009Cultivated
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedChadburn, 2012
TaiwanPresentIntroducedChadburn, 2012
ThailandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
VietnamPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014


Congo Democratic RepublicPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
EgyptPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2014
EthiopiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
GhanaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
KenyaPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2014; Witt and Luke, 2017
MalawiPresentIntroduced Invasive PROTA, 2014; Witt and Luke, 2017
MauritiusPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
MozambiquePresentIntroducedPROTA, 2014
NigeriaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
RéunionPresentIntroducedLavergne, 2006
RwandaPresentIntroduced Invasive Witt and Luke, 2017
SeychellesPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Sierra LeonePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
South AfricaPresentIntroducedPROTA, 2014
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
UgandaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
ZambiaPresentIntroduced Invasive PROTA, 2014; Witt and Luke, 2017
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedPROTA, 2014

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014Jalisco, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Yucatán
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Invasive Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2013
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedImada et al., 2013
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-TexasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

BahamasPresentIntroduced Invasive Smith, 2010
BelizePresentIntroducedBalick et al., 2000
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
GrenadaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
HondurasPresentIntroducedMolina, 1975
JamaicaPresentIntroducedGrisebach, 1864Naturalized
PanamaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedGraveson, 2012
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012St Croix

South America

BrazilPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
ColombiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedHokche et al., 2008Aragua, Delta Amacuro, Miranda, Nueva esparto, Portuguesa


SpainPresent Planted


AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedQueensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011Naturalized
Cook IslandsPresentPIER, 2014
FijiPresentIntroducedSmith, 1985
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedFlorence et al., 2013
NauruPresentIntroducedThaman et al., 1994
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive MacKee, 1994
New ZealandPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Norfolk IslandPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
PalauPresentIntroducedSpace et al., 2003
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
SamoaPresentIntroduced Invasive Space and Flynn, 2002
TongaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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B. variegata has been actively introduced as an ornamental and fodder tree across tropical and subtropical areas. It was introduced into Florida before 1900 (Langeland et al., 2008). In the West Indies, in 1864, A. Grisebach reported this species as introduced from the East Indies and naturalized in Jamaica (Grisebach, 1864). Later, the tree was recorded in 1919 in Puerto Rico and in 1929 in Cuba (The New York Botanical Garden). 

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of B. variegata is moderate to high, principally in areas near cultivation. This species has been actively introduced to be used as an ornamental and produces seeds that are dispersed by wind and humans. Thus, it has repeatedly escaped from cultivation and successfully established in natural and disturbed areas (Connor, 2002; Langeland et al., 2008; Orwa et al., 2009; Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011; PIER, 2014). 


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B. variegata is a tree of tropical dry mixed deciduous and moist deciduous forests. On the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent it is limited to the Himalayan foothills and adjoining Siwaliks and recent alluvial deposits. These forests adjoin the dry subtropical and also the subtropical pine forests (Champion et al., 1965; Luna, 1996). In Myanmar it occurs in dry mixed forests up to 900 m altitude (Troup, 1921).

It occurs in climates with hot, dry summers and mild winters. It demands plenty of light and requires good drainage (Orwa et al., 2009; PROTA, 2014). The tree grows principally in disturbed areas, along riversides and waterways, in natural thickets and along roadsides. It is often planted as an ornamental in gardens, yards, and in street parks (Connor, 2002; Langeland et al., 2008; PIER, 2014).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Present, no further details Natural
Coastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Present, no further details Natural
Coastal areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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The chromosome number reported for B. variegata is 2n = 28 (Choudhary and Choudhary, 1988; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014).

Physiology and Phenology

B. variegata has been reported flowering in its native range from January-February to April-May and fruiting from March to July (Orwa et al., 2009). In Puerto Rico, B. variegata flowers have been recorded from autumn to spring (Connor, 2002). In Florida, it flowers in January and February (early spring).

In India, leaf fall begins November-December and the tree is leafless, or mostly so, until March. New leaves appear from February to April. The large pink, purple or white flowers appear from February to April, chiefly on the upper leafless branches, the lower branches being still in leaf or leafless (Troup, 1921). In the northern parts of India and Pakistan the pods form rapidly, ripening in May and June (Troup, 1921; Parker, 1956; Watt, 1972).

The tree is a fast-growing perennial with seeds that can remain viable for more than a year (Morton, 1971; Langeland et al., 2008). Seeds are dispersed before the monsoon in India, and germinate with the start of the rains (Orwa et al., 2009).


B. variegata is a long-lived tree. Trees start flowering when they are 2 to 3 years old in Asia (Orwa et al., 2009) and 3 to 4 years old in the West Indies (Connor, 2002).

Environmental Requirements

B. variegata grows best in full sun or partial shade at elevations from sea level to 1800 m (Florida Exotic Pest Plant Committee, 2013; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014). It occurs naturally in climates with hot, dry summers and mild winters (Orwa et al., 2009). In its natural habitat the absolute maximum shade temperature varies from 37.5 to 47.5°C, the absolute minimum from 0 to 17°C with optimum rainfall of 760-1900 mm (Troup, 1983). It avoids dry tracts with rainfall less than 500 mm.

The tree tolerates a wide range of soils including well-drained, gravelly, shallow, rocky, sandy loam and loamy soils (Orwa et al., 2009). However, it has been suggested that it prefers soils with acid pH, and that the best growth is observed on medium-texture deep loamy soils. This species does not tolerate fire, but it is fairly resistant to drought and can withstand seasonal waterlogging (Carlowitz, 1991; Langeland et al., 2008; Orwa et al., 2009; PROTA, 2014).




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Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
32 -5 0 1830

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -4
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 30 42
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 7 14


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration34number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall5002550mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • saline
  • shallow

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Psylla simlae Herbivore Adults not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Trees of B. variegata host larvae of several insects. These insects feed on the plant. Adult nymphs of the Psylla simlae (Hemiptera) feed on sap of leaves and young twigs. Leaves and flowers infested by nymphs shrivel and fall (Orwa et al., 2009). 

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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B. variegata spreads mainly by seeds, which are naturally dispersed by wind. This species can also be propagated by air layering and from suckers (Smith, 2010; Langeland et al., 2008). 

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
DisturbanceEscaped and naturalized in disturbed areas Yes Yes Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011; Smith, 2010
Escape from confinement or garden escapeOften planted as ornamental Yes Yes Smith, 2010
ForageLeaves good fodder for sheep, goats and cattle Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Medicinal useBark is used in traditional medicine Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Ornamental purposes Yes Yes Smith, 2010

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activities Yes Yes Smith, 2010
Soil, sand and gravelSeeds Yes Yes Smith, 2010
WindSeeds Yes Yes Smith, 2010

Impact Summary

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Cultural/amenity Positive and negative
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative
Human health Positive

Environmental Impact

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B. variegata is a very fast growing tree considered an environmental weed in Australia (i.e., Queensland, Redland Shire and Caboolture Shire), where it is invading and displacing native vegetation (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011). It is also invading insular forests in New Caledonia and Western Samoa (MacKee, 1994; Space and Flynn, 2002; PIER, 2014). In Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas, this species is also listed as invasive and it has the potential to rapidly colonize disturbed areas at the edge of natural areas. It grows forming thickets in open coppice forests and along roadsides. It is difficult to manage because its seeds can remain viable for more than a year (Langeland et al., 2008; Smith, 2010; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012). 

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
  • Rapid growth
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately


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Wood Uses

The wood is usually only of small dimension. It is greyish-brown with irregular lighter patches (Hocking, 1993), straight-grained and moderately hard, strong and resilient, and saws and finishes well. The wood is medium weight with a density of 705 kg/cubic meter. It is mainly used for house construction, agricultural implements, furniture, general utensils, carving and turnery, veneer, plywood, particleboard and tool handles. It is a good fuelwood and is also converted into charcoal (Carlowitz, 1991; Sheikh, 1993). Its calorific value is 4800 Kcal/kg and ash content 3.03 percent (Hocking, 1993; Luna, 1996).

Non-Wood Uses

The leaves, shoots and pods of B. variegata are used as fodder for livestock, including sheep, goats and cattle. Average leaf yield from a mature tree is about 20-22 kg fresh weight per annum (Hocking, 1993; Luna, 1996). Leaves contain 10-16% crude protein and are highly palatable and nutritious. Other studies of chemical composition have reported that dry matter in the leaves varies from 41.4-49.8%, crude protein 5.9-10.7%, ether extract 1.3-3.9, crude fibre 25.3-33.0%, Nitrogen Free Extract (NFE) 40.9-50.8%, total ash content 6.3-12.3%, calcium 1.8-4.1% and phosphate 0.2-0.4% (Gupta, 1993). Very young leaves harvested in late summer tend to contain more tannin and hence have a lower digestibility. Crude fibre and crude protein contents increase in the leaves with maturity. In winter, moderately mature leaves are considered better for feeding than young or mature leaves (Jha and Chaturvedi, 1990; Luna, 1996).

Like other members of the genus, B. variegata yields a gum, known as 'sem' or 'semla gond'. The bark is used for tanning and leather dyeing, and as a source of fibre (Peter Wood, Oxford, personal communication, 1998).

B. variegata leaves, fruits, pods and exudates are edible by humans and are consumed as a vegetable as well as made into pickles and chutneys (Gurbaksh, 1989). The seed also contains 16.5 % of pale yellow fatty acid (Troup, 1921). The bark and flowers are used as pot-herbs and the leaves for bidi, a local smoking material.

Various parts of the plant have medicinal value for both humans and livestock (Carlowitz, 1991). For humans the bark is reported to be an astringent and tonic, and used for the treatment of diarrhoea, while the flowers are a laxative (Watt, 1972; Hocking, 1993). The roots are reported to be used as an ingredient for an anti-fat remedy (Troup, 1921). In the case of cattle, the leaves are believed to be particularly useful for retention of pregnancy (Singh, 1989).

The leaves are used for silkworm rearing. B. variegata is host to bees and shellac insects.

Land Uses

B. variegata has great watershed protection value in its natural range, the sub-Himalayan tract, which is prone to soil erosion during heavy monsoon rains. It is planted for reclaiming eroded sites and river bank stabilization (Carlowitz, 1991). The trees are grown as shelterbelts in mixed plantings in coastal areas (Singh, 1989). B. variegata provides shade, live fencing, improves soil fertility and has potential as a farm forestry tree in shelterbelts/windbreaks in its native distribution area (Sheikh, 1993). Although little information is available on use of B. variegata in arable fields, it has been noted that leaf leachate of this species has an inhibiting effect on the germination of rice seeds (Koul et al., 1991). High quality fodder makes it eminently suitable for silvopastoral systems, its nutritious leaves becoming available when other forage is scarce (Hocking, 1993).

B. variegata is extensively planted in humid tropical and subtropical dry regions as an ornamental tree in homes, gardens, parks and along avenues for its beautiful, fragrant flowers.

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Invertebrate food for lac/wax insects
  • Invertebrate food for silkworms


  • Amenity
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Shade and shelter
  • Windbreak


  • Charcoal
  • Fuelwood


  • Ornamental

Human food and beverage

  • Honey/honey flora


  • Carved material
  • Chemicals
  • Dye/tanning
  • Dyestuffs
  • Gum/resin
  • Miscellaneous materials
  • Rubber/latex
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Wood Products

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Sawn or hewn building timbers

  • Carpentry/joinery (exterior/interior)
  • For light construction

Wood-based materials

  • Composite boards
  • Particleboard
  • Plywood


  • Cutlery
  • Industrial and domestic woodware
  • Tool handles
  • Turnery

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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B. variegata looks similar to Bauhinia monandra and Bauhinia purpurea. All these species have been listed as naturalized and invasive in many tropical and subtropical countries. These three Bauhinia species can be distinguished by the following differences (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011):

  • Bauhinia variegata is a small tree with relatively large leaves (up to 15 cm wide). Its flowers vary from entirely white to various shades of pink or purple with darker pink or reddish-purple markings and have five fertile stamens.
  •  Bauhinia monandra is a small tree with relatively large leaves (up to 20 cm wide). Its flowers are pale pink or whitish with darker pink or reddish-purple markings and have a single fertile stamen.
  • Bauhinia purpurea is a small tree with relatively large leaves (up to 20 cm wide). Its flowers vary from pale purple to bright pinkish-purple and have three fertile stamens.

Prevention and Control

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The control and management of areas invaded by B. variegata is very difficult, mostly because its seeds can remain viable for more than a year (Langeland et al., 2008; Smith, 2010).

Physical/Mechanical Control

Small infestations and individual trees of B. variegata should be cut and basal bark treatment applied to the tree stump. It can also be eliminated by controlled burning (Smith, 2010). 


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Links to Websites

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International Legume Database and Information Service
Plant Resources for Tropical Africa


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05/02/15 Updated by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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