Eastern Asia (India, China)
Displaces native vegetation in hammock margins and occasionally in globally imperiled pine rocklands. Reported now from natural areas in four counties: Pinellas, Lee, Dade, and Palm Beach, including the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades National Park (EPPC 1996). Listed as a category I invasive species by Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council.
Semideciduous tree up to 15 m (50 ft) in height, with a spreading crown. Leaves alternate, long petioled (to 3 cm [1.25 in] long), thin-leathery, simple but deeply cleft at apex, forming 2 large rounded lobes; lower surfaces downy, especially at top of petiole; blades with 11-13 veins extending from heart-shaped or rounded base. Flowers showy, fragrant, in few-flowered clusters near stem tips, appearing during leaf fall (early spring); 5 petals, clawed, overlapping, pale magenta to indigo (occasionally white), with dark red and yellow also on upper petal; 5 stamens (rarely 6). Fruit a flat, oblong pod, to 30 cm (1 ft) long, 10-15-seeded.
May be confused with another naturalized exotic Bauhinia purpurea L., which flowers in the fall with leaves on the tree, and has many-flowered clusters, 3 (rarely 4) stamens, and petals not overlapping.
Introduced into Florida in 1936 as an ornamental.
In Florida, herbarium specimens have been deposited from Brevard, Polk, Lee, and Dade counties (Wunderlin et al. 1996). Because the tree is fairly cold hardy (USDA Zones 9B-11), it can be grown throughout much of peninsular Florida.
Do not plant. Remove plant and root system. Herbicide treatment, basal bark: 10% Garlon® 4. Herbicide treatment, cut stump: 50% Garlon® 3A.