Bauhinia candicans Benth.
Common Name: Brazilian Orchid Tree
Cultivated tree in Ceret Park, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Photograph by: mauroguanandi
Brazilian orchid tree is a spiny, deciduous or semideciduous tree with an open and irregular crown; it can grow 5 - 9 metres tall. The bole is usually crooked, up to 30 - 40cm in diameter[
The leaves are a very popular tea in S. America, where they are believed to be effective in lowering blood sugar levels and treating diabetes. The plant is also a source of wood, mainly used locally for fuel and charcoal. The tree can be used in reforestation projects and, being very ornamental tree, it widely grown from the subtropics to the tropics, being valued especially for its white floral display and contrast with the intensely green foliage[
The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2011)[
S. America - Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, southern and eastern Brazil, Bolivia.
Atlantic rainforest, most commonly in secondary formations and only occasionally in dense primary forest, favouring the rich moist soils of the alluvial plains[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Brazilian orchid tree is found from the subtropical to the tropical zones.
Prefers a sunny position[
]. Succeeds in a range of soils so long as they are well-drained[
]. Tolerant of acidic soils[
]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[
A fast-growing young plant, able to reach a height of 3.5 metres within 2 years from seed[
The wood can be rather weak, leading to branches breaking[
Although many species within the family Fabaceae have a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, this species is said to be devoid of such a relationship and therefore does not fix atmospheric nitrogen[
Brazilian orchid tree leaf has become very popular as a treatment for diabetes ever since research carried out in the 1920’s demonstrated its ability to reduce blood sugar levels. The leaves contain a range of compounds including flavonoids, alkaloids, and glycosides. Various trials have been carried out into the health benefits of the leaves, particularly the hypoglycaemic activity. Whilst most of these trials have been positive, at least one was unable to discern positive benefits[
The main plant compounds in the plant include astragalin, bauhinoside, beta-sitosterol, flavonols, flavonoids, glycosides, guanidine, heteroglycosides, kaempferitrin, organic acids, quercitrosides, rhamnose, and saponins[
Astragalin has well-proven antibacterial activity[
Kaempferitrin, a flavonoid, has been shown to significantly lower blood sugar levels, to have diuretic activity and to help repair kidney cell damage[
The leaves are anticholesterolemic, blood purifier, diuretic, hypoglycaemic and tonic[
]. An infusion is drunk regularly after meals for its health benefits, whilst it is also drunk specifically in the treatment of diabetes, high blood sugar levels, kidney and urinary disorders, to reduce blood cholesterol levels and as a general tonic and blood purifier[
]. Other conditions that have been treated with the leaves include central nervous system disorders, diarrhoea, elephantiasis, intestinal worms, leprosy, obesity, skin disorders, snakebite and syphilis[
A fast-growing, pioneer species that also fixes atmospheric nitrogen, it can be used in reforestation projects and, with its small size and fairly open crown, is suitable for use in the first stages of a woodland garden[
The wood is moderately heavy, soft, of low durability when exposed to the elements. Too small and of low quality for applications other than making light boxes, light workmanship etc[
Whole trunks and branches are used for fuel and to make charcoal[
Seed - it has a hard seedcoat and may benefit from scarification before sowing to speed up germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing. Seed the seed in a partially shaded position in individual containers. A germination rate of around 30% can be expected from untreated seeds, with the seed sprouting within 15 - 25 days[
]. They should be ready to plant out less than 6 months later.
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