Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Bauhinia malabarica Roxb.

Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
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Flower. © R.L. Barrett
Flower. © R.L. Barrett
Inflorescence. © R.L. Barrett
Leaves and flowers. © R.L. Barrett
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO

Roxburgh, W. (1832) Flora Indica (Carey) 2: 321. Type: .. a native of Malabar, in the Botanic Garden at Calcutta.

Common name

Lilac Bauhinia; Malabar Bauhinia


A small tree seldom exceeding 30 cm dbh. Bark often corky in texture.


Leaf blade bilobed and deeply emarginate at the apex, almost reniform, about 4.5-9 x 6-11 cm. Upper surface of the leaf blade +/- glabrous, lower surface clothed in erect, pale brown or white hairs. About 9-11 major veins radiate from the base of the leaf blade. Leaf bearing twigs pubescent. Stipules small and hairy. Twig bark strong and fibrous when stripped.


Calyx about 15-18 mm long, densely hairy. Petals about 12-20 mm long. Stamens alternately long and short. Ovary stalked; stigma large and peltate in female flowers.


Pods flat, about 17-35 x 1.5-2.5 cm. Seeds flat, about 6-8 mm wide.


Cotyledons elliptic, apex obtuse to rounded, strongly 3-5-veined. First pair of leaves simple, bilobed, butterfly-like. At the tenth leaf stage: leaf blade bilobed and emarginate at the apex, with nine veins radiating from the base, glaucous on the underside; stipules small and inconspicuous. Seed germination time 22 to 39 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in WA, NT and CYP. Altitudinal range from sea level to about 150 m. Often grows in open forest but also found in monsoon forest and in closed forest along watercourses. Also occurs in the Indian sub-continent, SE Asia, and Malesia.

Piliostigma malabaricum (Roxb.) Benth., Plantae Junghuhnianae enumeratio plantarum : 261(1852). Bauhinia gilesii F.Muell. & F.M.Bailey, Southern Science Record : 151(1882), Type: In the vicinity of Port Darwin; Alfred Giles. Holo: MEL (fide A.S. George 1998). Bauhinia hawkesiana F.M.Bailey, Queensland Agricultural Journal 15(8): 897(1905), Type: Coen, Mrs. R.W. Garraway ( Mary J. Garraway).. April, 1905. Holo: BRI; Iso: K, NSW (f ide A.S. George 1998). Bauhinia acida Reinw. ex Korth., Verh. Nat. Gesch. Ned. Bezitt., Bot. 3: 86(1841), Type: Locality unknown. Holo: L (fide de Wit, Reinwardtua 3: 531 (1956)). Piliostigma acidum (Rein. ex Korthal.) Benth, Pl. Jungh. 2: 261(1852). Piliostigma malabaricum var. acidum (rein. ex Korth.) de Wit, Reinwardtia 3: 531(1956).
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