Bauhinia tree or Cow’s leg, rustic and elegant

Would you like to have a garden with trees that produce beautiful flowers whose beauty has nothing to envy that of orchids? If the answer has been affirmative, then you will love the Bauhinia or Pata de Vaca.

They are plants that reach a height of 6 to 12 meters, which form a crown wide enough so that you can protect yourself from the sun while you enjoy being outdoors.

Origin and characteristics of the Bauhinia or Cow leg

Image – Wikimedia/ Daniel Capilla

Our protagonists are deciduous trees native to northern India, Vietnam, and southeast China. They have a more or less parasolized crown between 3 and 6 meters in length, and a more or less straight trunk whose height is about 5-7 meters. The leaves are lobed, with a width of 10-15cm.

Its flowers, undoubtedly its main attraction, sprout from late winter to early summer. They can be of various colors: pink, red, white. The fruits are legumes that contain several rounded, almost flattened, light brown seeds.

Main species

The most popular Bauhinia are the following:

Bauhinia forficata ( synonym Bauhinia candicans)

Image – Wikimedia/ Franz Xaver

Known as cow’s leg or ox’s hoof, it is a species of tree or small tree native to southern North America and South America, specifically Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. It reaches a height of about 7 meters, rarely 9 meters. Its leaves are evergreen, lobed, and green. The flowers are white.


It is used as an ornamental, medicinal plant (it has astringent, healing, diuretic and antiseptic properties) and for its wood which is known as false mahogany.

Bauhinia purpurea

Image – Wikimedia/ PEAK99

The Bauhinia purpurea is known as purple urape, deer helmet orchid stick or leg of a cow, is a tree native to tropical regions of America. It reaches a height of 9-12 meters, although the normal thing is that it does not exceed 4 meters. The leaves are lobed, and it produces purple flowers.

Bauhinia variegata

Image – Wikimedia/ Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz

The Bauhinia variegata is the most widespread, especially in temperate regions. It is known as false mahogany, cow’s claw, orchid tree (or in the singular, orchid tree), and it is a deciduous tree that reaches a height of 10 to 12 meters, native to South and Southeast Asia.


It is used as an ornamental plant, but also edible (leaves and buds are delicious in salads) and as a medicinal (in tincture). In addition, it serves to attract hummingbirds.

How are they cared for?

The growth rate is fast if they have enough water and compost. But let’s look at it in more detail, since if you want to have one or more copies, you must take into account the following:


They are trees that have to be planted outdoors, in semi-shade or in full sun. They can be used as isolated specimens or form small groups, also in pots temporarily.

Its roots are not invasive, but to be able to contemplate it in all its splendor it is recommended that, if they are kept on the ground, they are placed at a distance of at least 4-5 meters from walls, walls, tall plants, etc. If it is not done, as they grow they will end up brushing against those “barriers” that are the walls and others, and you would see that on the side that receives less light they would have fewer leaves and flowers.

Soil or substrate

Bauhinia galpinii

It is not demanding. It can grow in any type of soil as long as it has good drainage. Anyway, if you are going to have them in a pot, it is preferable to use a universal substrate mixed with 30% perlite, as the garden soil can contain many seeds of other plants that would germinate quickly, harming the Bauhinia.


It has to be frequent, avoiding waterlogging. In summer it will be watered every 2-3 days, and the rest of the year once a week or so, depending on the climate of the area and whether it rains or not.


During the entire growing season, that is, from spring to late summer, it should be fertilized with organic fertilizers such as worm castings or manure. If you have them in a pot, use liquid fertilizers, following the instructions specified on the product packaging.

Planting time

The best time to pass it to the garden is in spring, when the risk of frost has passed. If you have it in a pot, you have to go to a larger one when you see that roots are coming out of the drainage holes, or if they have been in it for more than three years.


Image – Wikimedia/ Thamizhpparithi Maari

By seeds in spring. It is recommended to introduce them for a second in a glass with boiling water and 24 hours in another glass with water at room temperature before sowing them in individual seedlings (that is, one seed per pot).

The germination rate is high and the picking is complicated, so putting a seed in a pot will have a better chance of getting that future little plant to grow.


It depends on the species. The Bauhinia variegata, which is the most commercialized, withstands the cold down to -7ºC, the others are more cold.

Have you ever seen this tree?

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