Anacacho Orchid Tree – Bauhinia congesta

Anacacho orchid tree is one of my personal favorite small to mid size trees. It’s great for a focal point ornamental or for getting a tree into tight spaces. The tree is native to western central Texas; Austin is slightly outside of the tree’s natural range, but it does thrive here. The tree’s canopy tends to be thin naturally; it has a fine, delicate texture which allows light through for understory plants. Anacacho orchid is a good butterfly tree.

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The Basics

The anacacho orchid tree will typically reach about 15-18′ height at maturity with about 10-12′ spread. Single trunk specimens can be trained to have an upright growth habit and multi-stem specimens can take on a bushy form or upright form based on how you prune them. Anacacho orchid trees grow well in both full sun and understory, part sun conditions. However, flowers are more abundant with more sun. They have strikingly beautiful white flowers in the spring that come out after the foliage so you get to see the flowers against the foliage as apposed to a mexican plum where the flowers come out before the foliage. Often, the tree will produce a second flowering in the fall when temperatures drop and the fall rains come. The tree is quite drought hardy once established. However, I do recommend having some variety of irrigation available for it. Since the anacacho orchid is often used as an aesthetic specimen tree, some water during the summer to reduce heat stress will keep the tree looking its best. The only threat I’ve experienced with anacacho orchid trees in Austin is a late freeze. We tend to get one every half dozen years. A late freeze might knock the tree back a little bit, but typically doesn’t kill the tree.

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A Little More

Natural occurring specimens of anacacho orchid trees are pretty rare. Their natural distribution seems to be limited to a small area west of Uvalde. There is a variety that is found natively in south east New Mexico with a pale pink flower. I do occasionally see the pink variety in nurseries, but much less often that the white. The white variety is probably better adapted to Austin, but I don’t have enough experience with the New Mexico variety of anacacho orchid to be certain. The growing conditions west of Uvalde are thin limestone soils that are well drained, much like west Austin. I have found that the tree does grow well in thicker black clay soils so long as there is good drainage.

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