Bauhinia tree or Cow's leg, rustic and elegant

View of the Bauhinia blakeana in bloom

Image - Flickr / guzhengman // Bauhinia blakeana

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 is yes, then You will love the Bauhinia or Pata de Vaca.

These 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 enjoying being outdoors.

Origin and characteristics of the Bauhinia or Cow leg

Bauhinia is a medium tree

Image - Wikimedia / Daniel Capilla

Our protagonists are deciduous trees native to northern India, Vietnam, and southeastern 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, bloom 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 (synonymous Bauhinia candicans)

View of the Bauhinia forficata in flower

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. 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

View of the Bauhinia purpurea

Image - Wikimedia / PEAK99

Now bauhinia purpurea It is known as purple urape, deer hoof, stick orchid, or cow's foot, and it is a tree native to the tropical regions of America. 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

View of the Bauhinia variegata or cow leg

Image - Wikimedia / Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz

La bauhinia variegata it 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 outside, 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 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

View of the Bauhinia galpinii

Bauhinia galpinii

Not demanding. It can grow in any type of soil as long as it has good sewer system. 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.


Must be frecuente, 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.


Throughout the growing season, that is, from spring to late summer, it must be paid with organic fertilizers and earthworm humus o 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 spend it in 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 bigger 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.


View of the leaves and fruits of the Bauhinia or cow leg

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. La bauhinia variegata, which is the most commercialized, withstands the cold of up to -7ºC, the others are more cold.

Have you ever seen this tree?

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  1.   RAUL said


    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hello Raul.
      You can get the seeds on ebay, and young plants in nurseries or online stores.
      The leaves of Bauhinia candicans (white-flowered) can be used to make infusions.
      Regarding whether they are beneficial for diabetes, I don't know. I have read that yes, it can be useful if the person has not injected insulin yet, but I have not found any medical study that addresses the subject.
      Greetings, take care of yourself 🙂

  2.   Sylvia said

    Hi Monica, I live in Montevideo (Uruguay), in a house with a lot of green background, and the birds have taken seeds of "cow's foot" and are growing especially near walls. There is one that is already big, against the wall. Last summer it gave some beautiful white flowers. The issue is that I am afraid that the roots will raise the wall bordering the neighbor. I have read in another article on this site that the roots are not very big, will I be able to put it down?
    I appreciate your comment.
    I am very sorry to cut it !!!
    Best regards!!!

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hi Sylvia.
      Do not worry. Bauhinia is not invasive 🙂
      A greeting.

  3.   Jose Luis Luna said

    From seeds I have obtained several specimens, still quite young. My question is about some small yellow spots that have appeared, to a greater or lesser extent, in all of them.

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hello José Luis
      During the first year of life, trees are very vulnerable to fungal infections. Therefore, it is highly recommended to treat them with fungicide as soon as possible. Copper or powdered sulfur can also be used.