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Kanchan flowers

Patch of scented purple by the way: Kanchan flowers

These flowers make for beautiful sights around parks, gardens and footpaths of Salt Lake and surrounding areas

Arijit Poddar | Published 15.12.23, 11:21 AM

Traveling through the township at this time of the year you may come across purple flowers on trees. Go closer and you’ll find that the attractive flower is also scented.

These are Kanchan flowers that appear from October through December in the Indian sub-continent. They make for beautiful sights around parks, gardens and footpaths of Salt Lake and surrounding areas. It is a small to medium-sized deciduous, fast-growing shrub or tree whose purple flowers give a vibrant splash of colour in any landscape.



The botanic name of the Kanchan is Bauhinia purpurea. The generic name commemorates the Swiss botanist Bauhin brothers — Jean (1541-1613) and Gaspard (1560-1624). The two lobes of the plant’s leaf exemplify the two brothers.

The specific name refers to the purple colour of the flowers. There are about 300 species of this genus found in tropical and subtropical regions. The genus includes trees, vines, and shrubs that are vastly planted for their showy flowers and ornamental foliage.

The plant is native to India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand. Common names include Kanchan, Raktakanchan, Orchid tree, Purple bauhinia, Camel’s foot, Butterfly tree, and Hawaiian Orchid tree.


The tree starts flowering at an early age of two to three years and yields seeds. The seeds ripens between February and May, disperse from the pods, and germinate on sites with favourable moisture and light conditions.

The Kanchan plant needs plenty of light and requires good drainage. Severe cold kills the leaves of seedlings and saplings, but they recover during summer. The species is least drought-hardy compared to other species of Bauhinia but flowers best on dry soils.

Grow this on a variety of sandy, loamy and gravelly soils in full sun in fertile, moisture-retentive but welldrained soils.


The leaves, flowers, flower buds, and young pods are eaten as vegetables. The young leaves and flowers of various Bauhinia species are eaten as a side dish with rice, or used to flavour meat and fish. The flowers are said to be laxative and used in curries and pickles. The seeds are edible and the tree yields edible gum.

The bark of Bauhinia is used to make rope. Some Bauhinia species are used for binding and others are reputed for their fibre application and are used medicinally. The wood is used as fuel wood.

The bark of various Bauhinia species contains considerable amounts of tannin that is widely used in the leather industry in India. Medicinal uses of the bark can be largely attributed to the presence of these tannins. Throughout South-East Asia various parts of numerous Bauhinia species are used to reduce swelling and bruises and to ripen ulcerations and boils. In India, the bark is extensively applied in glandular diseases and as a poison antidote while the leaves are administered as cough medicine.

Apart from being an ornamental plant, Bauhinia purpurea has a deep root system and high roots. This makes it effective for erosion control and is a suitable species for slope stabilisation.

The leaves of this plant make good fodder and are eaten by sheep, goats and cattle. Branches tend to develop low on the trunk and droop toward the ground forming a large bush if left unpruned. This makes it all the more accessible to the animals. In fact, for the first two to three years, the plant must be protected from these foraging animals.

Pests and diseases

Mites, borers, and larvae of several insects feed on the plant.

Among diseases, it suffers from leaf scorch and leaf spot. The tree is said to be susceptible to two viruses namely turnip rosette sobemovirus and clitoria yellow vein tymovirus. Regular application of insecticide and pesticide can help the plant.

Last updated on 15.12.23, 11:21 AM

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