My tree is going ballistic!

Over the years, I’ve posted many pictures of my backyard Bauhinia, a showy tree that flowers profusely every winter.

Bauhinia purpurea flower and seed pods, 12/18/2013

For whatever reason, pollinators were everywhere last month, leaving more peapod-like fruits in their wake than ever before!  Take a look at this bunch:

Bauhinia purpurea seed pods, 12/18/2013

Rather than rely on animals or wind to spread their seeds, Bauhinias engage in a “ballistichory” mode of dispersal.  As you’ve probably guessed from the root word “ballistic”, the process is quite explosive! Here’s how it works:

The wall of the Bauhinia “bean pod” consists of two layers of woody fibers growing at right angles to each other. As the fibers dry out, the layers pull against each other, creating enough tension to split the pod along its natural seams. When the walls spring back, each half curls into a corkscrew, shooting seeds 35-50′ away from the original tree.   The next photo shows a dried, opened pod after completing the ballistochore (seed) dispersal process:

B. purpurea fruit after "exploding". This was from the 2012 flowering season.  picture taken on 12/18/13

Bauhinia purpurea can be an invasive nuisance: I often find seedlings growing throughout the lawn and even in containers!  This one germinated 2.5 years ago and done so well, I’ve decided to keep it.

Container germinated B. purpurea, 12/18/13

FYI: Bauhinias typically bloom 3 years after planting so I’m expecting flowers on this one next winter…..and you know what that means! 🙄 More seed pods!

Until next time……

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15 thoughts on “My tree is going ballistic!

  1. Beautiful trees, aren’t they? The garden must look wonderful when the tree’s in all its glory. Your ballistic seed pods reminded me of a beloved yellow tabaebuia in Mum’s garden – over a couple of decades it would have populated a veritable forest if the old dears hadn’t been so vigilant, but even then she’d have dozens of self-seeded saplings to sell at the annual Garden Club sale, and I know of several trees in the neighbourhood which were assisted by the birds and set root even further away!

    Have a happy Christmas dear, if I don’t see you before. 🙂

    • Hello my Aussie friend!
      Oh! The Tabaebuia is one of God’s most stunning creations, yeah? We’re right on the zonal line for them here, so don’t see them in the landscape as often as I’d like!
      I trust you are settled in and ready for the holidays?!

  2. It’s nice to hear some good news about pollinators for once—it seems I’m always hearing stories about their decline. Even though we’re only growing a few plants in containers these days, I try to keep mostly natives for the local bees.

    • In general, there are SO many bugs in Florida, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which there’d be more! However, I HAD noticed a decline in bees in MA. during the few years before I moved (in 2009.) I wonder if perhaps it was a more northern problem?

  3. Ballistic! I mean really how cool is that? We have about 4 or 5 mimosas in the yard and they have little seed pods that make the coolest sound in the wind. We also have a gazillion teeny mimosa trees trying to take over the Tiny Ten.. 😀 We did NOT plant them, they came with the house.

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