Brazilian Orchid tree - Bauhinia forficata

Of the three different "Bauhinia" tree species that I´ve seen growing in Southern Spain the Brazilian Orchid tree (Bauhinia forficata) is the one I have seen the least. It is far less common than its cousin the "Hong Kong Orchid tree" that is found in many cities and towns on the Southern Spanish coast. Another Bauhinia that is not very common is the Purple Orchid tree.

The leaves of this tree species have a sort of camel´s foot shape as can be appreciated in the image above. Also of note are the small thorns on the smaller branches and stems. The flowers of the Brazilian orchid tree are similar to those of the Hong Kong orchid tree except that the petals are thinner and longer making this tree´s flowers a bit less attractive than those of its cousins.

The seeds of this tree species grow in a long green-been type legum seed pod that measures about 9-11 inches in length.

From my observations the best way to tell this "orchid tree" apart from other´s of the same genus is by its slightly smaller leaves and by its flower.

Japanese Cheesewood - pittosporum tobira

The Japanese Cheesewood tree (species: Pittosporum tobira) is an interesting ornamental tree that is native to Japan but cultivated in other parts of the world in warmer climates. In the US this tree species can be found in California as well as Florida and Georgia. It grows as a small tree or large shrub. Max height is about 20 feet.

Other names that I´ve seen for this tree species are "Japanese mockorange", "Japanese pittosporum" or "Mock Orange". Its tendency to have multiple thick stems that have a sort of twisted, irregular form give this tree a sort of giant bonsai look. It is a great addition to any ornamental garden.

The flowers are small and white and similar in shape to those of the Orange tree. Purhaps for this reason it is sometimes called the "mock orange".

The fruits are small marble shaped seed pods that have a pointy tip on the ends. They grow is small clusters at the terminal ends of the brances often surrounded by a rosetta effect of the stiff, dark green leaves.

The lower parts of the mature branches are usually bare of leaves and smaller brances adding to the ornamental effect. I´m not sure if this is due more to carefull pruning or if this tree species just grows this way naturally. All the specimens I´ve seen have been in gardens so it is hard to tell what the tree might look like in the wild.

The images from the post come from both Málaga and Madrid. The sign below is from a fairly large Japanese cheesewood tree in the Madrid botanical gardens.

Goldenrain tree - Koelreuteria paniculata

The Goldenrain tree or "Pride of India" (tree species: Koelreuteria paniculata) is an ornamental tree species from Asia that has been widely planted in Spanish cities such as Madrid, Barcelona or Málaga. The name "Goldenrain" refers to this tree species bright yellow flowers that cover the tree with a golden colour in late spring.

The flowers occur in flowers in large terminal panicles that are as large as 30cm. The image at the top of this post will give you a pretty good idea of wha the flowers look like up close.

The leaves of the Goldenrain tree are pinnate with individual leaflets that are quite serrated and irregular.

One of the most distinctive features of this tree species is its seed pods that are bladder like with paper thin skin than conceal several small ball like black seeds in a completely hollow interior. These pods start out with a green or orangy-tan color. They then turn a sort of reddish colour before they mature into a grey-tan colour.

The seedpods have three sides and the seeds themselves are about 4-5 cm in diameter.

Montpellier Maple by the seat of Philip 2nd

Near the town of "El Escorial" about a thirty minutes drive northwest of the Spanish capital city of Madrid is a site called "The Seat of Philip the Second". This post is about the Montpellier Maple tree located at the site. For its species it is a very large and impressive. Popular belief is that Philip II sat under this tree to oversee the construction of the massive monastery accross the valley. Judging from the tree however it seems rather unlikely that this tree could be old enough to have given shade to the Spanish king in the mid 1600´s.

The tree stands beside large granite bolders like the one below. On top of a large rock to the left of the tree is the actual "Seat of Felipe II" which is a seat carved right into the top of the rock and is accessable by a stone stairway.

About 50 yards from Philip´s seat is the "Ermita de la Virgen de Gracia" (Hermitage of the Virgin of Grace) that was built in the XVI century. This site lies within a forrest called "El bosque de La Herrería".

Below is a view of the monastery as seen through the trees from the Montpellier Maple tree.