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Wednesday - January 13, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Cold tolerance of Anacacho Orchid Tree (Bauhinia lunarioides)
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus


I live in Austin, and I'm considering planting an Anacacho Orchid Tree. How cold tolerant is it? Would the tree have been damaged in the recent 18 degree temperatures we experienced?


According to the University of Texas at El Paso Chihuahuan Desert Plants database, Bauhinia lunarioides (Anacacho orchid tree) is hardy down to 15 degrees F.  The temperature on Jan. 9, 2010 at Bergstrom International Airport in Austin was 9 degrees F. and at Camp Mabry it was 17 degrees.  These were both record lows for the day and, in general, it is very unusual for the temperature to reach so low in Austin.  It remains to be seen if the local Anacacho orchid trees were hurt.  There are two in the general area of Camp Mabry that we've observed—one is about 5 feet tall and it's leaves have all turned brown (the leaves of the Anacacho orchid tree are somewhat persistent, although the tree is deciduous).  The other tree that is probably 7 or 8 feet tall still had some leaves that appeared undamaged although many of its leaves had also turned brown.  The ones at the Wildflower Center had freeze damage to their leaves, but otherwise the trees appear to be fine.

So, the jury is still out.  Our sense of it is that we will probably see some damage to the trees depending on local conditions, but most will survive just fine. Check back with us in April and we can give you an assessment of how these particular trees mentioned above are doing.


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