The “Hong Kong orchid”, a type of bauhinia, was chosen as the territory’s emblem in 1965. Here are some other trivia titbits about the famous flower.
#1 This particular bauhinia was “discovered” in 1880 by a Catholic missionary from France. It was found in the vicinity of a ruined house in Pok Fu Lam – perhaps close to the historic Béthanie building.
#2 It didn’t get its modern name, Bauhinia blakeana, until 1908, when the superintendent of the Botanical and Forestry Department named it after a pair of 17th-century French botanists, Gaspard and Jean Bauhin, and after Sir Henry Blake, British Governor of Hong Kong from 1898 to 1903, and his wife Lady Blake.
#3 The bauhinia blooms from early November to the end of March. Its fragrant flowers look a little like orchids; they grow to around 15 centimetres.
#4 Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai is home to a six-metre statue of the flower. The square was the location for Hong Kong’s “handover” ceremony in July 1997. According to some people, the monument is arguably more reminiscent of pak choy than a bauhinia.
#5 The flower can also be seen on the Hong Kong flag, which has been in use since 1997. While the petals in the flag are white, in real life they are pink. You’ll also find the bauhinia on coins and on the Hong Kong coat of arms.
#6 While it’s commonly referred to as the Hong Kong orchid, the bauhinia isn’t an orchid. It’s from the legume family, which includes peas and beans.
This article first appeared in the June 2020 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.