This famous red orchid, emblem of the Western Cape, is strictly
protected. Showy flowers in shades of red, pink and very occasionally
yellow are borne during summer from December to March with a peak
flowering period during mid-February.
This evergreen, terrestrial (ground) orchid grows under perennially
wet or moist conditions. It is found along stream banks, waterfalls
or wet cliffs on Table Mountain and other mountain localities of
the Western Cape.
butterfly Meneris tulbaghia is the only known pollinator
of Disa uniflora.
Growing Disa uniflora
To grow Disa uniflora successfully one must remember the
Disas require a cool environment with average temperatures ranging
between 10-26°C. Disas can however tolerate summer temperatures
above 30°C, provided they have adequate moisture, humidity and
free air movement. A well drained, coarse growing medium contributes
to the continual flow of moisture, nutrients and efficient aeration
to the plant. Disas prefer partial shade, but good light conditions
are essential for flowering and to enhance rich flower colour.
In nature Disa uniflora multiplies vegetatively by producing
stolons that develop into new plants. After flowering the plant
and its tuber die back and to provide food for the production of
a fresh tuber and shoot.
As the plant produces young plants vegetatively, propagation may
be done simply by division. Established plants are divided after
flowering. Wash the growing medium from the roots and carefully
separate the young plants before repotting.
Another method of propagation is from seed. Fresh seed is sown
on washed Irish peat or sphagnum moss. Fill the pot with a layer
of coarse, washed river sand and place a layer of peat or sphagnum
over it. Sow the seed evenly and lightly spray the entire surface
with a suitable fungicide, e.g. Kaptan. Cover the pot with clear
plastic, held firmly in place with an elastic band or use a pane
of glass. Place in a shady position and germination will take place
after four weeks.
medium moist, by placing the pot in a tray of water. Inspect the
medium on a regular basis to detect fungal infection and treat with
a suitable fungicide. As young seedlings develop the plastic cover
or pane of glass should gradually removed after which seedlings
are pricked out. The year old seedlings are pricked into a fresh
medium consisting of equal parts coarse river sand and peat.
Seedlings are grown under shade and grow rapidly during the second
year. By the third year the first flowers develop. The mature plants
must be repotted each year, during autumn, when the flowering stem
The roots must never be allowed to dry out, but overwatering or
stagnation must also be avoided. Never use water with a high pH.
The pH value should range between 5 and 6.8. Ordinary tap water
is fine provided it is not too heavily chlorinated. It is advisable
to stand the water in a bucket overnight to allow most of the chlorine
Disas should be fed regularly with a diluted, balanced fertilizer.
Commercially available orchid fertilizers should be sufficient.
Organic fertilizer such as Seagro may also be used. If chlorosis
(yellowing), blotching and stunting begins to appear, trace elements
(Trelmix) must be applied as directed until the plant improves.
Common pests on disas are aphids, which are prevalent throughout
the year. Red spider and thrips appear when the growing environment
is too warm. Disa uniflora is susceptible to fungal infection
e.g. Fusarium, which causes rotting of roots and stems. Regular
inspection helps with early detection and application of the necessary
insecticide (e.g. Ultracide) or fungicide (e.g. Benlate). All dead
and decaying leaves should be regularly removed. This will greatly
assist in reducing disease.
- Hitchcock, A.N. (1989) Cultivation of Disa uniflora. National Botanical
- Karsten H.K. Wodrich (1997): Growing South African Indigenous Orchids.
- Winter, J.H.S. (1981): Disa uniflora at Kirstenbosch. Veld and
Flora Vol.67 (3): 74-76
Author: Norma Jodamus