An attractive orchid that can be grown as a container subject.
Eulophia ensata is a deciduous, summer-growing tall, slender terrestrial geophyte with 3–4 sword-shaped leaves. Inflorescence a dense, capitate raceme with bright yellow flowers.
Its life cycle starts with vegetative growth in October with flower buds usually appearing shortly afterwards, or at any time until February. Leaves remain green until late April or early May, after which they dry out as the plant enters a winter period of dormancy.
Eulophia ensata is Red Listed as Least Concern.
Distribution and habitat
Eulophia ensata is often found among rocks or boulders in grassland or partially shaded areas in bushveld. Surprisingly the species has also been found in Eucalyptus plantations in Limpopo Province. It also occurs in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape provinces.
Derivation of the name and historical aspect
The species name ensata is in reference to the plant's sword-shaped leaves.
The genus Eulophia has about 250 species distributed principally in the tropics of central Africa with 42 species found in southern Africa.
Not much is known of the pollination biology of Eulophia ensata, although it has recently been observed that the plant's pollinators are flower chafer beetles.
Uses and cultural aspects
An infusion from the tubers of Eulophia ensata is used as a love charm and to treat infant ailments.
Growing Eulophia ensata
Eulophia ensata grows well in 250 mm and 300 mm plastic pots, in a well-drained medium. Plant pseudobulbs (the solid, above-ground, thickened stem) in spring at a depth of 20–30 mm and water amply. Once the leaf shoots appear, plants should be watered weekly until late autumn. Keep plants completely dry during winter. Place pots in a sunny area. Lift and replant the plants into new soil every three years to stimulate flowering. Plants also require protection from frost in winter.
- Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Fabian, A. & Germishuizen, G. 1997. Wild flowers of northern South Africa . Fernwood Press, Cape Town.
- Retief, E. & Herman, P.P.J. 1997. Plants of the northern provinces of South Africa , keys and diagnostics characteristics.
- Duncan, G.D. & Condy, G. 2013. Eulophia ensata . Flowering Plants of Africa 63: 2–8.
Images by Livhuwani Nkuna
Free State National Botanical Garden