This delicate epiphytic orchid, a mini plant with maxi roots is
covered in a mass of white flowers at the beginning of summer.
showy epiphytic orchid is found on trees in the warm, drier woodlands
of southern Africa. The plant has strap-shaped, dark green leaves
up to 130 mm long on short stems. The large numbers of roots are
grey with white streaks, at times encircling the host branch. Numerous
sprays of 6-12 well-spaced white flowers with a 40-60 mm spur, cover
the plant in October and November.
It is found in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumulanga and is
also thought to occur in Swaziland. Plants are found in dry, thorny
scrub often on Acacia trees. The plants once established are able
to tolerate light frosts.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus name, referring to the rostellum lobes, means small moustache.
There are12 species in the genus which occur in South and East Africa.
Seven species occur in South Africa of which M. capense is
Because it is white and is strongly scented at night, it is probable
that moths pollinate it. The very fine seed germinate readily on
exotic tree species such as oranges (Citrus sp.), which can
be a problem to farmers, and cypress (Cupressus sp.) in the
Uses and cultural aspects
Mystacidium capense adds interest to a garden when established
on a specimen tree. Traditionally the plant is used as a protective
and love charm. It is in great demand by orchid growers.
Growing Mystacidium capense
Mature plants should be attached to smooth-barked, preferably deciduous
trees using strips cut from old pantyhose. The plants should be
watered sparingly until the new roots appear, after which an occasional
spraying with a liquid fertilizer will benefit the plants.
Plants can also be grown on slabs of pine bark and hung in a shady
place. These plants would need to be watered regularly if they are
kept out of the rain.
- BATTEN, A. & BOKELMANN, H. 1966. Wild flowers of the
eastern Cape Province. Cape & Transvaal Printers, Cape
- JACKSON, W.P.U. 1987. Origins and derivations of names of
South African plant genera. University of Cape Town.
- LEISTNER, O.A. 2000. Seed plants of southern Africa: families
and genera. Strelitzia 10. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
- POOLEY, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal
and the eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- STEWART, J., LINDER, H.P., SCHELPE, E.A. & HALL, A.V. 1982.
Wild orchids of South Africa. Macmillan, Cape Town.
Natal National Botanic Garden