SA Orchids: Holothrix

H .scopulariaHolothrix is a widespread African genus and is represented in southern Africa by 23 species. The plants are mostly slender and insignificant small herbs and do not look like 'typical' orchids as their flowers are mostly tiny.

Several species are fairly drought-resistant and can be found in arid and semi-arid areas in the interior of South Africa, as well as in dry habitats in the more humid parts. There are several species in karooid scrub and some occur in rock cracks in the Northern Cape, others thrive in fynbos in the Cape Floristic Region of the Western and Eastern Cape. There are some species in the montane forests of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal as well as some in the montane and subalpine grasslands of the Drakensberg mountains and the north-eastern parts of southern Africa.

Flowering generally occurs in spring or summer. While many species are rarely seen, H. aspera, H. villosa and H. secunda are fairly common in suitable habitats.

The plants of this genus are characterized by underground root tubers and one or two basal, ovate and frequently hairy leaves lying flat on the ground. An interesting feature is that the thick water-storing upper leaf layer (epidermis) appears translucent. The scape (flower stalk) is erect and frequently also hairy. The small or medium-sized flowers are born in unbranched spikes. In colour they range from white, cream, yellow and green to pinkish-cream. Petals are mostly unlobed, but there are also species with three- to many-lobed petals. Lips are usually lobed with three to many lobes which may be hair-like thin; occasionally the lips are unlobed. The lips are always spurred. The plants are decidous, i.e they become dormant at the end of the growing season.

Plants of the genus Holothrix are rarely cultivated as they have very little appeal to growers due to their minute or small flowers.

Selected species and their main distribution
Winter-rainfall area: H. secunda ('tryphia'), H. mundii, H. aspera
Summer-rainfall area: H. thodei, H. incurva, H. scopularia, H. orthoceras
Both areas: H. exilis, H. cernua, H. villosa, H. grandiflora

Click images below to enlarge

H.  cernua

H. cernua

H. orthoceras
H. orthoceras
H. secunda
H. secunda
H. thodei
H. thodei


Description and images : Hubert Kurzweil
October 2000

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