This easy to grow, miniature, terrestrial orchid from the eastern seaboard of South Africa, provides a long-flowering summer display on a protected patio or (stoep ).
Description: Like a number of ground orchids, this plant has succulent or tuberous roots and a basal rosette of unmarked, dull green leaves. The slender flower spike arises from the centre of the rosette and is between 150 and 250 mm tall and bears 10 to 40 small white or pale pink flowers in mid-summer.
Distribution: S. woodii is found near the coast in a small area of southern KwaZulu-Natal and adjacent parts of Pondoland on moist sandstone ledges where leaf mould has accumulated. The genus as a whole is only found in the southeastern parts of the African continent.
Derivation of name and historical aspects: The name is from two Greek words: steno , narrow; and glottis , tongue, and refers to the prominent lip which is used as one of the characters in distinguishing between the four species, the largest of which is S. longifolia. The other two species are S. fimbriata and S. zambesiaca . S. woodii is the least common of the four species and for a time was known as Cynorkis macloughlinii.
Ecology: Due to the rarity of this plant, not much is known about what pollinates it although it's pale-coloured flowers would seem to indicate pollination is by a small moth.
Growing Stenoglottis woodii
This small, long-flowering plant makes a wonderful pot plant to be displayed on a protected patio. It is easily grown in a fairly shallow container in a mixture of sharp sand and peat. If peat is not available then very well-composted, milled bark can be used. in either case, the plants must be fed every two weeks with a commercial plant food.
During winter, when the plants are dormant (they lose all their leaves), they should be kept in a cool, dry place until new growth begins in the spring. The plants should be grown in a lightly shaded, well-ventilated place were they receive a regular watering and are never allowed to dry out completely..
References and further reading
- Germishuishuizen, G. & Meyer, N.L. (eds). 2003. Plants of southern Africa: an annotated checklist. Strelitzia 14. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
- Jackson, W.P.U. 1987. Origins and meanings of names of South African plant genera. University of Cape Town Ecolab, Rondebosch.
- Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. 1966. An introduction to the South African orchids . Purnel, Cape Town, Johannesburg.
- Stewart, J., Linder, H.P., Schelpe, E.A. & Hall, A.V. 1982. Wild orchids of southern Africa. Macmillan, Johannesburg.
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