While the thought of orchids may conjure up the image of Amazonian forests, it is well known that many orchids flower in the depths of winter. These jewels provide a wonderful reprieve from those frosty days.
Here are some winter flowerers that grace us with their beauty.
Winter African Orchids
In Indigenous South African Orchids, we briefly touched on the various orchids that grace our shores and their flowering times but winter is truly a spectacular time for the moth-pollinated epiphytic African orchids. Afriorchids
sports a wonderful collection of SA and Madagascan orchids with the following species flowering in winter:
If you find yourself in the field following the trail of the Fynbos Virtual tour | Part 3
, make sure to look out for Disperis capensis
(Moederkappie). This breathtaking terrestrial orchid is one of Fernkloof’s most notorious tricksters. It mimics the flower of Polygala umbellata
to attract its pollinators.
These low-light loving epiphytic or lithophytic orchids are native to Central America (more specifically Venezuela, Peru, and Ecuador). The genus consists of 49 species that grow at elevations as high as 3200m. Dig into the article below to learn more about the effect of elevation orchid growth.
What does Epiphytic and lithophytic mean? Epiphytes are plants that grow in the air on trees or cliffs while lithophytic refers to plants that grow on rocks.
They produce a multitude of tiny blooms that dance in the wind. Even more enticing is the ease with which they multiply. The flowers may not be able to self-pollinate (1), but they produce Keiki easily.
Restrepia brachypus in flower during late July.
Bulbophyllum span multiple continents and is by far the largest group of orchids one will come across. Some have even made it into South Africa such as the autumn flowering B. scaberulum. The strange blooms attract enthusiasts with a flair for the uncommon.
Winter flowerers include:
They thrive in relatively low light compared to other orchids, with some preferring lower temperatures and others on the higher end of the range. This means one can choose an orchid that best suits your climate.
Bulbophyllum species flowering during late July.
Winter orchid care
It may be icy outside, but remember to keep orchids above their minimum temperature. Some may require a dip in temperature to flower, but not necessarily a sustained minimum. It is best to approach winter care on a species to species basis for the best results.
Remember to share your flowering orchid with us using the hashtag #WinterOrchids
(1) Millner, Helen & Mccrea, Alison & Baldwin, Timothy. (2015). An investigation of self-incompatibility within the genus Restrepia. American journal of botany. 102. 487-94. 10.3732/ajb.1400555.