Macodes petola: Gold-net Orchid
The word ‘orchid’ evokes the image of large, mostly brilliantly-colouredresembling exotic butterflies. However, there are also several hundred species that rank among the loveliest of foliage plants, including some whose leaves rival the beauty of their relatives’ blooms.
The foliage orchid that is most widely grown is Haemaria discolor with its several varieties and cultivars. The leaves are greenish red with delicate red veins. This is a very undemanding plant that does well in a light peaty compost and a lightly shaded spot in a warm home. It bears small, white, very fragrant flowers at Christmas-time, and can be easily managed even by the beginner.
The species, on the other hand, is one of the most difficult to grow and often even the very experienced have failed. Nevertheless, its beauty is so spectacular that it is worth trying to grow it over and over again.
Macodes petola is native to the mountain forests of Java and the Moluccas, where it grows on the ground in a thick layer of decaying humus formed by fallen leaves and on the fallen trunks of tree ferns. Typical characteristics of its habitat are diffused light, a permanently high temperature, and very high atmospheric moisture. From this it is evident that it will not survive as a free-standing specimen in a room. To be grown in the home it must be put in a glass plant-case provided with a constant high temperature and kept adequately moist by syringing. The compost should be a light one, composed of chopped sphagnum moss, fern roots, bits of charcoal, peat, chopped beech leaves and sand; the top should be covered with a thin layer of green sphagnum moss. If it is possible to provide the necessary conditions for these delicate plants they will grow rapidly and can be multiplied readily by division of the clumps.
M. sanderiana, which is perhaps even more beautiful, has the same requirements but needs more shade. The silver-veined M. dendrophila is epiphytic.