Orchids: Arundina graminifolia

Imagine that you are in Vietnam, in the mountains not far from the village of Tarn Dao. It is autumn, in other words the season when Arundina graminifolia flowers. Beside the road along which you are driving there rises a steep bank covered with tall grasses and ferns above which the magnificent, relatively large flowers of this orchid appear to hover like butterflies. The specimens growing here are fairly small, less than a metre (yard) high, probably because this is the northern boundary of the orchid’s range and definitely a cool locality. Arundina graminifolia has a relatively large area of distribution, extending from India to Vietnam and Malaysia, and therefore it is not surprising that it is quite variable in the size and coloration of the flowers. Botanical collections include specimens up to 2 m (6 ft) high with leaves up to 30 cm (1 ft) long.

All, however, are plants that resemble reeds or some bamboos and that grow in the ground. Their appearance and requirements are very much like those of the South American genus Sobralia. From the fleshy roots, which are extremely fragile (take care when transplanting for broken roots rot readily), rises a slender, firm, flexible stem bearing alternate, lanceolate to linear leaves. The approximately 5-cm-(2-in-) long flowers bear a striking resemblance to those of cattleyas; the sepals are lanceolate, the petals elliptical, the lip relatively large and beautifully coloured. The shape and size of the ovary are evident from the ** illustration.

Arundina should be grown in a light mixture composed of peat, fern roots, bits of polystyrene or bits of charcoal and sand, plus loam for nourishment. The roots must be quite close to the surface of the soil. The temperature should not be unduly high, particularly in winter, at which time water should also be limited. Not until spring, when the buds form, should the supply of water be increased and before flowering the plant should be syringed frequently, for there is danger of it drying out in a dry atmosphere. Still, it is a species that thrives in a warm home without any great care.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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