Plant Subject: Reed Orchid (Epidendrum ibaguense)
First impression: Striking, exotic, five petals with a sixth larger iconic orchid-lobed lip in yellows, oranges and reds. Wow, such dramatic fade in and outs of colorations adorn the frilly lipped petal. The elliptic leaves are soft green and all along the reed like stem, which is in the shape of caned bamboo. These gorgeous orchids are growing as ground covers in the garden soil. I am drawn to the many tiny dancing flowers on slender extra long stalks. You can see these multitudes of tiny orchids fluttering in full bloom at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.
Upon further investigation: Reed or Sun Orchids hail from the Epidendrum genus of which you can easily be confused with the more than 800 plus species that are terrestrial or epiphytic. It is a show stopper, when blooming there is no passing it by without a closer look! It has umbrella like clusters of tiny glowing flowers suspended by super long slender stalks, which gives them an excuse to dance at any chance they get. The 5 quinacridone orange, petals are tiny, soft, and oblong. Of course the 6th petal is the preverbal orchid nectar guide for the pollinators. It is drop dead gorgeous, marked with a yellow landing pad and varying shades of brilliant orange dotted with crimson freckles. And yes, it's cupped and ruffled with orchid drama thru and thru. Each flower stalk is laden with 10-15 flowers, I easily count 50 plus on all over our gardens. If you're lucky, you can smell that faint sweet scent, which I find strongest early morning and dusk. After blooming, remove spent blooms to be ready for the next profusion of blossoms. Its fruits or seed purses form on the ends of stalks and contain hundreds of itty bitsy seeds, which end up blowing in the wind. The dark green leaves are linear, long cane like and really are a great ground cover even without the flowers. The green cane bases of the leaves remind me of bamboo and attached by the roots. A healthy strong orchid will have numerous silvery colored roots encircling and securing itself in the soil. Most orchids are Epiphytes which means they sit on top of their selected companion. Our orchid is a very hearty terrestrial orchid which obtains most of its moisture and run off nutrients from the garden soil and plants around it. Our stars parents were naturally occurring in the tropics but non-native to our region. Orchid, just the name and your mind can conjure up a flower picture that's fanciful and magical. We have had success with our stars in full sun and drought like conditions. Once they establish themselves they are nonstop bloomers. They can be broken off by the reeds and transplanted as a very tropical groundcover. We have 3 varieties in colors of yellows, purples and oranges. Add some to your garden oasis, you can discover another way of enjoying orchids at ground level.
Pros: Likes filtered sun to full - Easy to maintain Flowers are unique, exotic and fanciful - Salt tolerant Is great for oooh's and ahhs Great ground cover to plant among other plants - Long lived blooming period - Everyone needs at least one Blooming brings in the bees No care needed - Lovely soft fragrance Attractive when not blooming.
Cons: Non native plant - Has a sprawling manner - Blooming brings in the bees It's hard to say no to any Orchid!
Conclusion: Bring your camera or your paintbrushes to record the bounty of our beauties. You don't have to look up to admire our exploding with orchid uniqueness land lover who is just waiting for you to admire. So many flowers so little time in our eye catching tropical garden.
Don't wanna miss this bloomer!