Lurking in the background

As of yet the weed orchid Disa bractreata has not featured on this site, even though it is the orchid I’ve seen the most this year. It is a terrestrial orchid from South Africa and colonizes very quickly.

83b Disa bracteata (17)

Many orchid enthusiasts try to dig them up. This is because their flower spikes produce thousands of very fine seeds that propagate very easily, and take over areas in a couple of years if not controlled. Understandably many try to remove them when on walks looking for native orchids.

So if you want to weed this plant, make sure you have the right plant. Remember that it is illegal to collect any part of any native orchid within Australia, so know what you are dealing with first. These plants are very tough, which is not surprising considering they are a desert plant. I’ve been told that a flower spikes will continue to produce seeds after being dug up. To give an example of how tough these plants are, some plants were up rooted one week ago, placed in a plastic bag and are still continuing to grow.

Disa bractreata

Orchids still growing after one week in a bag

If you do want to weed it, remember to remove the whole plant from the site including the tubers. From there it is best to place them is a plastic bag to cook in the sun.

Disa bractreata

I have not concerned myself about removing these plants as I suspect they may do some good, but it is only a personal theory at the moment that has not been tested yet.  There was a fairly weedy and disturbed site I know about. There were a couple of shrubs and mostly a lot of this weed. It was like this for some time, but over the last couple ofyears, there has been a rapid decrease in the number of weeds and all of a sudden there are lots of sun orchids, Thelymitra, growing there. Maybe the weedy orchids prepared the soil so that the native orchids could grow there. It would be interesting if research was conducted in this area. Have you ever had any experience with this orchid? I would love to hear about it.

Thelymitra sp

One of the Thelymitra that has appeared recently

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2 thoughts on “Lurking in the background

  1. bentehaarstad

    Never knew that any orchid could be a weed. We have the opposite problem with our native ones, the numbers are reduced.But also, we don’t have any alien orchid species in the wild.

    Reply
    1. Helen Post author

      The problem with this weed is that they have dozens of capsules on a plant, all filled with hundreds of tiny seeds. Our climate must be just right, because it flourishes. I would image than the climate in Norway would provide a protection against weedy orchids.

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