Category Archives: Disa bractreata

Orchids in the forest

Forestry SA land has some of South Australia’s most beautiful and exquisite orchids growing on its lands.  While it is predominately focused on pine tree plantations, it does recognize the importance of conserving our rare and beautiful orchids.  Here is a short film by Julian Pitcher, from Victoria, sharing his finds on Forestry land from a few months ago.

The small ducks came out a week or so after filming.

Enjoy.

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Amazing but scary

Some time back, on the 22 April, I wrote about the weedy orchid which grows in the Adelaide hills.  I included a picture of this weed which had been kept in a bag for over a week and the little shoots looked fairly healthy. I thought that was quite impressive that it had managed to live without water or sunlight, and now…

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It is nearly a month and a half since that weedy orchid was placed in a bag, and it is still alive! Wow! No water, no sunlight, just living on the energy that was stored in its tiny bulbs. That is amazing.

When I was first told that if one of these orchids was uprooted while in flower will continue to produce seeds, I was a bit sceptical. Surely no plant would be able to continue to grow when placed in a bag, but now I’ve changed my mind.

My understanding is that Disa bractreata is a desert plant from South Africa, and this would explain why it is so tough and hardy. It does not require much before it takes off and is all through a site. Interestingly I can’t recall seeing this weed in moist areas, but I could be wrong. I’ll be looking out for it to see if that is so.

In the meantime, this Disa bractreata can continue growing in its little plastic bag. I wonder how much energy is in those bulbs, and when will it start looking thirsty. This orchid is making me curious: I want to find out how tough it is, and what does it take to kill it, though this would be the only orchid I’d want to destroy. It is a pity that many of our native orchids are not very that tough, or maybe they are tougher than we think!

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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