Monday, November 14, 2016

​Bletilla striata – Urn Orchid, Hardy Orchid, Chinese Ground Orchid

This one of the best ground orchids you can grow in your own garden in ordinary garden soil. It produces up to 14 beautiful amethyst-purple flowers on long spikes each year and is best grown in a woodland garden.

This is the most well-known species of the 9 species that are known of this small eastern genus found in China, Japan, Taiwan, Myanmar and possibly North India. B. striata was one of the first ground orchids introduced to the UK in 1794.

It is a deciduous terrestrial orchid which is quite hardy everywhere. Its pseudobulbs (false bulbs) are quite hard, knoblike, grayish white in colour, with concentric rings and brown roots. However protection from spring frosts is necessary to prevent the leaves and flower spike being damaged.

In NZ it is hardy in all but the coldest gardens. The soil conditions it prefers is a peat-loam-sand mix which stays moist in winter and summer. The underground which can be divided to increase the number in your garden.

The leaves appear in spring with each having a pleated pattern and grow to about 400mm high and deciduous.

Upright racemes (spikes with alternate flowers) of emerge from the centre of the leaves in early summer and carry up to 9 purple flowers which open sequentially up the stem.

It has been featured on a stamp from Korea as well.

There are several varieties including Bletilla striata var alba which has white flowers, Bletilla striata var albostricta has leaves striped white, Bletilla striata var gebina, has whitish flowers with a suffused faint blush. Recently new blue forms have been described including Bletilla striata ‘‘Mursaki Shikibu’, named after the famous ancient Japanese novelist and was first collected in Oita Prefecture on the island of Kyushu. The flower segments are a bit “fatter” than a typical flower and the flowers tend to remain more cupped. It is said that plants come true from seed.

Bletilla striata ‘Soryu’ This plant was purported to have been collected in Wakayama Prefecture on the island of Honshu. 

A relatively new cultivar has marginal variegation on the flower with a white margin on all flower segments. 

Perhaps the most unique form is the fascinating peloric flower form, Bletilla striata ‘Trilips’.  It has three lips and the flower is quite small, perhaps half the size of a normal one, the flower color is a very deep, saturated purple/pink and the flowers produce no pollen.

Bletilla striata 'Rosea' a lovely pale pink form.

You can see these all on this Youtube video by Botanyboy. Bletilla striata  

It is easy to grow so give it some room in your garden. It may produce seed pods and it is wise to remove these to enable good flowering the next year. They will go well from seed without the difficulty of specialized orchid growing conditions.

See this Pinterest board Bletilla striata

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