South Africa Terrestrials
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Orchidaceae is the largest family of monocotyledons world wide. South Africa supports a huge number of terrestrials, as well as epiphytes in 53 genera and approximately 470 species, most of which are endemic. Most of the orchid species in southern Africa are terrestrial with a few epiphytes growing in moister more humid areas. The largest genus is Disa which holds about 93 species ranging from the well known Disa uniflora to the infamous "weed" Disa bracteata.
In Southern Africa deciduous terrestrial orchids can be separated into two groups, summer growing and winter growing. Then there are the evergreens like Disa uniflora, D. tripetaoides and D. uncinata which are either summer flowering or winter flowering.
Terrestrial species of Southern Africa
Besides the Disa there are many intriguing and beautiful species. Here are a few that grow in southern Africa.
Terrestrial orchids are a bit more of a challenge in cultivation. Terrestrial orchids need to be grown in an environment that mimics there wild habitat (not unlike there epiphyte cousins) and will not tolerate otherwise. One main point is leaving them dry when not in active growth, unless they are evergreen. When the tubers of terrestrial orchids are in there dormant state they should be kept dry, only when new growth starts to develop should watering be resumed. Terrestrial orchids need excellent drainage and not water logged growing medium. Terrestrial orchids grow in just about every corner of the earth and a good understanding of there origin will contribute to healthy flowering orchids.
Most deciduous Terrestrials are difficult to cultivate and maintain under cultivation. A big factor is clean healthy water in the growing season and once the plant has flowered and the leaves have withered, they are ready to go into there dormant state. It is important to keep the tubers dry when they are dormant. If tubers get to much water they will surely die and the plant will be lost. The most important factor is the soil. Orchids are dependent on a mycorrhiza fungus.
Mycorrhizas are symbiotic associations essential for both orchid and fungus. It is primarily responsible for nutrient transfer. Mycorrhizas occur in a specialized plant organ where intimate contact results from synchronized plant-fungus development.
All orchids need this fungi to break down nutrients and the germination of orchid seed.
Many Southern African terrestrials are dependent on there fungi and need it in there potting mix for successful cultivation. Propagating deciduous terrestrials can be done by vegetative propagation. This task should be undertaken when dormant. Tubers are easily brused and must be handled with care, any damage to roots or tubers can result in a bacterial infection.
The evergreen Disa species are not as complicated as the deciduous group under cultivation. Disa uniflora, D. tripetaoides and D. uncinata can be cultivated easily if there requirements are met. They do well in cool semi shaded positions with excellent air movement. The most important factor to keep in mind when growing evergreens is water quality. Disa species do not tolerate impure water, and need a low PH of between 5 and 6.8. It is a good idea to use rain water or let tap water stand for a day or two. Evergreen Disas grow naturally along stream banks, on seepages and waterfalls. The water is always cold and keeps the roots cool and moist at all times. Under artificial cultivation they will not tolerate soggy waterlogged conditions and prefer to stay evenly moist, for this excellent drainage is required. Disa can be potted up in a mix of coarse river sand and sphagnum moss, peat moss can also be used. Propagating these Disas can be done vegatavely after flowering when new shoots start to develop or seed can be germinated on good clean sphagnum moss that should be kept moist at all times.
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