green wood orchid

green wood orchid

Bonatea speciosa

Scientific name

Bonatea speciosa, a terrestrial orchid, is admired for its delicate, somewhat bizarre, green and white flowers. It is also comparatively easy to grow both in pots and in flowerbeds in the garden which has added to its popularity.

The plants are deciduous and measure mostly about 0.4 - 0.6 m in height. At the beginning of the dormant season, the above-ground parts dry off completely, and the plants perennate with their elongated storage tubers. In the growing season, a few dark green and broadly lanceolate leaves are borne along the stem. The inflorescences comprise few to many medium-sized to large green and white flowers. They are very complicated in shape and look somewhat spider-like. The three sepals are unlobed and measure up to 25 mm in length.

At night, the strongly evening scented flowers attract hawkmoths which act as the pollinators of the orchid. The pollinaria are exceptionally large, measuring about 20 mm in length, and become attached to the hawkmoths' eyes.

The most serious cultivation problem is rotting of the tubers, stems or roots due to over-watering. For this reason it is a good idea to avoid wetting the leaves and new shoots altogether.

Propagation instructions

By seed

As plants of Bonatea speciosa do not form dense clumps that can be divided, propagation from seed is the only viable alternative. However, this form of propagation is rather complicated in orchids, and requires the facilities of a modern chemical laboratory. It is necessary to follow an in vitro method that is commonly known as 'flasking'. Sterile working conditions as well as chemicals to mix the jelly-like growing medium with all its nutrients are essential.

It is essential to grow Bonatea speciosa in a well-drained growing medium as water-logged soil leads to the rapid rotting of the plants. The plants can either be grown in garden beds or in pots. Pot culture obviously has the advantage that the plants can be moved (e.g. to take flowering specimens indoors). Plants cultivated in garden beds require a shady or semi-shady spot.

The growing medium should consist of equal parts of fibrous peat, loam, coarse sand and fine bark, to which drainage chips should be added. If grown in pots, a layer of drainage material at the bottom is required. It is generally advisable to follow the rainfall pattern in the natural habitat where your particular plant originates (the species generally occurs in both the winter and summer rainfall regions). The soil should be kept fairly dry in the dormant season, but should also not dry out completely. Unlike most orchids, bonateas do not like high humidity.

References and further reading

PlantZAfrica profile »

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Important characteristics

Conservation status: Least Concern

This species was selected because it has various important characteristics.

Good potplant

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