Holothrix randii Rendle
Common names: tassel orchid (Eng.)
This orchid is easier to spot among the grasses in the morning, because the flowers look shiny and silver from a distance. A closer look at the front of a flower, reveals its maroon anther inside the fringed white petals.
Holothrix randii is a slender terrestrial orchid with a small underground tuber. It grows up to a height of 350 mm. The leaves are oval, 30 × 40 mm, fleshy and appressed to the ground, and are usually absent at flowering time. The inflorescence is up to about 120 mm long, with 5 to 18 flowers loosely arranged on one side (secund). The flowers are 12–15 mm long, white, fan-shaped; the petals divided more than half their length into 9 to 13 very slender, tapering lobes, and are borne in spring (September to October). The fruit is a green capsule that dries out and splits to release very fine, brown, dusty seeds.
Holothrix randii is very similar to H. schlechteriana, but they differ in the fine hair-like lobes of the lip and petals, and the leaves of H. schlechteriana are also more broad than those of H. randii.
According to the Red List of South African plants, the conservation status of Holothrix randii is assessed as Near Threatened (NT), because of urban expansion and agricultural activities in large parts of its distribution.
Seeds of H. randii were collected in Gauteng by the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP) and are banked in the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew.
Distribution and habitat
Holothrix randii is mostly found in rocky grassland in Gauteng and Limpopo Provinces in South Africa, and in Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Kenya. H. randii occurs in full sun, in burnt fields and amongst grasses.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Holothrix is derived from the Greek word holo, which means ‘whole’ or ‘entire’ and thrix, which means ‘hair’. This species was named after Dr R.F. Rand (1856–1937), an English medical doctor and plant collector in Zimbabwe.
The flowers of most orchid species are pollinated by bees and wasps, which transfer the pollinia from one flower to another. H. randii is an inhabitant of open rocky grassland and is usually flowering when the grasses are still dry or burnt. It becomes more visible in the mornings because the flowers appear a little shiny and are easy to be seen.
The plant has no record of medicinal uses.
Growing Holothrix randii
There is no record that shows weather H. randii was ever successfully propagated. Most ground orchids are not easy to propagate or cultivate and for some that were propagated there were no successful results.
- Germishuizen, G. & Fabian, A. 1997. Wild flowers of northern South Africa. Fernwood Press, Vlaeberg, Cape Town.
- Linder, H.P. & Kurzweil, H. 1983. Orchids of South Africa. AA Balkema, Rotterdam.
- McMurtry, D., Grobler, L., Grobler, J. & Burns, S. 2008. Field guide to the Orchids of northern South Africa and Swaziland. Umdaus Press, Pretoria.
- Ray, H. & Vendrame, W. 2018. Orchid pollination biology. University of Florida (IFAS extension) https://edis.ifa.ufl.edu.ep521
- Van Wyk, B. & Malan, S. 1998. Field guide to the wild flowers of the Highveld. Struik, Cape Town.
Millennium Seed Bank Partnership
Acknowledgements: the author thanks Richard Gill for providing images of Holothrix randii.
Plant Type: Orchid
SA Distribution: Gauteng, Limpopo
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Spring
Flower colour: White
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Challenging