Orthochilus ensatus (Lindl.) Bytebier
Common names: imphamba lentaba (isiZulu
This is an attractive orchid that can be grown as a container subject and was previously known as Eulophia ensata.
Orthochilus ensatus is a deciduous, summer-growing tall, slender terrestrial geophyte with 3-4 sword-shaped leaves. Inflorescence a dense, capitate raceme with bright yellow flowers. Its life cycle starts with vegetative growth in October with flower buds usually appearing shortly afterwards, or at any time until February. Leaves remain green until late April or early May, after which they dry out as the plant enters a winter period of dormancy.
Orthochilus ensatus is Red Listed as Least Concern.
Distribution and habitat
Orthochilus ensatus is often found among rocks or boulders in grassland or partially shaded areas in bushveld. Surprisingly the species has also been found in Eucalyptus plantations in Limpopo Province. It also occurs in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape provinces.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The species name ensata is in reference to the plant's sword-shaped leaves.
Not much is known of the pollination biology of Orthochilus ensatus, although it has recently been observed that the plant's pollinators are flower-chafer beetles.
An infusion from the tubers of Orthochilus ensatus is used as a love charm and to treat infant ailments.
Growing Orthochilus ensatus
Orthochilus ensatus grows well in 250 mm and 300 mm plastic pots, in a well-drained medium. Plant pseudobulbs (the solid, above-ground, thickened stem) in spring at a depth of 20–30 mm and water amply. Once the leaf shoots appear, plants should be watered weekly until late autumn. Keep plants completely dry during winter. Place pots in a sunny area. Lift and replant the plants into new soil every three years to stimulate flowering. Plants also require protection from frost in winter.
- Pooley, E. 1998. A field guide to wild flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Fabian, A. & Germishuizen, G. 1997. Wild flowers of northern South Africa . Fernwood Press, Cape Town.
- Retief, E. & Herman, P.P.J. 1997. Plants of the northern provinces of South Africa , keys and diagnostics characteristics.
- Duncan, G.D. & Condy, G. 2013. Eulophia ensata . Flowering Plants of Africa 63: 2-8.
Free State National Botanical Garden
Images by Livhuwani Nkuna
Plant Type: Orchid
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Early Summer
Flower colour: Yellow
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Average