Jewel Orchids

 

Jewel orchids are truly the gems of the orchid family. While most orchids are grown for their beautiful flowers, jewel orchids are primarily grown for their spectacular foliage. Most species of jewel orchids produce insignificant flowers but a few, such as Ludisia discolor, produce spikes of small but attractive white and yellow flowers which are also pleasantly fragrant.

Most of the jewel orchids are found in the warm, humid tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia and throughout the islands of the Indo Pacific region including the remote rain forests of New Guinea and Borneo. There they grow in the leaf litter under the shade of large tropical trees.

A few species in the genus Goodyera grow in the cooler highland cloud forests of Southeast Asia at elevations of 3000 to 7500 feet.

Growing jewel orchids is fairly straightforward. Jewel orchids are terrestrial so they will need to be planted in a substrate that retains moisture but drains well. Premium grade sphagnum alone works very well but commercial terrestrial orchid mixes are also excellent. Give them high humidity, warm temperatures and low light and they will do fine. They make excellent terrarium plants and grow very well under fluorescent lights.

When grown as houseplants the challenge is to maintain high humidity. The obvious solution is to grow them in a terrarium or Wardian case. There are however, other options. Many people successfully grow them in their bathroom and have created stunning decorative displays that compliment their existing decor.

Regardless of how you display them we think you will find the jewel orchids enchanting and rewarding.

 

 

Ludisia Black Velvet (Ludisia discolor var. Nigrescens)

 

Although it often referred to by the species name 'nigrescens' this is probably not a valid name since no scientific reference can be found to validate this. (Currently it is classified as a naturally occurring mutation of Ludisia discolor.)

Nevertheless, this is a beautiful Jewel Orchid with leaves such a deep green as to appear almost black. One thin silver/gold stripe bisects the length of each leaf. The leaf texture is very soft and velvety. Requirements, growth and flowering are identical to Ludisia discolor but this one is much slower growing.

 

 

Anoectochilus chapaensis

 

A beautiful jewel orchid rarely seen in cultivation here in the USA.

Native to tropical rain forests of Viet Nam. There it grows in dense shade in the moist leaf litter on well-drained sites with high humidity and warm temperatures.

This rare Jewel Orchid has beautiful foliage which varies from a reddish base color to dark green nearly black. The veins are typically a deep red to nearly white. This is a mid sized jewel orchid with velvety heart shaped leaves 3 to 5 inches long and up to 4 inches wide.  The plant blooms with small pale yellow to white flowers on a 8-10 inch spike.

Like most Jewel Orchids it is not difficult to grow if the substrate is moist and well drained and if it is kept warm. Will grow very well if planted in a quality terrestrial orchid mix or even a good grade of sphagnum moss. Makes an excellent terrarium plant or houseplant.

 

 

Anoectochilus formosanus

 

This beautiful little jewel orchid is native to the island of Formosa as its scientific name implies.

It grows primarily in the leaf litter of the shady forests. This is a warm growing species that prefers high humidity.

Interestingly this orchid has medicinal qualities and is used as a folk medicine in Asia for various remedies including treatment of hepatitis, hypertension and cancer. It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective activity.

Here in the West it is grown primarily for its attractive foliage. The beautiful foliage is a velvety dark green with silvery white veins. The heart shaped leaves are about 1 to 1.5 inches long. The plant blooms with tiny white and yellow flowers on a 6-7 inch spike.

Will grow very well if planted in a quality terrestrial orchid mix or even a good grade of sphagnum moss.

 

 

Dossinia marmorata var Dayii

This is a highly desirable jewel orchid for the serious collector. It is rarely seen in cultivation here in the USA.

This Jewel Orchid is prized for its beautiful green and purple foliage with metallic silver, gold and copper veins. The leaves have a velvety surface texture and often have a splash of bright gold near the stem. These plants look absolutely stunning under full spectrum fluorescent lighting.

Native to deep, lowland tropical rain forests of Borneo. There it grows in dense shade in the moist leaf litter on well-drained sites with high humidity and warm temperatures.

This is one of the larger of the jewel orchids with thick leaves 4 to 6 inches long and up to 4 inches wide.  The plant blooms with small, insignificant flowers on a 10 inch spike.

Despite its rather large leaves it does not grow very tall and seldom exceeds 6 to 7 inches in height. Not difficult to grow if the substrate is moist and well drained and if it is kept warm. In culture it requires warm temperatures and medium to low light. Will grow very well planted in a quality terrestrial orchid mix or even a good grade of sphagnum moss. Makes an excellent terrarium plant or houseplant.

 

 

 

Ludisia discolor var. Alba

 

This is another rare, naturally occuring mutation of Ludisia discolor from S.E. Asia. In this form all the red coloration is absent resulting in a nice bright green base color with silvery white veins. Flowers are the same as the normal Ludisia.

Care and culture is identical to Ludisia discolor.

 

 

Macodes Petola

 

Not often seen in cultivation this somewhat rare Jewel Orchid has beautiful foliage which is difficult to capture in a photo. The veins actually look like metallic gold thread woven through the light green leaves. Native to Malaysia and New Guinea it is found in the lowland tropical rain forests in dense shade growing in moist leaf litter and soil on well-drained sites with high humidity and warm temperatures. The plant blooms with small, insignificant flowers on an 8 inch inflorescence. A bit less forgiving than Ludisia but not difficult if the substrate is well drained and if it is kept warm.

 

Ludisia discolor

 

A terrestrial orchid that prefers medium to low light and high humidity. Native to S.E. Asia.

This is a low spreading plant with 3" elliptic maroon leaves that have metallic red to gold veins. Forms small white flowers on twisted yellow columns that are held upright. This is an ideal terrarium orchid since it remains small and thrives on high humidity and warm temperatures. Easy to grow.

 

 

 

Goodyera schlectendaliana (Mountain Jewel)

 

This is a rarely cultivated, beautiful Jewel Orchid grown mostly for its attractive foliage. Grows to about 3 or 4 inchs tall.

Blooms in late spring when it will send up a 4 inch spike bearing several cream colored, tiny flowers.

This terrestrial orchid is native to S.E. Asia and Japan. There it grows in the humid lowland forests as well as the peaks of high mountains in the highland cloud forests at elevations of 3000 to 7500 feet.

In culture it will grow in warm to cool temperatures and low light. Will grow very well planted in plain moist sphagnum moss. Makes an excellent terrarium plant or houseplant.

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