Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nun orchid (Phaius tankervilliae)

This is a terrestrial orchid that behaves like a perennial in the garden.  Phaius tankervilliae is native to large parts of tropical Asia.  The long, pleated leaves grow from the base of the plant and arch over to a length of two feet or more.  In early winter the flower spike will start to emerge from between the leaves and the flowers will open in mid-spring on a 3 to 4 foot stalk.  The bloom spike will last for 4 to 6 weeks. 




The nodding flowers are a rusty brown color on the front side and white on the back, with a prominent purple lip.  Each flower is about 3 to 4 inches across.  It is the reproductive parts within the throat of the flower that give the plant its name.  If you peer inside you will see the image of a nun wearing a white habit.









Phaius can be grown outdoors in the ground in USDA Zones 9-11.  In cold climates the plant can be grown in containers and protected from freezing weather.  A light shade or filtered sun location is best.
One other interesting thing about these plants is that you can cut the old flower stems into sections and lay on moist soil or sphagnum moss and they will send out roots and grow new plants!

6 comments:

Sandy said...

Beautiful orchids! I only grow one , Bletilla, in our zone. Wish I had the space for the tropicals! Thanks for sharing.

AaronVFT said...

Wow! This orchid is stunning! I love the shapes and dark colours!

NanaK said...

Beautiful plant. I only recently became aware of Nun's orchid. They are stunning. Interesting info about rooting from the flower stalk.

Ami said...

Beautiful orchid! How interesting that it could be rooted by segments of the flower stalk. Hmmm, maybe I should go ask if anybody can spare me some flower stalk to root. I can not find it sale here, and I really love it and want one!

Anonymous said...

Aloha, we have these Nun Orchids growing wild here in the Puna District of the Big Island of Hawai'i. They are fairly common in the wet fern/ohia forests above 1,000', I only have about a dozen wild plants on my 3 acres in Mountainview, but have seen some spots where there are 10X more. fkw

Sara said...

Mrs. Tankerville(can't think of her first name) had one of the largest non-native plant collections in London in the early 1800's. I think Sir Joseph Banks named this for her. She was also a botanical artist, the only way to record flowers in those times.

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