Malayan Ground Orchid

Spathoglottis plicata

Spathoglottis plicata is known commonly as the Malayan Ground Orchid and the Philippine Ground Orchid. It grows natively in southeast Asia and surrounding islands. One of the most common places to see it is in the islands of Hawaii. It was introduced to the islands sometime before 1929 by Harold Lyon, the head of what eventually became the Lyon Arboretum (in Manoa Valley, just behind Waikiki).

Today the Malayan Ground Orchid is one of the most common orchids you’ll see in the Hawaiian Islands. It can be seen as you hike through wetter streams and along the edge of waterfalls on all the islands. Its purple flowers will quickly stop a hiker as few Hawaiian forests don’t generally have many showy flowers in bloom.

Diversity of Orchids in Hawaii

The casual tourist might assume that Hawaii is a mecca of wild orchids. Yet there were only a couple native orchids found here. This isn’t totally unfathomable, however, when you take into account the fact that most orchids form tight relationships with particular insect pollinators. For an orchid to successfully colonize the islands it would need a successful seed to germinate here in addition to having its insect pollinator. Thus, the only species to have made it here were orchids with a generalized insect pollinator. While the Malayan Ground Orchid is not one of Hawaii’s native species, it is one of the most common.

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Written by Rob Nelson

Rob is an ecologist from the University of Hawaii. He is the co-creator and director of Untamed Science. His goal is to create videos and content that are entertaining, accurate, and educational. When he's not making science content, he races whitewater kayaks and works on Stone Age Man.

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