Mystery Orchid Case Solved

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A few months ago, my wife and I decided to remodel our front yard. This meant pulling out a number of overgrown shrubs, eliminating some trees and reshaping some flower beds.

After the work was done, we left the flowerbeds bare for a while thinking about what landscaping we wanted to take over. During this time, plants with rather strange shapes have grown. It was one of the most interesting plants I have ever seen. In fact, the plant grew in five different places on our newly manicured beds. These plants had been hidden away for years, hidden under heavy overgrown shrubs.

The plants sprouted individual stems from what literally looked like a large onion bulb. Each stem had what appeared to be very small orchids. Outside of my vegetable garden, I’m a bit out of my element so I had no idea what I was looking at. It was a real mystery.
I don’t know if you used iNaturalist’s Seek app but I pulled out my phone, pointed it in the direction of the plant, and the plant was immediately identified as Eulophia graminea, commonly known as the Chinese crown orchid, not to be confused with Chinese ground orchids. Mystery solved!

I mentioned that the plant grows from an onion-like bulb. Officially, it is called a pseudobulb which is common to most local orchids. “Most orchids grown in homes originate from pseudobulbs, which are pod-like structures that grow directly under the leaves. These pods contain water and food, much like the bulbs underground, and the function of the pseudobulbs is to help keep the plant healthy during periods of bad weather in its natural environment.

Orchids with pseudobulb formation can be propagated relatively easily to increase your orchid collection for free” (https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/orchids/pseudobulb-in-orchids.htm).

Unfortunately, while I find the crown orchid a fascinating and rather unique addition to our landscape, the crown orchid is listed as invasive in Texas. (See https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/427629-Eulophia-graminea and https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/texas-invasive-species-bioblitz-2020). As such, we must do our part and eliminate the spread of invasive species when they are identified.

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