Thrixspermum platystachys – Native Orchid

Thrixspermum platystachys

Thrixspermum platystachys

Thrixspermum (thrix-SPERM-um) Loureiro 1790 platystachys (plat-ee-STACK-iss) (F.M. Bailey) Schlechter 1911.

From the Greek thrix – hair; sperma – seed. platystachys = from the Greek platys – flat; stachys – an ear of corn; alluding to the shape of the flower spike of this species.

Family name: Orchidaceae.

Other Names: Sarcochilus platystachys.

This is an unusual epiphytic orchid of tropical lowland rainforest and mangrove trees. The plants tend to be pendulous with thick glossy-green leaves but has few attached roots. They form, in stead a tangle of roots, leaves and stems that hang from a trunk or branch.

Thrixspermum platystachys - flower

Thrixspermum platystachys - flower

They appear to favour well lit situations.

Here at Wildwings and Swampy Things Nature Refuge we have several plants that have attached themselves to some of our tropical fruit trees in our orchard. They seem happiest on rough bark ( Rambutan – Nephelium lappaceum) or decayed/ dead branches( Soursop – Annona muricata).

The plants produce odd looking flowering spikes which are persistant on the plant all year.

With flowering possible at any time.

I have patiently waited for one to flower so that I could photograph the flowers but seemed to miss them, only to find the shrivelled spent flowers on the ground below the plant.

That is until this week when I spotted one flowering while I was mowing. The flowers you see only last one day so you have to be constantly checking them.

Ironically when I had grabbed the camera to get a photo I discovered that two separate plants on different trees were flowering on the same day. Some weather event may well have encouraged them to action?

Unfortunately we have been having drizzly rain so the flowers were not at their best.

Thrixspermum platystachys - Flower spike.

Thrixspermum platystachys - Flower spike.

I guess I will have to continue to watch and wait in the hope that I can get a better flower.

The fruiting body is also somewhat unusual in that they form a long bean-like pod (to 20cm) that protrude from the flower spike.

I am yet to see a dry one split and shed its millions of seeds.

3 responses to “Thrixspermum platystachys – Native Orchid

  1. I noticed the long pods on the top image. I wondered of they are related to the Vanilla Orchid?
    Strange flowers, but then again most Orchids look odd, one way or another.

  2. Hi Denis, While I agree that the pods are very Vanilla bean-like in appearance according to Dockrill they are quite unrelated. Vanilla Bean orchids belong in a rather large subfamily Epidendroideae, which includes well known Genus such as Vanilla, Malaxis, Cymbidium and Vanda. Where as Thrixspermum are grouped with Schystotylus, Trichglottis, Pomaticalpa and Micropera. You are absolutely right about the strangeness of many orchid flowers. They do however look a bit better when in dryer sunny weather. I only hope that I can catch them!

  3. Thanks for that info. Wow – such detail.
    Great to know that you are able to grow them at your place, anyway.


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