1. Family: Orchidaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Epidendrum L.
      1. Epidendrum radicans Pav. ex Lindl.

        A terrestrial orchid from tropical and subtropical America, Epidendrum radicans is often seen on roadsides or in grassland, clambering over vegetation. Its spectacular bright orange and yellow flowers are appreciated by some orchid enthusiasts. However, the plant is too vigorous for most collections and would soon take up too large a space.

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    A terrestrial orchid from tropical and subtropical America, Epidendrum radicans is often seen on roadsides or in grassland, clambering over vegetation. Its spectacular bright orange and yellow flowers are appreciated by some orchid enthusiasts. However, the plant is too vigorous for most collections and would soon take up too large a space.

    The flowers of E. radicans are superficially similar to those of two common plants (Asclepias curassavicia and Lantana camara) that often grow alongside it. This led some to believe that E. radicans, which does not produce nectar, had evolved as a mimic of the others, which do. However, research by Bierzychudek in 1981 did not support this hypothesis.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Epidendrum radicans is native to southern Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Colombia.

    Widely cultivated as an ornamental, E. radicans has become naturalised in some parts of Africa, Asia and Australia, predominantly on disturbed sites.

    Description

    Overview: Sympodial (producing each new growth from the base of the old growth) orchid with long, cane-like stems, each with a terminal inflorescence.

    Stems & leaves: Stems up to 100 cm long and 1 cm in diameter. Oval, fleshy leaves set at regular intervals along the stem. Conspicuous, white, fleshy, aerial roots emerge from the leaf axils of new growth and aid entanglement with supporting vegetation.

    Flowers: Clusters of 20–30 individual flowers are held at the end of a long stalk, the whole inflorescence being up to 50 cm long.

    Flowers are small and bright orange with a yellow column. They have ovate sepals and petals, and the lip is three-lobed. Each lobe is fringed and usually a lighter orange than the tepals, fading to yellow at the base of the lip.

    The column (fused male and female parts) and lip are fused together, forming a single structure. Flowers are pollinated by butterflies, the proboscis of which can fit into the resulting narrow tube.

    Uses

    Epidendrum radicans is cultivated as an ornamental (as a garden plant in tropical regions and pot-plant elsewhere) and is also grown for cut-flowers.

    It is only rarely used for producing hybrids due to its vigorous nature and because its stems tend not to be self-supporting.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    A collection of Epidendrum radicans seeds is held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

    Cultivation

    Epidendrum radicans should be kept at a temperature of 21–28°C, with a winter minimum of 12°C. It can be grown in an open medium (such as bark chips or charcoal) or as an epiphyte, for example by attaching a cutting to cork bark.

    Due to its vigorous nature it is impractical to grow E. radicans among other plants unless support is provided and stems are regularly tied-in. The growing medium should be kept moist, without allowing the plant to sit in water (which can rot stems and roots). Weak fertiliser should be applied (usually a quarter of the stated dose for general plant fertilisers).

    This species at Kew

    Epidendrum radicans is grown in the behind-the-scenes Tropical Nursery at Kew.

    Dried and alcohol-preserved specimens of Epidendrum radicans are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to visitors from around the world, by appointment. The details of some of these specimens can be seen online in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue.

    Distribution
    Costa Rica, Mexico
    Ecology
    Upland areas, often on roadsides or near disturbed ground.
    Conservation
    Not assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria.
    Hazards

    None known.

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

    Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Nicaragua, Panamá, Venezuela

    Introduced Into:

    Cuba, Puerto Rico

    Common Names

    English
    Ground-rooting epidendrum

    Epidendrum radicans Pav. ex Lindl. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Hartweg [s.n.], Mexico K000079630
    Bateman [s.n.], Mexico K000079631
    Mexico K000079632
    s.coll. [s.n.] 78137.000
    Burns, M., Congo, DRC 20217.000

    First published in Gen. Sp. Orchid. Pl.: 104 (1831)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] (2014) Orchids of the department of Valle del Cauca (Colombia) 2: 1-393. Koeltz Scientific Books
    • [2] (2012) Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192
    • [4] Idárraga-Piedrahita, A., Ortiz, R.D.C., Callejas Posada, R. & Merello, M. (eds.) (2011) Flora de Antioquia: Catálogo de las Plantas Vasculares 2: 1-939. Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín
    • [5] Nelson Sutherland, C.H. (2008) Catálogo de las plantes vasculares de Honduras. Espermatofitas . SERNA/Guaymuras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras
    • [7] (2003) Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica 3: 1-884. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis
    • [8] Govaerts, R. (2003) World Checklist of Monocotyledons Database in ACCESS . The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

    Literature

    • [3] United States Department of Agriculture GRIN (2012). Epidendrum radicans.
    • [6] Hagsater, E. et al. (2005). Orchids of Mexico. Instituto Chinoin, Mexico City.
    • [9] Bierzychudek, P. (1981). Asclepias, Lantana and Epidendrum: a floral mimicry complex? Biotropica 13: 54–58.

    Sources

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
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