Greetings to all our Village plant enthusiasts. Welcome to this weeks’ “Bi-weekly Plant of Interest”. We’ll be looking at a member of the orchid family, Orchidaceae, from the widely distributed Habenaria genus – sometimes referred to as “bog orchids”.
Habenaria falcicornis is one of only a small group of wild-flowers that have featured in the bi-weekly Plant of Interest columns without an English common name. One could only surmise that the very reason for this upset is that the plant is really not all that common –at least not to the casual observer, and for that it earns its place as one of our “interesting” plants. It does however have a Sesotho common name: uklamkleshe. This not-so commonly observed wild-flower may be found in marshy or waterlogged grassland areas at altitudes of up to 2900 m. A.S.L., and its range extends from the Western Cape all the way through to Zimbabwe.
The Latin word falcicornis means “sickle shaped”, whilst Habenaria can be broken down into Habena meaning “strap/belt” and aria meaning “possessing”. Together these words refer to the strap like/long spur characteristic for each flower of the genus.
H. falcicornis is relatively hardy, growing to between 220 and 800 mm tall – likely as a result of the environmental conditions prevalent in the area in which it grows. It has a stout light-green leafy stem with long lanceolate shaped leaves of 4 – 20 cm in length. The inflorescence is rather loosely arranged on short stalks. The flowers are white – light green with yellow stamens. The spur is longer than the flower at 20-40 mm which tells it apart from its close relative H. dives, who’s spur measures a mere 8-15 mm. The former species flowers from Jan – March.
This plant would make an attractive garden ornamental and be well suited to gardens that border on marshy or seasonally waterlogged areas in the grassveld regions of S.A.
According to SANBI, H. falcicornis is classified as of Least Concern.