What is Arundina?

Alex Tree

Arundina, also known as bamboo orchid, is a species of tropical orchid native to Asia. The stem is slender and can grow up to nearly 7 feet (2 m) in height. The flowers of arundina are light purple and white with a darker purple lip. The flowers are 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) in diameter and bloom from late summer through fall. The leaves of this plant are slim but long, capable of growing up to 7 inches (19 cm).

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Flowers of arundina bloom in clusters of up to 10. The outer whorl of each flower has three sepals, and the inner whorl has three petals. The inner middle petal is wider and longer than the other petals to give pollinators such as birds, butterflies, and bees a place to land. This platform petal is called the lip, or labellum. Once cut, the flowers do not live long and therefore are not often used in floral arrangements.

The name bamboo orchid is derived from the fact that arundina can appear quite similar to bamboo, especially when the flowers are not in bloom. Like bamboo, the bamboo orchid is tall, slim, and has leaves with small sheaths that clasp the stem. Unlike bamboo, however, the bamboo orchid has a solid stem and hollow grass stems. Lastly, most bamboo plants flower very infrequently, sometimes in 120-year intervals, while the bamboo orchid flowers every year.

Bamboo orchid is native to Malaysia, Singapore, and several other Asian countries. Due to the destruction of rain forests, this species of orchid is nearly extinct in Singapore. As of 2010, only several hundred arundina plants grow naturally in the country. The plants that are left are frequently referred to as Tapah weeds. In some parts of Malaysia, however, arundina thrives as one of the most common plants.

Some places in the US, Panama, and Costa Rica have introduced arundina owing to the plant’s popularity. The plant does not have nectar; therefore pollinators visit less often than they do nectar-carrying plants. Without frequent pollination, arundina spreads at a rate similar to native plants. This means the so-called Tapah weeds are safe to introduce, as their chances of becoming an invasive species are slim.

This plant will grow best in warm climates with access to full sun, although it can tolerate partial shade. It will need plenty of water and rich soil. As it is a very resilient orchid, it is commonly grown as an indoor plant.

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