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Beach-dwelling Orchid Species


By Jim Cootes and Ronny Boos

One does not usually go to the beach to search for orchids, but in some less-populated areas there are quite a number of orchid species to be found, in this most unusual habitat.

Just recently a surprising announcement was made, that 534 new islands have been discovered in the Philippine archipelago and are about to be mapped out. Hopefully these new islands will uncover new (or lost) species. The usual habitat on which orchids can be found at the beach are on the trunks and branches of mangrove trees, and other tree species which prosper in this habitat, on limestone rocks, or even in the sandy soil itself.

All the species mentioned here can be readily grown in the lowlands, without too much difficulties. We want to share a few anecdotes to give our readers further inspiration to actually “watch your step” while being leisurely on the beach, or simply encourage beach goers to explore (safely!) these habitats.

  • Photo by Ronny Boos

  • Eulophia graminea (Ronny Boos)

  • Eulophia graminea (Ronny Boos)

  • Eulophia graminea (Ronny Boos)

  • Phalaenopsis equestris (Jim Cootes)

  • Vandopsis lissochiloides (Ronny Boos)

    Phalaenopsis equestris

    On a typical beach outing, Ronny Boos and friends, including seafood, lechon and cold drinks (beer), at some point needed to urinate and simply looked for some huge boulders nearby. Whilst standing there minding his own business, he spotted a few flowering plants of Phalaenopsis equestris growing on very sharp lime stone boulders right above his head! Totally surprised and astonished Ronny quickly scouted around and saw a few terrestrial orchid species, too. Sadly, and as one would expect, he had no camera with him, but that extremely nice experience left a most memorable imprint.

    Eulophia graminea

    The entire Filipino family of Ronny Boos was out at a popular beach resort. Ronny wanted to check on a couple of orchid species, which he had spotted several years back, before super typhoon Yolanda hit the islands of Samar and Leyte so badly. He took some nice pictures of the rock formations, packing his camera away and only then realizing that he was standing mere inches away from a large flowering clump of Eulophia graminea. All that, 5 metres away from the shore and right in the sand! It was his second encounter with this beautiful species and not in his wildest dreams did he ever expect it to find it there. He walked on and surprisingly found almost the same species of orchids, even on the same spots, as he had seen before. There was a Flickingeria sp., Trichoglottis geminata and Cymbidium finlaysonianum. He couldn’t find Aporum merrillii, Dendrobium crumenatum or Dendrobium blumei anymore but that is not to say that they have vanished.

    Vandopsis lissochiloides

    Many years back, Jim Cootes was in Davao City and he went to a local beach where he had the wonderful opportunity to see plants of Vandopsis lissochiloides growing in the wild. Sadly, he did not have a camera at that time. Vandopsis lissochiloides is a very large growing plant, with thick leathery leaves at least 60 cm long. The upright inflorescences can be as high as 2 metres. The large flowers, which are about 7 cm in diameter, are most spectacular. The front of the flower is yellow, heavily spotted with red, with the back of the flower being bright purple. Some plants grow so close to the sea, that at high tide plants can be sprayed with sea water, if the weather becomes windy.

    We also note that we have seen pictures, and have some very reliable reports from impeccable sources, of Paphiopedilum ciliolare, Renanthera storiei, a Grammatophyllum species, Vanda lamellata, a Nervilia sp., and a Crepidium sp. etc., growing very near the sea in quite remarkable habitats on some very popular islands. All good signs that not all hope is lost.

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