Last updated

Urn orchid
Bletilla striata 1.jpg
Bletilla striata
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Tribe: Arethuseae
Subtribe: Coelogyninae
Genus: Bletilla
Type species
Bletilla striata
Synonyms [1]
  • JimensiaRaf.
  • PolytomaLour. ex B.A.Gomes

Bletilla, common name urn orchid, is a temperate, terrestrial genus of orchids containing five currently recognized species distributed through China, Japan, Taiwan, south to Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. [1] [2] The name is actually a diminutive of Bletia because of the resemblance between the two genera even though Bletia is a New World genus. The genera Jimensia Raf. and Polytoma Lour. ex Gomes  [ es ] are generally included into Bletilla. This genus is abbreviated Ble in trade journals.


The pseudobulbs resemble spreading corms which usually sit at ground level. Each pseudobulb generally bears several pleated leaves around 40 cm long. The racemes of flowers emerge from the center of the years new growth before it is mature, during spring and early summer. The flowers vary in color from white to purple, and all species have four pollinia. The tubers resemble a horn or claw. They are grayish-white or yellowish-white in appearance, with concentric rings and brown rootlets. They have a hard texture and do not break easily.

Bletilla striata flower Bletilla striata2.jpg
Bletilla striata flower
Bletilla ochracea flower Bletilla ochracea 3.jpg
Bletilla ochracea flower


Bletilla species are generally hardy, though some need protection from severely cold frost. It is better to keep them in pots of well-drained media so that water does not sit around the roots during winter when the plants are not actively growing. They should also be watered sparingly at the start of the growing season as the new shoots emerge, as new roots often do not follow for around four weeks afterwards.

Bletilla striata is the most common form found in the nursery trade and is often labeled simply as 'Hardy Orchid' or 'Chinese Ground Orchid' and is quite inexpensive. This beautiful and hardy deciduous orchid has the distinction of being one of the first orchids in cultivation in England dating from around 1794[ citation needed ]. The very flat knob-like tuberous root system is typically sympodial, expansive and each shoot is of annual duration only. On established plants, almost every new growth shoot has a flower spike before leaves fully develop. Each shoot can have up to fourteen beautiful rose-mauve flowers with a ruffled lip about 30mm diameter, scentless and looking something like a miniature Cattleya orchid flower. An established clump can have literally dozens of flower spikes flowering in the late Spring and the clumps only increase in beauty with time. They rarely exceed two feet in height.

The flowers and leaves are at the mercy of late frosts, which are to be avoided if at all possible with coverings of a sheet or newspapers. Resist the temptation to remove the mulch layer even if the new growths are raising up the mulch due to an early Spring, unless no more frosts are likely. Unlike most tropical orchids, B. striata has attractive foliage even when not flowering. The pleated, tapered foliage looks very similar to the juvenile leaves of many palm species. A well established clump of these in flower is quite beautiful and they are surprisingly hardy even into USDA Zone 5 with a heavy mulch. They easily succeed in USDA Zone 6 with only a moderate mulch of straw or leaves. These hardiness ratings only apply to plants in the ground with the idea of preventing the actual root system from being frozen. If potted, they should be placed in a frost-free location if winter temperatures go below freezing. The plant is generally considered hardy without a mulch if minimum winter temperatures do not go below 25 °F.

They have a great reputation of being the absolute easiest orchid for a beginner to grow. Unlike most tropical epiphytic orchids, this plant comes from somewhat temperate zones and grows in soil rather than on trees and require no extraordinary care to grow successfully. They prefer well drained evenly moist soils that are high in organic material and that never dry out nor remain sodden. They are sympodial growers and will form handsome clumps in only a few years. Other species and hybrids are occasionally available, the most common being B. striata var. alba, a white variation of the rose-mauve B. striata. Bletilla ochracea, a somewhat rare species from China has unusual flowers with yellow sepals and petals with a red-marked white lip and is becoming more available to collectors. Bletilla Penway Dragon (formosana × szetschuaunica) appears to be one of the exciting new hybrid grex if it becomes more available.

Flower of B. striata Bletilla striata4.jpg
Flower of B. striata


Currently recognized species as of May 2014: [1] [2]

Related Research Articles

Hornbeam genus of plants

Hornbeams are hardwood trees in the flowering plant genus Carpinus in the birch family Betulaceae. The 30–40 species occur across much of the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

<i>Indocalamus</i> genus of plants

Indocalamus is a genus of about 35 species of flowering plants in the grass family Poaceae, native to China, Vietnam and Japan. They are quite small evergreen bamboos normally up to 2 m (6.6 ft) in height, initially forming clumps and then spreading to form larger thickets. They have thick, glossy leaves. Ruo leaves use to wrap foods like rice during dragon boat festival, originate in fujian refer to Indocalamus longiauritusoriginally but now are nonspecific to just about any leaf wrap.

<i>Adenophora</i> genus of plants

Adenophora is a genus of flowering plants in the family Campanulaceae, the bellflowers. Plants of this genus are known commonly as ladybells. Most are native to eastern Asia, with a few in Europe. Many are endemic to either China or Siberia.

<i>Osmanthus</i> genus of plants

Osmanthus is a genus of about 30 species of flowering plants in the family Oleaceae. Most of the species are native to eastern Asia with a few species from the Caucasus, New Caledonia and Sumatra.

<i>Triadica</i> genus of plants

Triadica is a plant genus of the family Euphorbiaceae first described as a genus in 1790. It is native to eastern southeastern, and southern Asia.

  1. Triadica cochinchinensisLour. - China, Cambodia, Assam, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Himalayas of E + N India, Borneo, Sulawesi, Sumatra, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam
  2. Triadica rotundifolia(Hemsl.) Esser - Guangdong
  3. Triadica sebifera(L.) Small - China, Japan; naturalized in Himalayas, Cuba, Puerto Rico, SE + SC USA, Sacramento Valley in N California
<i>Maianthemum</i> genus of plants

Maianthemum is a genus of rhizomatous, herbaceous, perennial flowering plants, native to the understory of woodlands. It is widespread across much of North America, Europe and Asia.

<i>Paris</i> (plant) genus of plants

Paris is a genus of flowering plants described by Linnaeus in 1753. It is widespread across Europe and Asia, with a center of diversity in China.

<i>Ophiopogon</i> genus of plants

Ophiopogon (lilyturf) is a genus of evergreen perennial plants native to warm temperate to tropical east, southeast, and south Asia. Despite their grasslike appearance, they are not closely related to the true grasses Poaceae. The name of the genus is derived from Greek Όφις ophis, "snake", and πόγὦν pogon, "beard", most probably referring to its leaves and tufted growth. In the APG III classification system, it is placed in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Nolinoideae. Like many lilioid monocots, it was formerly classified in the Liliaceae.

<i>Aletris</i> genus of plants

Aletris, the colicroot, colicweed, crow corn, or unicorn root, is a genus of flowering plants in the Nartheciaceae family, native to North America and to eastern and southeastern Asia, especially China. It was used as a component in Lydia Pinkham's original Vegetable Compound.

<i>Helwingia</i> genus of plants

The genus Helwingia consists of shrubs or rarely small trees native to eastern Asia, the Himalayas, and northern Indochina. It is the only genus in the family Helwingiaceae.

<i>Linnaea</i> Genus of flowering plants in the honeysuckle family Caprifoliaceae

Linnaea is a plant genus in the family Caprifoliaceae. Until 2013, the genus included a single species, Linnaea borealis. In 2013, on the basis of molecular phylogenetic evidence, the genus was expanded to include species formerly placed in Abelia, Diabelia, Dipelta, Kolkwitzia and Vesalea. However, this is rejected by the majority of subsequent scientific literature and flora.

<i>Neottia</i> genus of plants in the family Orchidaceae

Neottia is a genus of orchids. The genus now includes the former genus Listera, commonly known as twayblades referring to the single pair of opposite leaves at the base of the flowering stem. The genus is native to temperate, subarctic and arctic regions across most of Europe, northern Asia, and North America, with a few species extending into subtropical regions in the Mediterranean, Indochina, the southeastern United States, etc.

<i>Pholidota</i> (plant) genus of plants

Pholidota, commonly known as rattlesnake orchids, is a genus of flowering plants from the orchid family, Orchidaceae. Plants in this genus are clump-forming epiphytes or lithophytes with pseudobulbs, each with a single large leaf and a large number of small, whitish flowers arranged in two ranks along a thin, wiry flowering stem that emerges from the top of the pseudobulb. There are about thirty five species native to areas from tropical and subtropical Asia to the southwestern Pacific.

<i>Bletilla ochracea</i> Species of orchid

Bletilla ochracea, commonly known as Chinese butterfly orchid, is a species of orchid native to Vietnam and China.

<i>Bletilla striata</i> Species of orchid

Bletilla striata, known as hyacinth orchid or Chinese ground orchid, is a species of flowering plant in the orchid family Orchidaceae, native to Japan, Korea, Myanmar (Burma), and China. It is most commonly found growing in clumps alongside grassy slopes with sandy soil.

<i>Oreorchis</i> genus of plants

Oreorchis is a genus of flowering plants from the orchid family, Orchidaceae. It is native to Asia. Species currently accepted as of June 2014:

  1. Oreorchis angustataL.O.Williams ex N.Pearce & P.J.Cribb - Sichuan, Yunnan
  2. Oreorchis aurantiacaP.J.Cribb & N.Pearce - Myanmar
  3. Oreorchis bilamellataFukuy. - Taiwan
  4. Oreorchis discigeraW.W.Sm. - Myanmar
  5. Oreorchis erythrochryseaHand.-Mazz. - Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan
  6. Oreorchis fargesiiFinet - Fujian, Gansu, Hubei, Hunan, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, Yunnan, Zhejiang
  7. Oreorchis foliosa(Lindl.) Lindl. - India, Assam, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Tibet, Sichuan, Taiwan, Yunnan
  8. Oreorchis itoana(F.Maek.) Perner - Honshu
  9. Oreorchis micranthaLindl. - Tibet, Taiwan, Assam, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar
  10. Oreorchis nanaSchltr. - Sichuan, Yunnan, Hubei
  11. Oreorchis nepalensisN.Pearce & P.J.Cribb - Nepal, Tibet
  12. Oreorchis oliganthaSchltr. - Gansu, Sichuan, Tibet, Yunnan
  13. Oreorchis parvulaSchltr. - Sichuan, Yunnan
  14. Oreorchis patens(Lindl.) Lindl. - Japan, Korea, Russian Far East, China
  15. Oreorchis porphyranthesTuyama - Nepal
  16. Oreorchis sanguinea(N.Pearce & P.J.Cribb) N.Pearce & P.J.Cribb - Bhutan
<i>Cardiocrinum giganteum</i> species of plant

Cardiocrinum giganteum, the giant Himalayan lily, is the largest species of any of the lily plants, growing up to 3.5 metres high. It is found in the Himalayas, China and Myanmar (Burma).

<i>Dysosma</i> A genus of flowering plants belonging to the barberry family

Dysosma is a group of herbaceous perennials in the Berberidaceae or barberry family described as a genus in 1928. It is native to China and Indochina.

<i>Isodon</i> genus of plants

Isodon is a group of flowering plants in the family Lamiaceae described as a genus in 1840. It is native to tropical and subtropical parts of the Old World, primarily Asia but two species are from Africa. Many of the species are endemic to China.

Rhomboda, commonly known as velvet jewel orchids, is a genus of about twenty species of flowering plants in the orchid family Orchidaceae. Plants in this genus are mostly terrestrial herbs with a fleshy, creeping rhizome and a loose rosette of green to maroon coloured leaves. Small resupinate or partly resupinate, dull coloured flowers are borne on a hairy flowering stem. The dorsal sepal and petals overlap and form a hood over the column and there is a deep pouch at the base of the labellum. They are found in tropical regions from northern India through Southeast Asia, China, Japan to Australia and some Pacific Islands.