A botanical immigrant


Zeuxine strateumatica, the lawn orchid, is native to a wide swath of Asia from Iran to New Guinea, and it was accidentally introduced into North America in the late 1920s, when it arrived as a contaminant in grass seed.  It is now widespread in central and southern Florida and has extended its range along the gulf coast to Texas.  This plant comes from my parents’ garden in Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston, indicating that it has spread beyond the two Houston area counties–Harris County and Montgomery County–for which the USDA Natural Resources Conservation service has records.

The plants in my parents’ garden seem to have arrived as seed in a load of mulch, and despite the common name, they grow as weeds in my mother’s flowerbeds, not in the lawn.  While visiting over the Christmas holiday, I collected a few specimens that were slated to be ignominiously yanked out next time the bed was weeded.  I thought they might be interesting to display on the show table at the next Triangle Orchid Society meeting, but by no stretch of the imagination can this be considered a horticulturally desirable species.  The flowers are barely visible without magnification, and the plants are reported to be short-lived.

I’ll keep them around, just to see if I can grow them, but I’m not worried about them becoming invasive here.  The species doesn’t seem to have established itself any further north than southern Georgia, and outside Florida all records are from coastal counties.  Piedmont winters are surely too cold (for now).

One thought on “A botanical immigrant

  1. With all the aggressively naturalized exotic species that interfere with ecosystems in so many regions, one might think that society would now be more careful in regard to the potential for inadvertently importing more exotic species. Yet, we can purchase just about anything on EBay.

    Liked by 1 person

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