Wild orchids are under threat from poor farming practices, pollution and irresponsible development, yet many are protected in conservation areas. There are different species growing in different provinces.
South Africa is home to an impressive diversity of orchids. Approximately 56 species of orchid occur within Gauteng province, in which Pretoria is the administrative capital. Some of these orchids are common, others so rare they have only been recorded once. The province’s orchids are usually found in Bankenveld grassland common in South Africa, but under threat from developers and pollution. Orchids in Gauteng are terrestrial deciduous orchids, meaning they grow in a similar way to bulbs, lying dormant during the dry, cold time of the year, emerging from the ground in Spring.
A wide range of orchids are found in the province of KwaZulu Natal due to the vast array of topography in the region. There are many terrestrial orchids, but also a range of epiphytic (tree-dwelling) or lithophytic (growing on rocks) orchids and orchids which inhabit the forest floors. 180 terrestrial and 44 epiphytic orchid species have been recorded in the province. The provide also contains a number of fairly large conservation areas that contain a rich floral heritage, including tropical orchid species.
Famous for its many Game Reserves, including the Kruger National Park, most orchids are terrestrial deciduous orchids, though epiphytic orchids are able to survive the harsh African climate and often irregular rainfall and drought due to the climatic conditions in the area. The Verloren Valei Nature Reserve has identified more than 56 species of terrestrial orchids growing in the reserve, with most flowering between December and March.
The Cape Floristic Region in the Western Cape is famous for being the world’s hottest hot-spot of biological diversity. 70 percent of Cape floral species are found here and nowhere else on the planet. This region experiences a very wet and cold winter followed by a dry summer period. 241 native orchid species belonging to the Cape flora have been identified, with more expected to be discovered. 8 species are epiphytic with 233 being terrestrial across 19 genera. The most well-known genera is Disa which includes the most famous species Disa uniflora, also known as Pride of Table Mountain, an iconic red flower. Due to urbanisation, several of the species are now very rare or possibly extinct.
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