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With love and passion, everyone can have a nice garden...Elaine Yim

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..... Author unknown.

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Malaysian Flora USDA Zone 11
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Arundina graminifolia (Bamboo Orchid)

Arundina graminifolia is a terrestrial wild orchid that is commonly found in Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo and throughout Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, we can find them growing wild in the road cuts and other disturbed areas along roadsides where there is full sun.

Today, I am so very happy to write about Malaysia's wildflower which also happens to be an orchid!

I have seen the most beautiful version during a recent trip to Genting Highlands in January this year. It is indeed growing wild by the roadside and I just can't take my eyes off it. Neither can I forget the incredible encounter of this gorgeous, exotic beauty.

It reminds me of a song sung by one of my favourite Taiwanese singers, the late Theresa Teng, "Don't Pick The Wildflowers By The Roadside" (路边的野花不要采 - Lu4 bian1 de ye3 hua1 bu2 yao4 cai3). It is a song about a gentleman who is leaving the village. His girlfriend who is sending him off requests him not to forget her. She also reminds him not to fool around with the "sweet young ladies" (the 'wildflowers') whom he may meet in the outside world!

Well, can you pass the test when face to face with such a beauty?

Scientifc name: Arundina graminifolia
Synonyms: Arundina bambusifolia Lindl., Bletia graminifolia D.Don, Arundina speciosa Blume

Common name: Bamboo Orchid, Tapah Weed, Kinta Weed, Bird Orchid
Malay name: Orkid Buluh

Family : Ochidaceae

Native to: Southeast Asia
Distribution: India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, South China, Indonesia,
Introduced to and naturalised in: Pacific Islands, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Panama

David Don (1) first described this species as Bletia graminifolia in Prodromus Florae Nepalensis in 1825, based upon a collection from Nepal. In 1910, Benedict Hochreutiner transferred it to Arundina in the Bulletin of the New York Botanic Garden.

The generic name is derived from the Greek word (1) 'arundo' in reference to the reed-like stems of the plant and the Latin words (3) 'gramineus' (grass-like) and 'folius' (leaf).

In places where there is rapid development, the clearing of jungles and cutting of hill slopes for roads and housing have resulted in bare open slopes with too little topsoil for trees to grow. Within 2 years or so, these barren land will be covered with wild grass, ferns and hardy shrubs like the senduduk (Melasstoma malabathricum). In 5 or 6 years time, there will be colonies of Arundina graminifolia.

In Cameron Highlands, it can be found growing wild by the roadside. Colonies of it has also been spotted along the Malaysian North-South highway, particularly near the Perak stretch. Some of the wild ones may be more than 6 ft tall.

I found many photography 'models' during my recent trip to Genting Highlands. In the above picture, the arundinas were growing wild at slopes along the highway near to the Lim Goh Tong (Genting Highlands founder) Final Resting Place and Memorial building halfway up.

This picture is taken near the entrance of the Seri Malaysia Hotel, Genting Highlands at the Goh Tong Jaya township.

As we know, there are 2 main types of orchids :
a) epiphytic orchids which are grown in pieces of bricks and charcoal, and
b) terrestrial orchids like the arundina which grow and flower on the ground.

I think their pinkish purple flowers look like those of the cattleya orchid that I am growing at home. It has a tubular lip that is of a darker purple than the sepals and petals. The flowers are slightly fragrant and last for about 3 days. It is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds.

According to Wikipedia (2), this species is close to extinction in Singapore, with only 200 of the plant recorded growing naturally there. This problem it seemed, was largely caused by the destruction of its natural habitat, namely the rainforests and mangrove swamps.

There are many more arundinas, some at the Chin Swee Temple and also around the Genting Highlands Outdoor Theme Park areas. The elevation here is 1,760 metres (5,770 ft) above sea level.

The arundina in the picture above is planted beside the statue of Sha Wujing, (translated as Friar Sand or Sandy), a character in the Tang Dynastic Chinese epic, "Journey to the West". He was previously a Great General from heaven who 'folds the curtain' but was banished to the mortal realm for dropping and shattering a crystal goblet belonging to the Heavenly Queen Mother.

The above arundina is planted at the rooftop Secret Garden of 1-Utama. Dr. Francis Ng has successfully grown them there and he also has the dwarf version of the arundina. I shall be posting pictures of the dwarf arundina in my next Wordless Wednesday post.

Some orchid lovers have dug out the arundinas from their natural habitat and transferred them to their own homes in an attempt to grow them. A few are successful where many have failed.

Growing conditions:
I have read that if the conditions (e.g. soil, watering and sun exposure) are right, it can thrive and it will bloom throughout the year. Arundinas prefer well-drained soil, 50-70% lighting, high humidity and good air circulation. The soil should be consistently moist. Do not let it dry out between waterings. Low or poor light conditions will result in failure to bloom.

Here in Malaysia, I have seen this plant for sale at the local nureries and Floria flower show.
In Singapore, Woon Leng Nursery has the plant for sale. Check out this link.
The seeds are also available in Hilo, Hawaii. Check out Dave's Garden here.

(1) - Taxonomy and Nomenclature, check here.
(2) Wikipedia - please click here.
(3) Orchid Species Bulletin published by the Orchid Species Society, which is based in Brisbane, Queensland in September 2009 - please click this webpage.

See also more photos and read about the love affair with this orchid in the Orchid Lovers Forum: Arundina graminifolia, The Tall and Short Varieties. Click here.

My post today is dedicated to Lotusleaf from India, of Garden Tropics blog. I do enjoy visiting the "wild garden in the tropics" and I can certainly "find peace and tranquility" whenever I look at the beautiful pictures of exotic flowers, foliage and wildlife posted there. Hope you enjoy your visit to Garden Tropics too.


  1. Beautiful orchids. We have few terrestial orchids here and none so stunning.

    Isn't it wonderful how bare spaces are soon replanted by nature, with appropriate plants to hold soil and prepare for the next rotation? Here, pine trees reforest bare land, then die off as hardwoods grow over decades of time.

  2. How lucky you are to have such a wildflower!

  3. This is a wonderful write-up!! :)
    At least now, I know it is indeed an orchid!

  4. What a perfect orchid, Autumn. I'd be overjoyed to have such a plant growing in the wild around here, but we don't have anything quite so showy. Lovely.

  5. I was given this orchid by my cousin from Trinidad but it died. I sooo wanted to grow this plant. I think it is too hot here.

  6. What a beautiful and gracious flower that is! I think it is one of the most beautiful blossoms I have ever seen. :-)

  7. Thank you Autumn Belle, for mentioning my name and blog in your post.
    I liked your post of today very much. I wish I could see the beautiful wild orchid Arundina in the wild! Thanks for all the information. Have a happy weekend!

  8. This is something I've yet to see, without the flower , at first glance would have thought the leaves are just lalang!

  9. The flowers are pretty. They look really nice on hilly areas in the wild. And they spread far and wide there. It's a wonderful bamboo orchid :-D

  10. Its magnificent Autumn Belle and so big too.

  11. We have several native terrestrial orchids here in BC . but none have them have the showey flowers like your beautiful specimen.

  12. Fantastic photos and that bamboo orchid is perfectly exquisite.

  13. wow, what a gorgeous wildflower! I love the bamboo foliage, and the flower looks a cross among some of my favorite flowers. What a pretty bloom. (pretty is such a lame word sometimes, but I just immediately thought "pretty" when I saw it.

  14. That is beautiful! I cannot imagine a place where orchids grow wild!! And the colours are so beautiful, too!

  15. Very nice post and the information about Arundina.
    Thanks for the participation.

  16. If I do pass by the roadsides, I don't think I can refrain myself from not collecting the wildflowers, and especially these bamboo orchids - who can resist?

    I have seen many exotic wildplants apart from bamboo orchids growing by the Highway (pitcher plants & aquatic plants)

  17. Autumn Belle, i opened this post this morning and now 5:30pm just realized haven't posted a comment. I am holding you responsible for that...because you introduce the link to orchidforum which i learned for the first time. Of course i was hooked in looking at their photos, posting some replies and so on...though i cannot upload photos which up to now i still don't know. Never mind. I am back and posting this. If you will see my profile there, i put in favorite orchid question: most except ground orchid! Now you will know my preference for Arundina. To qualify this, i choose orchids by the whole plant, not only the flower, that is basically the reason.

  18. Hi Autumn~~ Does this orchid grow wild on the big island of Hawaii? It looks similar to one I used to see and pick as a kid. It was so unusual to see something this beautiful growing among weeds and grasses. A treasure.

  19. This post is wonderful and so very interesting. Lovely photos and great information on a very beautiful orchid.

    I wondered if you would consider being a guest friend and share some of your favorite flower photos with us on the Today’s Flowers home page? Your name would be added to the list for one of the Sunday's posts and we would let you know which date yours would be shown. If you are interested please contact me at:

    Thank you very much and have a great week.

    Denise, one of the Team Members at Today’s Flowers

  20. Autumn Belle: Love to read your post! haha, I also know the song "路边的野花不要采". Actually I am singing it when typing this comment... I saw bamboo orchid for sale in our local nursery last year, the blooming is so pretty, but they are kind of pricy ($30 US dollar each). I probably will not resist it any longer though...

    Oh, by the way, I just bought the ground orchid this past weekend. It is so odd that this was right after I saw your recent ground orchid post. Check out my new post to see what I got :)

  21. Ah what a beauty. Pretty pretty bloom, i love the color. Malaysia does have some lovely tropical flowers specially many orchids.

  22. Hi everyone, thank you very much for your words of encouragement which I appreciate very much.

    To be honest, I have never heard about this orchid before I first saw it at The Secret Garden of 1U. Then as I began to research on it, I was captivated by the words of orchid lovers who seem to love this exotic plant. I was so happy to see so many of it throughout Genting Highlands Resort, from growing wild at the hills right up to the hotel doorstep. The flower looks more gorgeous in real life than in photos.

    Andrea, thanks for holding me responsible. Orchids makes my head spin. Now I can understand why orchid lovers pay a fortune to buy rare orchids from Sabah.

    Grace, in Hawaii, arundina is a non-native plant that has been naturalised there. You can buy this orchid in Hawaii. Yes, it does grow wild in Hawaii. Check out this link:

    Denise, thank you so much for the offer. I'd be extremely delighted to be a guest friend at Today's Flowers. I'll be contacting you soon.

  23. perfect, i love bamboo and orchids

  24. I had a bamboo orchids, white and epiphytic types.Unfortunately,it fell off and leaves and body above the grounds were broken:((
    I put these leaves and body into cup of water to take root again. Does anyone know, could I get root by this way?
    I'm so hopeless.

  25. Sibel, thank you for visiting and welcome to My Nice Garden blog! I am not sure what type of orchids you have - temperate or tropical?

    I have never tried rooting epiphytic orchids in water. Epiphytic orchids are planted in a pot with many holes. Ground orchids are planted in soil on the ground.

    As regards to bamboo orchids, in Malaysia, we have Arundina which is a ground orchid. Arundina can be propagated by keikis that develop along the delicate stems. I have tried rooting a cutting but it doesn't work.

  26. I plant quite a lot of this plant in my garden.In my country it's quite easy to cultivate. Normally a seed pod is formed after flowering n dispersed by the wind. Small seedlings will appear not long after.

    1. Carol, great to know that you can easily cultivate it in your country. We can now buy the starter plants from local nurseries and easily grow them in our home gardens here in Malaysia too.


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