At this time of the year, we find beautiful indigenous plants flowering all over. Our area’s fynbos is rapidly disappearing due to urbanisation and therefore it is very important to conserve and protect each species. In 2009, Eulophia speciosa was reclassified as declining due to harvesting and habitat loss, especially along the coastlines. It normally grows in bushland, savanna grassland and wooded grassland but also occurs in marshy coastal grassland and high altitude grassland. They therefore occur coastally in the Western Cape through to the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique. As these plants grow in various conditions, one finds them within a few metres of the beaches, in sand dunes and among fynbos grasses or shrubs, being able to withstand exposure to sea salt spray.
Eulophia speciosa (golden harlequin/large yellow eulophia) belongs to the orchid family. It is a terrestrial (grows in soil), perennial (continually occurring) orchid with beautiful, bright yellow flowers and lance-shaped, semi-erect leaves.
They grow from corms (pseudo bulbs). Pseudo bulbs are thickened, bulb-like, fleshy stems which occur underground (subterranean) or are partly aerial (partially exposed). The bulbs have been extensively harvested as a favoured food and medicinal ingredient as it was found in colonies of up to 50 plants.
The striking yellow flowers have red marking on the edges of the side lobes. The plant produces 3-6 leaves that are 15-65 cm in length on a central flowering stem of approximately 150 cm tall. About 30 flowers, measuring 25-45 mm in diameter are borne on these stems. They usually flower between October and January each year. The beautiful yellow flowers have no nectar to attract bees, but when carpenter bees are in search of food, they pollinate the flowers.
These indigenous orchids are protected by law under South African legislation as well as CITE (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) regulations. Plants may not be removed from the wild without a permit and only nursery-grown plants can be cultivated and legally sold.
The species is very adaptable and able to thrive under varying conditions but do not do well in severe frost. It is relatively easy to grow these plants as pot plants or in garden beds, taking into account that coastal forms need higher temperatures and more watering than inland plants.