The Beautiful Polystachya (Polystachya bella)

The Beautiful Polystachya Polystachya bella in bloom.

Who’d have thought that we would be able to see orchids from the other side of the world in our very own Cloud Forest! Native to Kenya, in East Africa, this cool-growing epiphyte is naturally found in rainforests at elevations of 1800 - 1950m.

Its genus name is derived from the Greek words polys which means ‘many,’ and stachys which means ‘ear of grain’. Thus, you’d see that the species in this genus have many little flowers on an inflorescence. With its bright and cheery, albeit small flowers, it's no wonder that its species name is bella, which means ‘beautiful’ in Latin. In addition to having brightly-coloured flowers, Polystachya bella is also scented! It has a long-lasting fragrance with a scent similar to that of primrose.

Did you notice its flowers are non-resupinate, meaning that they are “right side up,” with their fancy lip petal on top of the flower? This is different from most orchids, including the familiar dendrobiums, vandas, and phalaenopsis, which are resupinate or upside-down. Their flower stems (pedicels) twist 180° before opening, so the lip is at the bottom of the flower! Did you know that this species was once featured in Scentsational Orchids, one of our past orchid displays in the Cloud Forest?

Now, it has found its permanent home in Lost World, the peak of the Cloud Forest mountain. Come and check it out!

Close-up of Polystachya bella. Do you notice anything unusual about the flowers? Close-up of Polystachya bella. Do you notice anything unusual about the flowers?

Written by: Ng Yu Qin, Horticulturist, Research and Horticulture

Yu Qin is always looking for ways to pick up new skills and put them to use. She spends most of her time with orchids and enjoys learning something new about them every day!

This article is part of our What's Blooming series.