Thanks again to Jackie Chambers for today’s photograph and write-up — appreciated as always! Jackie writes:
A terrestrial orchid, Ludisia discolor is native to the forest floors of southeastern Asia, extending from southern China, into Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Exquisite foliage colour is not something most people would associate with orchids. However, it is the most striking feature of Ludisia discolor. The elliptical shaped leaves are between 5-8cm long, and are dark reddish-green with almost metallic copper veination, which gives the leaves an almost sparkling effect.
This sparking quality to the foliage, has given rise to the common name jewel orchid. Note that the common name jewel orchid may also refer to two other orchid genera with attractive foliage, Macodes and Anoectochilus.
While Ludisia discolor is known for its foliage, it does produce fragrant, white flowers with yellow markings. The flower stalks are about 30cm long, and rise above the low growing foliage.
Given its habitat of forest floors in steamy places, it is no surprise that it prefers growing conditions with high humidity, warm temperature and low light levels. These requirements make it perfect for terrariums. A number of varieties are commercially available.
You may find this plant under the name Haemaria discolor. The genus name Ludisia was established in 1825, however later that same year it was named Haemaria by another botanist. Haemaria is derived from the Greek haima, meaning “blood” (a reference to the dark red foliage), while the species name discolor means “of two different, usually distinct colours”.
However apt the name Haemaria discolor might be, the name Ludisia discolor was published first — and according to the rules of taxonomy, the first validly published name takes priority. It is interesting that this discrepancy was not clarified until the 1970s in a publication of the correction in the Kew Bulletin. Australia’s Virtual Herbarium provides a good introduction to the rules of naming plants.