Ludisia discolor

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.

Ludisia discolor

13 responses to “Ludisia discolor”

  1. SandyinZ4

    That picture is simply stunning! Thanks! You made my night!

  2. Meg Bernstein

    I would never have guessed it was an orchid.

  3. annie morgan

    A lovely photo to end my evening, and most interesting commentary.

  4. Eric in SF

    Another entry close to my heart! Thanks, Jackie!
    Here are the flowers of Ludisia discolor:
    Here is a jewel orchid native to North America, Goodyera oblongifolia, photographed at Mount Tamalpais State Park, Marin County, California:
    Here is a jewel orchid native to SE Asia, an Anoectochilus species, photographed in Kinabalu National Park, Sabah, Malaysia, island of Borneo:

  5. George Vaughan

    Meg brings up an interesting thought. What makes this an orchid? I am curious as to why this is different from say a non blooming plant. Thanks Daniel.

  6. harriss

    i have one thriving in the apt, here in paris, rebloomed this year with very little humidity and infrequent watering!

  7. Connie Beliveau

    Why an orchid? Traditionally plants are classified by the structure of the flower (and now genetic analysis can be used to refine relationships between plants). An orchid is a monocot, irregular, with 3 sepals and 3 petals. One of the petals is often modified dramatically (e.g. lady’s slipper). The flowers are bisexual, having stamens as well as a pistil. Botany is fascinating, and this is a beautiful website!!

  8. Bob Wilson

    I have one upstairs that is in bloom now. It blooms every winter. There is no question that it is an orchid. As orchids go, this one is very easy to cultivate and seems to do well in drier air when other orchids would suffer. It is a little sensitive to overwatering, but not too fussy. As a terrestrial orchid, it grows in a standard potting mix rather than the well drained bark that epiphytic orchids require. I would grow this plant just for it’s beautiful foliage, but when it blooms, that is an added bonus.

  9. Jim

    A florist sold me one of these plants about forty years ago, and said that it was an orchid. I said, “Yes, and I`m Jesus Christ”. It turns out that he was correct, and I was mistaken. I have acquired other orchids since, but Ludisia is in a class alone, when it comes to care and frequent blooms.

  10. Eric in SF

    PS. Please PLEASE never take a jewel orchid from the forest to your home. Beyond being a very self-centered and inconsiderate thing to do it’s almost guaranteed the orchid will die. Most jewel orchids have a complex relationship with a fungus and without that fungus the orchid dies.
    Only buy seed-raised nursery grown orchids from a vendor you trust.

  11. elizabeth a airhart

    good tuesday eve
    i way down here on the west coast of
    florida -selby gardens in sarasota
    has this lovely plant and a nice
    information page on growing
    this lovely plant- thank you all
    ecric does keep us on our toes

  12. Bob Wilson

    I just posted some photos of my Jewel orchid at

  13. Terri A.

    Wonderful photograph and such an interesting article 🙂
    Thanks for all your efforts…
    Terri A.
    Here’s some info about caring for your orchid.

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