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Useful Tropical Plants

Microtis unifolia

(G.Forst.) Rchb.f.

Orchidaceae

+ Synonyms

Epipactis porrifolia Sw.

Microtis aemula Schltr.

Microtis banksii A.Cunn. ex Hook.

Microtis benthamiana Rchb.f.

Microtis bipulvinaris Nicholls

Microtis formosana Schltr. ex Masam.

Microtis frutetorum Schltdl.

Microtis holmesii Nicholls

Microtis javanica Rchb.f.

Microtis longifolia Colenso

Microtis papillosa Colenso

Microtis parviflora R.Br.

Microtis porrifolia (Sw.) R.Br.

Microtis pulchella Lindl.

Microtis viridis F.Muell.

Ophrys unifolia G.Forst.

Common Name: Onion-Leaf Orchis

Microtis unifolia
Growing plant in native habitat
Photograph by: Jon Sullivan
Creative Commons License
Microtis unifolia Microtis unifolia Microtis unifolia Microtis unifolia

General Information

Onion-leaf orchis is a tuberous, terrestrial orchid growing 15 - 50cm tall.
The small tuber has been gathered from the wild for use as emergency food.

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References

44
Title
Flora of New Zealand.
Publication
 
Author
Allan. H. H.
Website
http://floraseries.landcareresearch.co.nz/pages/Book.aspx?fileName=Flora%201.xml
Publisher
Government Printer, Wellington.
Year
1961
ISBN
-
Description
The standard work, in 5 volumes though only the first two are of interest to the plant project. Very good on habitats. There is also an on-line version.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
,
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.

Range

E. Asia - from China, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines to southern Australia, New Zealand and the western Pacific.

Habitat

Open places such as on banks and in poor pastures in North, South, Stewart and Chatham Islands[
44
Title
Flora of New Zealand.
Publication
 
Author
Allan. H. H.
Website
http://floraseries.landcareresearch.co.nz/pages/Book.aspx?fileName=Flora%201.xml
Publisher
Government Printer, Wellington.
Year
1961
ISBN
-
Description
The standard work, in 5 volumes though only the first two are of interest to the plant project. Very good on habitats. There is also an on-line version.
].
Grassy slopes, moist sunny meadows at elevations up to 2,000 metres in tropical areas[
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *
HabitPerennial
Height0.30 m
PollinatorsInsects
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

Found growing at low elevations in warm temperate areas, through the subtropics to higher elevations in the tropics.

The flowers have a powerful if sickly scent[
245
Title
Scented Flora of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Genders. R.
Publisher
Robert Hale. London.
Year
1994
ISBN
0-7090-5440-8
Description
An excellent, comprehensive book on scented plants giving a few other plant uses and brief cultivation details. There are no illustrations.
].
Orchids are, in general, shallow-rooting plants of well-drained low-fertility soils. Their symbiotic relationship with a fungus in the soil allows them to obtain sufficient nutrients and be able to compete successfully with other plants. They are very sensitive to the addition of fertilizers or fungicides since these can harm the symbiotic fungus and thus kill the orchid[
230
Title
Hardy Orchids. Orchids for the Garden and Frost-free Greenhouse.
Publication
 
Author
Cribb. P. & Bailes. C.
Publisher
Christopher Helm. London.
Year
1989
ISBN
0 7470 0416 1
Description
An excellent book looking at the orchids that can be grown outdoors in temperate climates and giving lots of information on how to grow them. Very lttle information on their uses.
].

Edible Uses

Root[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
61
Title
A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Publication
 
Author
Usher. G.
Publisher
Constable
Year
1974
ISBN
0094579202
Description
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
,
153
Title
Economic Native Plants of New Zealand.
Publication
 
Author
Brooker. S. G., Cambie. R. C. and Cooper. R. C.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1991
ISBN
0-19-558229-2
Description
An interesting and readable book on the useful plants of New Zealand.
,
173
Title
Native Edible Plants of New Zealand.
Publication
 
Author
Crowe. A.
Publisher
Hodder and Stoughton
Year
1990
ISBN
0-340-508302
Description
A very well written and illustrated book based on the authors own experiments with living on a native diet.
]. No more details are given. The tuber is small, around 4 - 7 x 3 - 6mm[
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.
].

Medicinal

None known

Other Uses

None known

Propagation

Seed - surface sow, preferably as soon as it is ripe, in the greenhouse and do not allow the compost to dry out. The seed of this species is extremely simple, it has a minute embryo surrounded by a single layer of protective cells. It contains very little food reserves and depends upon a symbiotic relationship with a species of soil-dwelling fungus. The fungal hyphae invade the seed and enter the cells of the embryo. The orchid soon begins to digest the fungal tissue and this acts as a food supply for the plant until it is able to obtain nutrients from decaying material in the soil[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. It is best to use some of the soil that is growing around established plants in order to introduce the fungus, or to sow the seed around a plant of the same species and allow the seedlings to grow on until they are large enough to move.

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