Hyacinth Orchid (Bletilla striata )

Botanical Name : Bletilla striata
Family : Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Genus : Bletilla
Synonyms : Bletia hyacinthina – (Sm.)R.Br.
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales
Tribe: Arethuseae
Subtribe: Coelogyninae
Alliance: Calanthe

Habitat :Bletilla striata is native to  E. Asia – China, Japan.  Grassy slopes in foothills, C. and S. Japan.It  grows  In sandy soils amongst grassy patches on cool mountain slopes in China. Margins of woods and thickets.Woodland Garden; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge;

Description:
Bletilla is a temperate, terrestrial genus of orchids containing 9 species distributed through China, Japan and Taiwan and Vietnam. The name is actually a diminutive of Bletia because of the resemblance between the two genera even though Bletia is a New World genus. The genera Jimensia Raf. and Polytoma Lour. ex Gomes are generally included into Bletilla. This genus is abbreviated Ble in trade journals.

Bletilla striata is the most common form found in the nursery trade and is often labeled simply as ‘Hardy Orchid’ or ‘Chinese Ground Orchid’ and is quite inexpensive. This beautiful and hardy deciduous orchid has the distinction of being one of the first orchids in cultivation in England dating from around 1794. The very flat knob-like tuberous root system is typically sympodial, expansive and each shoot is of annual duration only. On established plants, almost every new growth shoot has a flower spike before leaves fully develop. Each shoot can have up to fourteen beautiful rose-mauve flowers with a ruffled lip about 30mm diameter, scentless and looking something like a miniature Cattleya orchid flower. An established clump can have literally dozens of flower spikes flowering in the late Spring and the clumps only increase in beauty with time. They rarely exceed two feet in height.

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Bulb growing to 0.4m by 0.25m.  The flowers and leaves are at the mercy of late frosts, which are to be avoided if at all possible with coverings of a sheet or newspapers. Resist the temptation to remove the mulch layer even if the new growths are raising up the mulch due to an early Spring, unless no more frosts are likely. Unlike most tropical orchids, B. striata has attractive foliage even when not flowering. The pleated, tapered foliage looks very similar to the juvenile leaves of many palm species. A well established clump of these in flower is quite beautiful and they are surprisingly hardy even into USDA Zone 5 with a heavy mulch. They easily succeed in USDA Zone 6 with only a moderate mulch of straw or leaves. These hardiness ratings only apply to plants in the ground with the idea of preventing the actual root system from being frozen. If potted, they should be placed in a frost-free location if winter temperatures go below freezing. The plant is generally considered hardy without a mulch if minimum winter temperatures do not go below 25°F.

It is in flower from May to June. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.
The plant prefers medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland). It requires moist soil.

List of species:-
*Bletilla chartacea

*Bletilla cotoensis

*Bletilla foliosa

*Bletilla japonica

*Bletilla morrisonicola

*Bletilla ochracea

*Bletilla scopulorum

*Bletilla sinensis

*Bletilla striata

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*Bletilla szetschuanica

*Bletilla yunnanensis

Cultivation :
Requires a friable, damp but well-drained soil enriched with leafmold. Dislikes wet soils[200]. Requires shade from the midday sun. Plants prefer a sheltered position in light shade, also succeeding in full sun in humus-rich soils. Plants are hardy in favoured localities in Britain but they usually require greenhouse protection in this country. Plants have grown well at Kew Botanical gardens, where they have formed large colonies. Apply a good organic mulch in the late autumn or lift the bulbs and store them dry in a frost free place. Plant out in spring and only just cover the bulb. This species is cultivated in China as a medicinal plant. Grows well with ferns in a woodland setting. 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. Plant the tubers no more than 5cm deep in the soil.

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. 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. Division in autumn. Make sure that you keep plenty of soil with each plant. It is also said to be possible to transplant orchids after they have flowered but whilst they are still in leaf. Division is best carried out in the spring. Each division should have a leading point and two, or preferably three, pseudobulbs/joints of the rhizome. More propagating material can be obtained by cutting halfway through the rhizome during the previous growing season at the point where you wish to divide. This will stimulate the production of growth buds at the point of division.

Edible Uses
None known

Medicinal Actions & Uses
Antibacterial; Antiinflammatory; Antiphlogistic; Demulcent; Pectoral; Skin; Styptic; Vulnerary.

The hyacinth orchid is an important wound herb in China, where it has been used medicinally for over 1,500 years. The root (actually a pseudobulb) is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiphlogistic, demulcent, pectoral, skin, styptic and vulnerary. It is taken internally in the treatment of haemorrhages of the stomach or lungs, uterine bleeding and nose bleeds. It is particularly effective against the endotoxin produced by Haemophilus pertusis in whooping cough[176]. Externally, it is mixed with sesame oil and applied as a poultice to burns, cuts, abscesses and sores[238]. The pseudobulbs are harvested when the plant is dormant and are dried for use in decoctions and powders.

Bletilla is used in Herbal Medicine (bai ji). When employed in herbal remedies, the tuber is peeled and dried in the sun, then cut into slices or ground into a powder.

Bletilla is associated with the Lung, Stomach and Liver meridians in traditional Chinese medicine, and has a bitter taste and cool properties. Its main functions are to reduce swelling and stop bleeding in the lungs and stomach. It is often used with gelatin, donkey glue and cuttlefish bone as part of a larger herbal formula.

Among the modern uses for bletilla are treatment of sores, ulcers and chapped skin. Because of its astringent properties, Bletilla is often used to stop bleeding caused by traumatic injuries, heal wounds, reduce swelling, and promote regeneration of tissue. When used with other herbs, bletilla can help treat coughs and phlegmy obstructions.

The typical dose of Bletilla depends on the condition being treated. Usually, practitioners recommend between 3 and 15 grams of bletilla, taken as a powder. Larger amounts can be applied to the skin, usually mixed with sesame oil.

Whole, dried Bletilla root is sold at many herbal shops, Asian markets and specialty stores. Bletilla powder is widely available, as are some decoctions that contain Bletilla.

Bletilla is incompatible with aconite root, and therefore should not be taken with aconite root or any formulas that contain it. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with bletilla. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking bletilla or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

Other Uses
Gum; Ink; Size.

The bulb is mucilaginous, it is used as a size to impart a glossiness to ink and also to make an invisible ink (seen by wetting the paper and holding it up to the light).

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Bletilla+striata
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bletilla

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