Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the January 7, 2018 Newsletter issued from Rancho Regensis north of Valladolid, Yucatán, MÉXICO

Last October during the middle of the month when I visited my gardening friend near Tepotzlán in upland Morelos state, in the volcanic belt just south of Mexico City, on the steps leading to my room a potted orchid was putting on a show, as seen below:

Ground-rooting Epidendrum, EPIDENDRUM RADICANS

My friend said the plant had been rescued from a nearby scrubby area with volcanic boulders atop the volcanic ash, were development was rapidly encroaching, so it was part of the local flora. Unlike many orchid species that grow epiphytically on trees, this species was terrestrial. Its being native here probably explains why it was successful in producing the healthy looking fruits shown below:

Ground-rooting Epidendrum, EPIDENDRUM RADICANS, fruits

But of course the plant's most striking feature are its flowers, a close-up of one shown here:

Ground-rooting Epidendrum, EPIDENDRUM RADICANS, flower

This is EPIDENDRUM RADICANS, commonly known as the Ground-rooting Epidendrum, Fire-star Orchid, Rainbow Orchid, Reed-stem Epidendrum, and other names. It's a common roadside weed at middle elevations in Mexico and Central America. In the following section you can see what it looked like when we found it along a weedy road in high elevation Chiapas in southernmost Mexico

Plant ecologists sometimes speak of a complex of red/orange-flowered, weedy species that are unrelated but ecologically similar. Along that roadside in upland Chiapas where I photographed Epidendrum radicans in the wild, there also grew the Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica and Wild Sage (Lantana camara), both species with red and orange flowers that at a distance might be confused with Epidendrum radicans. It's been shown that species within this complex share pollinators as well as habitat, possibly exhibiting "convergent evolution," which is where unrelated species "converge" by developing similar physical features under similar evolutionary pressures.

from notes taken near Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacan, Chiapas, MÉXICO {at about 1740 meters in elevation, ± LAT 17° 11' 27"N, LONG -92° 53' 35"W.} in December, 2007

Epidendrum radicans

Somewhat commonly seen among roadside weeds in the uplands. Flowers may be seen for several months especially during the late rainy season and early dry season. Below, note how conspicuous, white roots arise from the sprawling stems, oposite the thick, oval leaves, which grown in two ranks opposite:

Epidendrum radicans

This is a hardy orchid and easily grown. It does well in full sun to partial shade, and is tolerant of temperatures down to freezing.

Epidendrum radicans

Above you see it in a typical weedy habitat along a road. It stems are up to two feet long. The flowers about an inch in size, sometimes ten flowers opening at the same time. Eventually the inflorescence may produce up to forty blossoms.

It does well in full sun to partial shade.  This species is tolerant of temperatures down to freezing.

The species is distributed from Mexico to Panama.