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What is Eulophia?

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  • Written By: Todd M.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2018
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Eulophia is a genus of orchids that contains over 250 versatile species, most of which are native to Africa. Most of the species contained in this genus have pseudobulbs that root the plant beneath the earth but do not function as a true bulb. Lengthy, short-lived foliage with a sturdy, upright inflorescence, or stem, emerges from underground during the growing season. The blossoms of these orchids consist of spikes of showy, long-lasting flowers that make Eulophias a popular plant to cultivate amongst orchid collectors.

Eulophia orchids may be terrestrial, meaning ground-growing, or saprophytic, meaning that they grow in dead organic matter. Terrestrial Eulophia orchids can be successfully grown outdoors in well-drained soil in intermediate climates if a proper watering schedule is followed. Saprophytic Eulophia orchids have a pseudobulb that is above the ground and are much easier to care for.

Members of the Eulophia genus prefer a considerable amount of shade and need to be watered regularly in soil that can drain properly. Terrestrial Eulophias will rarely flower if the pseudobulb of the plant is exposed to prolonged, excessive moisture. These orchids can be grown as potted plants if they are potted in a soil consisting of course sand mixed with a modest amount of organic compost. The leaves and flowers will die back as winter approaches, and Eulophia orchids should only be watered when the soil is completely dry once the plant has gone dormant. Terrestrial orchids can be propagated by division once the plant reaches maturity.

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One of first members of this orchid genus to be cultivated by collectors was the Eulophia spectabilis, a terrestrial orchid that is common in many tropical regions of Asia. This deciduous plant blossoms in the spring with pink and purple 1 inch (25 mm) flowers that do not fully open. These flowers blossom on an inflorescence that reaches a height of about 40 inches (100 cm) with a pair of short, narrow leaves growing from the base of the plant.

Eulophia guineesis is a particularly popular orchid in this genus due to its symmetrical series of flowers that blossom on a long, thin inflorescence. During the early spring, the inflorescence and the foliage emerge from the orchid's pseudobulb together as the orchid returns from its dormancy with fresh growth. The flower opens in the late spring or early summer to reveal five narrow purplish-brown petals that jut out over a broad lavender lip. This orchid is native to the floor of tropical forests and prefers rocky soil with abundant shade.

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