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What is Goodyera?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 28 June 2018
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Goodyera is a genus of terrestrial orchids found worldwide in temperate to cool climates. They commonly grow in woodlands and other areas heavy with brush and shrubbery. Several species are cultivated by gardeners and orchid enthusiasts in captivity, and are available through gardening exchanges and nurseries for people who are interested in growing them. As with other plants that have extant wild populations, collecting wild orchids for cultivation is not recommended.

Members of this orchid genus produce basal rosettes of evergreen leaves. The leaves are often marked with a thin white to yellow tracery of lines. Upright stalks with sprays of flowers are produced and the color of the flowers can vary, depending on the species. These plants propagate with the use of rhizomes, offshoot roots that allow them to spread across the ground in their native habitat. They can also be grown from seed, although this requires special equipment for gardeners interested in growing orchids from seed.

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Known by common names like “lady's tresses” and “rattlesnake plantain,” Goodyera orchids prefer partial shade and filtered light, like the woodlands they are used to. Soils rich in organic material with ample drainage are best for cultivating these orchids, as they mimic soil conditions found in forests. Gardeners who work with Goodyera orchids can plant them directly in the garden in shaded areas, where they will spread to create groundcover, or they can grow them in containers, indoors or outdoors. Divisions from existing plants may be used for propagation or people can buy new plants from a nursery or firm specializing in orchids.

In nature, Goodyera species with overlapping ranges often hybridize. This can make it difficult to determine how many species exist, as orchids thought to be separate species may be hybrids or unusual variants on a known species. Hybridization is also a threat to endangered or threatened orchids with limited ranges. Some of these species may be at risk of vanishing entirely in nature and being replaced by hybrids with other species, a concern for conservationists interested in preserving orchid diversity.

Many residents of woodland areas can find Goodyera orchids on nature walks, as these orchids grow in such a wide variety of locations. Although they can be difficult to spot at first, once people learn to identify the small, low leaves, it is usually hard to miss profusions of orchids in nature. Once the plants start blooming, they will also be more readily visible. Wild plants should be left undisturbed, as orchid populations are vulnerable to disruption.

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