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My wife works in fancy restaurant and they buy flowers from fancy florists.
The other night I'm in there and they have a vase that must hold at least ten gallons. It is a three foot tall cylinder with a twelve inch diameter - approximately. Anyway it is filled with water and stuffed with cut orchids and looks really cool. I asked about it and she said that they last a really long time when submerged.

Now I'm wondering can an orchid live when planted underwater? As I recall orchids don't take nutrients from the soil but need to grip on to something with roots or rhizomes and then take nutrients from moisture in the air or surrounding materials. I remember seeing some in Thailand that were suspended from the ceiling and the root-balls were in these small slatted boxes and the roots dangled down in the open air while the flowers grew up.

Anyway, does anyone know if you can attach an orchid to a piece of driftwood like an anubus and grow it underwater? Or if they would give off some weird chemical that would hurt my fish if I tried it myself?

Thanks.
 

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Just as guppies in a cage, you can't keep Orchids under water. They are terrestrial plants, and will just die under water. It might take a little while, but I think it is a bad idea, just like the guppies.

Many Orchids are epiphytes, growing on trees where they can live with extremely little water. They get most of their moisture from precipitation (rainfall and dew). Overwatering is the main cause for folks killing Orchids at home. Otherwise many of them are exceptionally hardy. Keep it natural, keep them on your window sill, not in your planted tank.
 

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You can put a cut rose in a column of water and it will last for a couple of weeks. Doesn't mean you can grow them underwater.
 

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There is an aquatic orchid, I brought two home from my trip to Europe. The flower is not as showy as the orchids you are thinking about though.
 

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There are a couple of aquatic/semiaquatic orchids: Spiranthes odorata - Marsh/Sweetscent Ladies' tresses (U.S.); Spiranthes graminea - Canelo Ladies'-tresses (Arizona, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua); and Habenaria repens - Water-spider orchid (Americas); & possibly some other Habenarias.
 

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Agreed, my answer wasn't really apropos the fist question. But, at least S. odorata has been cultivated in aquaria, with some success, as it's a marshland plant living in the inundation zone. In this, it is like many other plants grown in our aquaria, e.g. some swords come to mind. Here a quote from Flora of North America (emphasis mine):

Flowering Sep--Dec. Cypress and hardwood swamps, marshes, prairies, riverbanks, ditches; 0--300 m; Ala., Ark., Fla., Ga., Ky., La., Md., Miss., N.C., Okla., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Va.

Spiranthes odorata typically occurs in seasonally inundated sites and may bloom while emerging from shallow water.
Regarding Habenaria repens, the same source writes (emphases again mine):

Plants terrestrial or semiaquatic[--].

Flowering primarily summer--fall, sporadically (Apr--Dec). Marshes, wet meadows, bogs, margins of streams, ditches, and ponds; commonly an emergent aquatic in shallow water and in floating mats alone or with other vegetation; 0--100 m; Ala., Ark., Fla., Ga., La., Miss., N.C., Okla., S.C., Tex.; Mexico; West Indies; Central America; South America.

Habenaria repens is remarkable in sometimes being truly aquatic. Often forming floating mats, the plants then are commonly decumbent, at least basally, and new shoots and slender roots arise abundantly from much of the length of the stem. [--]
 
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