Watching and Waiting…

I picked up this interesting phalaenopsis orchid from a Lowe’s store before I learned what this type of plant is. Having tried my hand at a number of orchids prior, it struck me as interesting how the spike rose from the middle of the leaves and crown and I brought it home. Later on, I learned this is the unfortunate malady of a few orchids: Terminal spike.

Dtps. Ox Red Eagle X Dtps. Fuller’s Black Strive ‘3428’ in terminal spike.

Terminal spike is essentially when the spike happens to grow out of the middle of the crown and leaves in such a way that no future leaves can grow, thus limiting the life of the plant. It will eventually die after this point.

There are different schools of thought on why orchids produce terminal spikes. Some say it is because of a deformity where the spike, is pushed into growing out of the middle of the leaves due to an unknown obstacle to growing out of the sides of the crown like it should (toughened exterior or such). The jury remains out on this, but it all seems to make sense based on what I have read so far.

Close-up of the orientation of a terminal spike growing from leaves.

That said, all is not lost. Several terminal spike orchids, in their last bids to live, will send out a keiki from the spike. If you are interested, you can find out more about these here. Some growers will apply a hormonal paste to the spike to encourage this growth so that they can clip if from the dying plant later to start a new plant. It is still a roll of the dice if it will work in each case, but one has nothing to lose in trying.

Heavy spike of blooms ready to open.

This lady seems to be working hard to thrive with what she has left so I think I will let her tell me how this is going to go. It just goes to show though, that you never quite know what you will end up with when you take home one of the “orphan orchids” from the discount section – sometimes you are in for a learning experience and pleasant surprise after all.

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