Microtis unifolia

Distribution Map
Family: Orchidaceae
Distribution: Wide range of habitats (forest, woodland, heath, grasslands) in all states (except the Northern Territory). The species also extends beyond Australia.
Common Name: Common onion orchid.
Derivation of Name: Microtis... From Greek micros, small and otis, an ear, presumably referring to the appearance of the flowers.
unifolia... From Latin unus, one or single and folium, to bloom (ie, one-leaved).
Conservation Status: Not considered to be at risk in the wild.

General Description:

Microtis is a genus of about 18 species of terrestrial orchids, most of which are Australian but the genus extends to New Zealand, the Pacific islands, China and Japan.

Microtis unifolia
Microtis unifolia
Photo: Jill Dark

Microtis unifolia is the most widespread species. It is a terrestrial herb comprising a single leaf up to 50 cm high which surrounds the flowering stalk. The individual flowers are very small but often numerous (between 50 and 100 per flowering stalk). They are pale green in colour and are seen in spring and summer.

Although M.unifolia is easier to grow than many other terrestrial orchids, it is cultivated mainly by orchid enthusiasts as it has limited horticultural appeal. The plants can be grown in pots in a freely draining, sandy mix under conditions suitable for other terrestrial orchids (good air circulation in a protected position of about 50% sun during the growing period when they should not be allowed to dry out).

For further information on terrestrial orchid cultivation see Australia's Native Orchids by Les Nesbitt.

Propagation of orchids requires specialised methods and is rarely attempted by the casual grower although M.unifolia is easier than most. It is not unusual for plants to appear in gardens and pot plants from wind-bourne seed. The following references provide further information on growing terrestrial orchids from seed.

  • Australian Terrestrial Orchids from Seed; D K McIntyre, G J Veitch and J W Wrigley
  • A New Medium for Raising Australian Terrestrial Orchids from Seed; G J Veitch and D K McIntyre

Both articles appear in Australian Plants, journal of the Australian Native Plants Society (Australia), March 1973.

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