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Beautiful African Orchids in Pictures

Beautiful African Orchids in Pictures

Wild orchids in Southern Africa are prized for their beauty, traditional food practices and diversity.

Orchids are not only used for food but are also beautiful and fascinating, but also important indicators of environmental health and biodiversity conservation. Orchids are threatened by habitat loss, overcollection, invasive species, climate change, and diseases. Therefore, it is essential to protect and study these remarkable plants and their interactions with their pollinators and other organisms. Orchids are a treasure of nature that deserves our admiration and respect. Chikanda is a Zambian dish made from boiled orchid tubers and groundnuts eaten as a snack, or dessert. It has medicinal benefits but also faces conservation threats due to overharvesting.

Southern Africa is home to diverse family of interesting beautiful flowers, the orchid whose blooms are colorful and sweet-scented attracting bees and butterflies. The orchid is a member of the Orchidaceae family; wild orchids are more and more harder to find leading to environmentalists endorsing laws to protect indigenous orchids.

Orchids are a diverse and fascinating group of flowering plants that have captivated humans for centuries. They are known for their beauty, diversity, and ecological significance. Orchids are also important sources of medicine, food, perfume, and cultural symbols for many people around the world.

Southern African Orchids in Pictures 

African Orchids in the Wild

Southern African terrestrial orchids are orchids that grow on the ground in subtropical and tropical areas.

Orchid tubers are very popular and sold in markets fresh, dried, as snacks or ready-made Chikanda dish. The Nyika Plateau of eastern Zambia and northern Malawi is world renowned for its abundant orchid plants. Orchid flowers and leaves are generally edible, unless they belong to a toxic species. Orchid flowers can be used to garnish salads, desserts, drinks, or dishes. They can also be candied, crystallized, or dried for later use. Orchid flowers have a mild flavor and a crunchy texture. Some orchid flowers have a sweet, floral, or spicy aroma that can enhance the taste of the food. 

African ground orchids are threatened with extinction by illegal trade.

African ground orchids are threatened with extinction by illegal trade. 
 
In Southern Africa 65 percent of wild orchids are found no place else in the world.

In the Southern African region around 479 species in 53 genera or subfamily of wild orchids are indigenous to the region, 65 percent are found no place else in the world.

  Terrestrial orchids grow in the ground, epiphytic orchids grow on trees and epilithic orchids grow on rocks.

Terrestrial orchids grow in the ground, epiphytic orchids grow on trees and epilithic orchids grow on rocks. Chikanda is a traditional Zambian dish made from the boiled root tubers of terrestrial orchids, also called chikanda. It is also known as African polony, Zambian polony, or Zambian sausage, because it has a texture that resembles bologna. Chikanda can be eaten as a snack, dessert, or a side dish with nshima, a maize flour porridge.

Chikanda has been eaten for hundreds of years by people in parts of Zambia, northern Malawi, and southwestern Tanzania. It is especially associated with the Bemba tribe in northeast Zambia, where it is served at special occasions such as weddings. It was originally a food of rural scarcity, but it has now become an urban trend. Chikanda can be found being sold by street vendors, supermarkets, and large restaurants in Zambia and beyond.

To make chikanda, the orchid tubers are dried and pounded into a brown meal. The meal is then mixed with groundnut meal and dried chili peppers. The mixture is boiled with water, soda, salt, and spices until it thickens into a cake. The cake is then sliced and served hot or cold. Chikanda has a mild flavor and a crunchy texture. It can also be candied, crystallized, or dried for later use.

Southern African Orchids

Chikanda is not only a delicious dish but also a valuable medicinal resource and a national rare and endangered plant in Zambia. The orchid tubers have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and hemostatic properties. They can be used to treat wounds, burns, ulcers, hemorrhoids, infections, inflammation, and bleeding. They can also improve blood circulation, immune system, digestion, and respiratory system.

However, chikanda is also facing sustainability issues due to the high demand and overharvesting of the orchids. The orchids grow wild throughout Zambia and other countries but are difficult to cultivate in captivity. They are illegally imported from Tanzania, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, leading to the risk of extinction abroad. 

Most of the African orchids can be found in Central and South Africa where they grow in tropical rain forests and in the Savanna. Many orchids also grow in Southern Africa, Central Africa and East and West Africa including Madagascar, and Mauritius. To start growing orchids, try the Bletilla Striata orchid also known as the Chinese ground orchid is a terrestrial orchid that is easy to grow, with proper care an orchid can be in bloom for months each year and can live indefinitely.

Bletilla striata is a terrestrial orchid that prefers organically rich, moist, well-drained soil in part shade. It can tolerate some sun but needs afternoon shade in hot climates. It can be planted 4 inches apart and 2-3 inches deep in spring. After flowering, it needs regular moisture for the rest of the growing season.  It can also be grown in pots and containers and brought inside in winter in colder areas

Bletilla striata is a wonderful example of the diversity and adaptation of wild orchids. It is not only beautiful, easy to grow and fascinating but also important for environmental health and biodiversity conservation. It is threatened by habitat loss, overcollection, invasive species, climate change, and diseases.

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