Arundina, an Orchid Weed

If you don’t live in the tropics, you may be surprised that this beautiful flower belongs to a pesky weed. If you live in a rainy area of the tropics, you probably recognize it. It’s Arundina, commonly known by its nickname “Bamboo Orchid.” The small plant in the 3rd photo shows the strong stems and pointy leaves that mimic bamboo with a flower on top.

Arundina flowerArundina flower and seedpodsSmall Arundina plant in bloom next to a parking lot

Originally from Southeast Asia, the Bamboo Orchid has spread throughout the tropics, and even to subtropical areas like Florida. In Hawaii where these pictures were taken, it was intentionally introduced in the 1950’s to grow as cattle fodder. On the east side of the Big Island, we saw it growing in fields and forests, along roadsides, and even next to parking lots. It’s also one of the first plants to start growing on new lava fields. In fact, it’s such a prolific grower that Hawaiian locals use it as green filler for flower bouquets instead of ferns. There were buckets of the tall green plants at local farmers markets.

Arundina flower and budSide view of Arundina flower and seedpodsArundina plants with purple Spathoglottis orchids in front

Bamboo orchids usually grow as terrestrials in soil, and can grow quite tall. We routinely saw 6 ft (1.8 m) plants, with some as tall as 10 ft (3 m.) The final picture shows a common sight along the roads near Hilo, with white and purple Arundina flowers sticking above the tall grasses. Call it a weed if you must, but at least it has a pretty flower.

Arundina flowerArundina flowers among roadside vegetation

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4 Comments on “Arundina, an Orchid Weed”

  1. iza Says:

    They are native here in the Philippines. They grow like weeds here too!!!

  2. Dalot Says:


  3. Mel Says:

    Thanks for the great pictures. I bought an arundina plant years ago, and it grew really big, but I never made it bloom. Now I finally see what the flower looks like. I didn’t even know that if I went on a tropical vacataion I could see them growing all over.

  4. nancy Says:

    just when i think i’ve heard it all … orchids as cattle fodder