Orchids on a Volcano redux

Last year when I blogged about orchids on a volcano, it was about Akatsuka Orchids on Hawaii’s Big Island. This time, the orchids are growing right on the rim of a volcanic crater. Dave took some great photos of wild orchids while we hiked the Kilauea Iki trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The first set shows Arundinas, or Bamboo Orchids, growing in one of the volcano’s forests. Hardened black lava provides a dramatic backdrop.

Arundina plants with flower on KilaueaArundina with seedpods on KilaueaArundina flower on Kilauea

Kilauea is an active volcano, but the last major lava action in this crater was 1959. Much of the rainforest on the rim has regrown in the past half century, and we saw numerous Phaius orchids on the forest floor (“Phaius” is pronounced FAY-us, and rhymes with “pay us.”) Like Bamboo Orchids, Phaius are terrestrials that grow in soil and in rock crevices.

Phaius flower on top of KilaueaPhaius flower back view on KilaueaPhaius flower spike emerging from leaves on Kilauea

Although neither species is native to Hawaii, both have naturalized in rainy parts of the islands. These orchids are thriving despite harsh growing conditions near the 4100 ft. (1250 m) summit. Besides strong tropical winds and rains, the black lava really bakes as it absorbs heat from the tropical sun. More amazing than that, these orchids survive dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide gas that vent nearby, although we took our hike on a day when the winds were in our favor. The final photo shows the eastern section of Kilauea Iki with the forest growing on its walls and rim. At this end the crater is 400 ft. (122 m) deep and over 1 mile (1.6 km) wide.

Arundina orchid overlooking Kilauea craterArundina plant with flower on KilaueaView of Kilauea Iki Crater

Explore posts in the same categories: Misc, Orchids in the Wild, Photos, Warm Growers

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10 Comments on “Orchids on a Volcano redux”

  1. Athos Says:

    Can they survive baking on the black rock? Maaybe they don’t live very long.

  2. temperance Says:

    Gorgeous photos! I think it’s amazing that they’re not native to island, but can thrive despite the sulphur. Thanks for sharing (and the pronounciation tip ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  3. chris w Says:

    isn’t that something new? I didn’t expect to see anything growing on a volcano,, least of all orchids. thanks for the pics.

  4. nancy Says:

    great photos! That crater looks enormous.

  5. DT65 Says:

    If there not native, how did they get there? Did people plant them> Did they become wild some other way?

  6. Laura H Says:

    Interesting… I don’t think I’m going to go hiking on any active volcanoes soon, so thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. Hanley Says:

    Those orchids must be very safe on the volcano. Nobody will dig them up and steal them or the lava will get them!!!

  8. PhillyChris Says:

    those orchids must really love the burn ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. jen Says:

    amazing post! who would guess that orchids can grow there! its amazing they can survive on the lava.

  10. AboutOrchids ยป Blog Archive ยป Earth Day Says:

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