Eulophia speciosa

Click on an image to enlarge it.
Botanical Name
Eulophia speciosa
Orchidaceae -

The orchid family.

yoo-LOH-fee-uh spee-see-OH-sa
Common Name(s)
English: Large Yellow Eulophia
IsiZulu: Umabelejongosi Ompofu; Umlunge Omhlophe
Plant Group
  • Bulb / Corm / Rhizome / Tuber / Epigeal bulb Bulbs: are made up of fleshy scales as in an onion Corm: a short, swollen, underground stem that is hard and not fleshy as in a gladiolus Tuber: a solid, fleshy, underground, storage organ as in a potato Rhizome: an underground, horizontal, swollen stem at the base of the plant as in an iris Epigeal bulb: bulbs that rest above the ground with only the roots anchoring the plant to the earth as in albuca
  • Orchid
Plant Size
  • Medium
    Tree10m to 16m
    Shrub1m to 2m
    Perennial/ground cover40cm to 60cm
    Bulb40cm to 60cm
    Succulent40cm to 60cm
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Deciduous Plants which completely lose their foliage for part of the year.
  • Drought Tolerance: Moderate The plant is moderately adapted to arid conditions and can survive short periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Frost: Half-hardy The plant is able to survive low temperatures and some frost but requires protection against severe frost.
  • Frost: Tender A plant that will not survive any frost or low winter temperatures.
  • Salt spray tolerant A plant with specific adaptations enabling it to grow in a saline environment.
  • Sand tolerant Plants adapted to survive in nutrient poor, very sandy soils.
  • Water Moderate These plants will need some extra watering compared to water-wise plants. Plant them together, in at least some shade and in a convenient proximity to the house so that grey water can be utilised during times of drought.
Specific Information

Eulophia speciosa is a terrestrial  orchid (grows in soil) with fleshy to tough, lance-shaped, semi-erect leaves that grow from pseudo bulbs. A pseudo bulb is a thickened, bulb-like, fleshy stemThe pseudo bulbs may be subterranean (underground) or partly aerial (partially exposed) and are of an irregular shape. As this plant is very widespread, it varies in structure and adaptability. Plants that come from an inland area will be able to tolerate some frost, while those originating from coastal areas are unable to to do so. It is suggested for USDA Zones 10 to 11. Although they have no nectar, the showy flowers are pollinated by carpenter bees in search of food.

In South Africa the plants often grew in colonies of up to 50 plants. In a 1996 assessment it was found to be common in most parts of its distribution range in South Africa. However, in 2009 it was re-classified as declining. It is being threatened by harvesting for the medicinal trade and is also suffering habitat loss, especially along the coast. Thousands of plants have reportedly been seen at both the Johannesburg and Durban traditional medicinal markets.

All orchids are protected by law in South Africa and the plants may not be removed from the wild without a permit. Only nursery-grown plants can be cultivated and legally sold.

Ad Break

10 to 30 widely spaced blooms, 25 to 45 mm in diameter, on a rather lax flower stem of 40 to 80 cm tall

  • Spring to Summer Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • yellow
Growth Rate
  • Moderate Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Container Trees, shrubs and ornamental species that can adapt to growing in a restricted environment.
  • Filler Either a fast growing tree or shrub used temporarily to fill in an area while the permanent plants grow to a desired size, or a plant used to fill gaps in borders or beds.
  • Interplanting Arranging and planting plants in the garden that have different blooming times and habits of growth, extending the amount of time in which the area is in flower.
  • Pot Plant A plant that needs a protected environment on a patio or indoors.
  • Suitable for coastal gardens Plants adapted to dry, sandy soil, forceful wind, limited rainfall and intense sunlight.
  • Suitable for seaside gardens Plants that will survive the hostile environment of harsh salty winds, dry sandy soil, irregular rainfall and heat found in seaside gardens.
  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
Distribution and Habitat

coastally from the George-Knysna area of the Western Cape, through the Eastern Cape and northwards to KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique, where it is found within a few kilometers of the coast, in sand dunes and among fynbos shrubs or grasses, often exposed to salt spray

inland in Mpumalanga and Limpopo Province, as well as in Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, the DRC, Sudan, Ethiopia and Arabia, in savanna grassland, valley bushveld, thornveld and mountain grassland vegetation, on a variety of  sandy and clay soils

Planting Suggestions

Eulophia speciosa is comparatively easy to grow but certain rules have to be strictly followed. The plants can be grown in pots or planted out in garden beds in a sunny position, taking into account the origin and therefore the suitability,  of the plant. 

It is essential that the plants be kept fairly to very dry in the dormant period when no growth occurs as they may contract bacterial rot if watered during this time. Regular watering should only be started once the new shoots appear. Cultivated plants should be well watered when they are actively growing, in a soil mix that drains rapidly, and be allowed to dry somewhat between waterings. Water should be reduced after the new growth matures and flowering is completed, and then reduced even more after the leaves change color and drop. 

The simplest way to propagate the plants is by division of mature specimens in the dormant season.  A layer of drainage material should be added to the bottom of the pots. The tubers should be potted or planted in garden beds at a depth of 2-3 cm  in a loose mixture of leaf mould, bark pieces, river sand and garden loam, with, if possible, a small quantity of the soil in which the plants were previously growing - allowing for faster development of crucial bacteria.

The tough leaves and flowering stems are little damaged by insect pests. Mole rats are known to feed on these pseudo bulbs - if you have them in your garden, rather keep your plants in pots.

Medicinal Uses

Eulophia speciosa is used as a medicinal emetic and as a protective charm against storms.

Ad Break

Discuss this plant

Share knowledge, ask a question or give an experience.

Bottom Border