Naturally found amongst leaf litter on Midlands forest floors in late summer, this pretty member of the orchid family also appears quite at home in the under storey of wattle or pine woodlots.
Flowers are borne on stems of up to 40cm tall, sometimes singly or in clusters of up to eight. Petals are joined to form a white helmet-shaped hood, flushed with pink speckles and rimmed in green. Spurred side sepals are finely pointed and are downward spreading. There are 26 species of Disperis in South Africa. Those found in the summer rainfall areas are dormant during winter, with new shoots emerging from the underground tuber in spring.
The pollination of Disperis is interesting; it is carried out mainly by specialized oil-collecting bees, Rediviva coloratat, this is a rare phenomenon in plants. The bees collect the oil as food for their larvae. Once pollinated, the fruit capsule ripens and thousands of minute, dust-like seeds are released and dispersed by wind. As is the case with most orchids, they have a symbiotic relationship with the fungi that live in their roots – supplying them with nutrients absorbed from decaying organic matter. Get down on your knees for the best view of this little gem.