Dischidia nummularia

button orchid


Dischidia nummularia

R.Br. 1810

pronounced: diss-KID-ee-uh num-mew-LAH-ree-uh

(Apocynaceae — the oleander family)


common names: button orchid, ant plant

native 4Dischidia comes from two Greek words: δις (dis), twice, and σχιδια (schidia), cleft (pieces of wood); nummularius is the Latin word for a money-changer, and refers to the coin-shaped leaves.

This plant is not an orchid, but a succulent epiphyte. All plants of this genus are epiphytic climbing vines. The button orchid is native to Queensland and Malaysia, and is a relative of the Hoya, or wax plant. The plant was collected by Banks and Solander at the Endeavour River in 1770.

The stem grows close to the bark of the host tree, and is attached by small rootlets that are produced at the leaf nodes. It is often found festooning the trees in paperbark (Melaleuca spp.) forests. Although it likes the bark of the Melaleucas, it will also grow on other trees, and is sometimes found in association with Myrmecodia (Anthouse plants) or other epiphytes.

It usually climbs up to about 3 m. It has pendant stems, and small, button-like, silver-grey leaves.

The inflorescence is an umbel of small white tubular flowers with a ring of sparse hairs inside. Masses of fluffy seeds develop after the blooms have faded. It can be propagated either by seeds or by striking small pieces of stem, and grown as a hanging basket or on moss or bark. It is suitable for growing indoors. If growing from seed, allow the pods to dry on the plant, and break them open to collect the seeds. The seeds do not store well, so they should be sown as soon as possible after collection. Although they will grow in full sun, they seem to prefer a heavily shaded position. All members of this genus produce a milky sap when cut. This plant grows very slowly.

If planted in a hanging basket, these plants climb upwards over everything they touch. The branches will twine along the chains of the hanging container, and often cascade down when they reach the top.


Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2008
Page last updated 14th December 2018