Bulbophyllum reptans var. subracemosa Hook.f.

Epiphyte as well as lithophyte. A look alike plant of its species one. The main differences are that leaves and bulbs are slightly smaller, grows relatively low altitude, blooms in different time. The flowers are greenish yellow, slightly tinged with brown, lip dark brown with yellow margins.

Bulbophyllum reptans var. sub-racemosa, Hook
Bulbophyllum reptans var. sub-racemosa Hook

The Pursuit

The search for this species was the most thrilling one. Considering its resemblance to the species it is very difficult to differentiating this variety. Only way is to wait for the flowers. The relatively low altitude of the species is an advantage to track it. I found the species from a couple of locations in 2011, however thought it would be the species one and missed it. However in 2012, I found this in bloom accidentally. I was crossing a tributary of River Teesta over its high bridge, suddenly spotted something on the rocks on the river bank which is almost 150 ft below. Pulled out the binoculars for a closer look. However, identifying them from that distance was very difficult, but confirmed that something is in bloom there. The descend down to the river was something I will not forget. The river sides were like vertical slopes, the season was early summer, so no grass or plants to help in going down. The available bamboos from the area was of very small length to touch the bottom. No local people were also there to help. Walked up to the near by village to get some help. Two known people were there and were ready to come with me. They carried some good length rope also. Tied the rope to the near by tree and we slowly climbed down, with knee and chest rubbing on the rough rocks of the valley repeatedly. Finally reached down with a lot of cuts and bruises all over the body. Walked to the river side climbed up the rock and found that the one in bloom is the variety of Bulbophyllum reptans Lindl. It was one of the few times I experienced joy and pain at the same time. The joy was the find and the pain was from the cuts on my body. Not to mention that the find of an undocumented species will always make joy overcome all the pains and sufferings. Documented the variety very well. Only after a few minutes of rest, decided to climb up. It was more difficult than going down. The descend took hardly 15 minutes, but the ascend was not even finished even after an hour. The two friends put all their efforts to safely pull me up to the road. I will never forget those people, I owe this find to them.

Bulbophyllum reptans Lindl.

Epiphyte as well as lithophyte. Pseudo-bulbs smooth and obpyriform, small, less than 1.5 long, attached about 3 to 5 cm apart on very thin wiry, branching naked rhizomes. Lead solitary, linear-oblong, sub-acute, obliquely notched at the apex, narrowed at the base to the very short petiole, 6 to 9 cm long and less than 2 cm in width. Scapes shorter or longer than the leaves, sometimes in pairs, decurved, the peduncle sheathed at the base, bracteate, varying length, sometimes shorter in some cases longer than the laxly flowered raceme. Flowers yellow with dark purple veins. Sepals sub-equal, lanceolate, 3 nerved, spreading, lateral one with dilated bases. Petals smaller than the sepals, oblong, blunt, mid veined. Lip about as long as the petals, stipitate, oblong, expanded and grooved at the base.

Bulbophyllum reptans, Lindl
Bulbophyllum reptans, Lind

The Pursuit

One of the few winter blooming species of the region. Winter months are somewhat relaxing days for me after a long tiring survey in the high hills in summer. In North Sikkim, I spotted few plants of Bulbophyllum reptans Lindl as epiphyte on few trees and as well as on rocks (lithophyte). The buds appear much before blooming in this species and they wait for the appropriate climatic conditions to bloom. I always visited that spot while traveling through that area. By the second week of October most of the other species die due to the cold wind from the high hills and it is time for me to say “Good bye” to the high hills. The only thing that made put up there was this species. Even though I know I will find this in the low altitude areas also, I wanted to study them from North Sikkim also. That wait was making my head spin. Finally, I decided to come down the hills on 16th October, as some festivals are due to happen in the coming days and getting vehicles to move with all the luggages will become difficult. I was so disappointed to see it in buds on 15th October also. Decided to start the down hill journey by 11 AM the next day, so that I will have some time to visit the plant in the morning and have a final look. On 16th morning again I made a visit to see all of them still as buds only. It was the most disappointing moment in the hills. Just about to walk back, I spotted few more plants next to the main cluster with this whole raceme in full bloom. Just one raceme in bloom!!!! It seems the Lord had made one to bloom just for me only. Photographed it very nicely despite the harsh cold wind, thus putting a victorious end to my high hill trip of that year.

Bulbophyllum polyrhizum Lindl.

Epiphyte. A very small plant with thread like branching rhizome and small globular to ovoid smooth pseudo-bulbs attached about 2 to 3 cm apart. Leaf solitary, narrowly oblong, sub-acute, narrowed to the sessile base, leaf less during flowering, and as long as 4 to 6 cm and less than 1 cm in breadth. Scape filiform, about 7 to 10 cm long, its peduncle sub-erect, longer than the raceme, with a couple of minute bracteoles. Raceme inclined, with 4 to 6 distantly arranged pale yellow coloured flowers. Sepals spreading, sub-acute, the dorsal ovate; the lateral pair longer, oblong-lanceolate, three nerved. Petals shorter than the sepals, acute. Lip stipitate, deflexed from the base, oblong, obtuse, the basal half grooved.

Bulbophyllum polyrhizum, Lindl
Bulbophyllum polyrhizum Lind.

The Pursuit

This species got a lot of biological attention as a century ago. Wallichi’s drawing from a specimen from Nepal; other specimens collected from Dehradun; specimens collected by Lister and J.D.Hooker’s descriptions showing variations. However, Pantling got a few specimens from Sikkim-Himalayas and he made the drawings for the monumental publication. As the referral book got an excellent drawing of a specimen from Sikkim-Himalayas, I put extra efforts to find it from the region again. This is a very small plant and leaf less during flowering season makes it very difficult to spot it. However, the mention of the month of its blooming helped me to track it down. I was in search of a variety of Dendrobium nobile Lindl from the Teesta valley at a very low altitude in the summer months. I got a bunch of almost dried orchid bulbs attached to a thin rhizome from a broken trunk of a fallen tree. The branched rhizome and small globular pseudo-bulbs prompted me to pull out my referral books to cross check it. While cross checking, I zeroed on Bulbophyllum polyrhizum Lindl. Next day, again went to that region with another friend, a nice tree climber, and climbed up most of the trees of that region. Finally in the afternoon, we found this rare species, with all its leaves shed and in buds. Cross checked again and again with Pantling’s drawings to make sure that it is what we were searching for. Finally, after 6 days of waiting and repeatedly climbing the tree every day, those buds bloomed to put the final seal on its identity.

Bulbophyllum tortuosum (Blume) Lindl.

Epiphyte. Rhizome absent. Pseudo-bulbs narrowly ovoid, compressed, less than 3 cm, obliquely and alternately arranged, sub-imbricate, wrinkled. Leaf linear-oblong, tapering to each end, sessile, fleshy. Both pseudo-bulbs and leaves are brownish red tinged. Flowers very small and solitary, dull brown coloured, on very short pedicels from the bases of pseudo-bulbs. Sepals un-equal and with ciliolate margins, the dorsal ovate-lanceolate, blunt, spreading; the lateral pair slightly longer. Petals broadly ovate, with obtuse apices. Lip oblong lanceolate, slightly deflexed from the base, flat.

This species is named after J.L.Lister of the Bhotan Cinchona Association who discovered it. The authors, Sir George King and Robert Pantling described this species as “the most curious” of the whole Bulbophyllum genus.

Bulbophyllum tortuosum, (Blume) Lindl
Bulbophyllum tortuosum (Blume) Lindl.

The Pursuit

One has to put extra ordinary efforts to find “the most curious” ones. The leaf and pseudo-bulb’s tinge and the bulb arrangements of this species are very unique, which will help us to locate it. However, the search for this took several months without any success. I showed the colour drawings of Robert Pantling to a lot of local people to enquire if anybody had seen some plants like this somewhere, but in vain. I was not able to find the species in 2011, however in the early 2012, a trip was made to look for some other plants which I had spotted in my previous surveys. On the way back through the right bank of a small stream, I found some medium sized trees with some local climbers in flowers. Viewed them with my binoculars for a much closer view. Suddenly my eyes got locked to a pendulous bunch of some orchid species….. the view was not clear to do proper identification from the spot I was standing. Decided to have a closer look, crossed the river with the help of a few fallen bamboos and climbed up the hill and the tree to find a huge cluster of Bulbophyllum tortuosum (Blume) Lindl, in buds and in flowers. I have no words to explain my joy, I was really jumping up and down on top of that tree!!! Came down the tree, took camera and flashes up the tree and produced this beautiful photograph.

Bulbophyllum affine Lindl.

Epiphyte. Psuedo-bulbs cylindric with thickened base, 3 to 5cm long, attached 2 to 3 cm apart. Rhizome long and densely rooting. Leave single, narrowly oblong, obtuse, the base narrowed, 7 to 12 cm long and 2 to 4 cm in breadth. Scape short and bracteate, producing a single flower from either the sides of the base of the pseudo-bulbs or from the rhizome between the pseudo-bulbs. Flowers pale yellow to green base with purple nerves, lip with purple margins. Sepals sub-equal, lanceolate, sub-acute, five nerved, lateral pair falcate. Petals lanceolate, shorter than the sepals, three nerved. Lip shorter than the petals, lanceolate, thickened and concave at the base.

Bulbophyllum affine, Lindl
Bulbophyllum affine Lindl.

The Pursuit

Relatively a common species of the tropical region. Plant can easily be spotted on most of the trees, fully covering the trunk, from the bottom to top. On the onset of summer rains, this species starts blooming. I had always noticed that, choosing a flower to photograph from many is a very difficult task. When in plenty, the best will always elude. Tried several flowers only to find that lip broken, sepals marked with dust, petals twisted…….!!!!! Finally got this particular shot from a flower suggested by my friend who accompanied me to the location. Documented nicely, with several lighting options to get the perfect shot I dreamt for. 

Biermannia bimaculata King and Pantling.

Epiphyte. Relatively a small plant. Stem very short, leaves 3 to 4in numbers and 3 to 5 cm long and less a cm wide, linear to oblong, narrowed to the base, the apex bifid. Raceme stout, short and with triangular bracts. Flowers small, creamy white, confined to the upper half of ovary. Sepals sub-equal, ovate to lanceolate, apiculate, the lateral pair attached to the foot of the column. Petals shorter than the sepals, ovate. Lip at right angle from the short foot and lying parallel to the column, with two blotches of brown on is calli.

Biermannia bimaculata, King and Pantling
Biermannia bimaculata King and Panting.

The Pursuit

Relatively a small plant, hence it is very difficult to spot it in the wild. However, found growing along with some Aerides species in a hot tropical valley. Missed it in bloom in the year 2011 as it bloomed much earlier than what is mentioned in the referral King and Pantling’s work. The authors mentioned the blooming month as July, so visited the region in the second half of July only to see the pods and the flowers withered away. It is so sad to miss a plant in bloom after spotting it. Missing a species in bloom means waiting for another full year. In 2012, much importance was given to this little species and visited and re-visited the region several times and finally along with the summer rains I found the species in bloom. Although the day started with morning sun shine, half way on my journey the sky turned dark and it started raining. Luckily I had carried my rain coat and had a nice comfortable walk wearing that in heavy rains. By the time I reached the spot, the heavy rains turned to light showers, and I was able to get this photograph of this species.

Esmeralda cathcartii (Lindl) Rchb.

Epiphyte. Stems stout, long as 4 to 5 feet in length, pendulous. Leaves fleshy, oblong, sessile, broad and unequally bifid at the apex, sheathed at the base, often long as 12 to 15 cm. Racemes leaf opposed, shortly pedunculate, much longer than the leaves, 4 to 6 flowered, sometimes less as two. Flowers fleshy, very attractive with its outer surface creamy white and inner surface with yellow base and chocolate brown edge to edge almost parallel stripes, sometimes stripes are broken half way in the middle. The lip of this beautiful species got a yellow tinged hypochile, with its apical lobe with a broad marginal yellow coloured edging and auricles are marked with pink.

Esmeralda cathcartii, (Lindl) Rchb.
Esmeralda cathcartii (Lindl) Rchb.

The Pursuit

Sir. George King and Robert Pantling, in their monumental publication, “The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas” published in the year 1898, described this species as “magnificent”. Widely photographed by a lot of people as it is grown in various nurseries across the region. However, those artificial circumstances never produced the “magnificence” Sir. George King and Robert Pantling found 120 years back. So, I too decided to look for this species from its natural habitat itself, which the authors had described between an altitude of 3000 to 6000 ft. The initial thoughts of its characteristics like long pendulous stem and pretty long leaves would help to find it with ease went in vain, as I was not able to spot this species. Then in the winter of 2012 on a visit to a place at an altitude between 2800 to 4100 ft, I found a few plants on a tree near to a road side home. On enquiry I was told that they brought those plants from inside the forest and planted it there a few years back. The young couple of the home was so kind enough to take me to the location of the tree from where they had collected it. The location was deep inside the adjoining forest. There was no sign of any buds, but I kept the hope it will bloom in the early Spring. Visited the place again in February and March, to see first the plant in buds and the next time in bloom and was able to produce this wonderful photograph, which matched all the descriptions Sir. George King and Robert Pantling had in their monumental work.

Aerides multiflora Roxb, Pl Corom.

Epiphyte. A very stout stemmed plant which attains a height of 20 to 25 cm. Leaves flushed with reddish tinge, oblong, recurved, tapered to the bifid apex, long about 10 to 18 cm in length. Racemes longer then the leaves, simple, axillary, many flowered. The peduncle long and with distant short sheaths. Flowers beautiful, rose coloured, sepals and petals are often with irregular dark spots of the same colour, lip with dark coloured veins, all with paler margins. Sepals and petals sub-equal, oblong, blunt. Lip twice as long as the sepals, entire, triangular.

Aerides multiflora, Roxb, Pl Corom
Aerides multiflora Roxb, Pl Corom

The Pursuit

This is a species of the tropical areas and blooms in the the high summer days, when the temperature is on the rise. Devoid of any wind, the tropical valleys of the Eastern Himalayas are humid. It is a common species found in various locations. However, the flowers get dirty while in bud form itself due to humid and dusty conditions of the region. So I decided to look for this species on valleys inside the forested area, so that they will be fresh and pretty to be photographed. Spotted a few plants on the banks of a tributary of River Teesta on the Eastern side of the river. I still remember the journey to the valley, a deep descend from an altitude of 2800 ft to 540 ft with the temperature as high as 36C. Totally wet with sweat from my body, the first thing I did on reaching the valley was to dive into the river. Enjoyed a cool swim in the flowing cold water for about half an hour. Then climbed up the tree to have this beautiful shot of the species. Really enjoyed the flowers and the photograph I got, not the tedious climb I have to make back to the motor-able road to find a vehicle to go home.