Trichotosia dasyphylla E. C. Parish & Rchb.

Epiphyte, but seen as lithophyte also in many habitats. A spreading plant with very narrow and hairy creeping stems. Leaves small, obovate, sessile, fleshy with hairy surfaces. Flowers small, less than 1 cm across, solitary, on pubescent peduncles. Sepals and petals are of a pale green colour flushed with yellow. Lip is of the same shade but with a large dark purple blotch on its disc and a few pale brown spots at its base. The anther cap got two bright red markings. Sepals unequal, dorsal small, elliptic; the lateral pair large, triangular; both externally pubescent. Petals smaller than the sepals, oblong. Lip large, oblong, with narrowed base, side lobes very shallow, the terminal slightly deflexed.

Eria dasyphylla, Par and Reichb (Trichotosia dasyphylla, E C Parish & Rchb)
Eria dasyphylla Par and Reichb (Trichotosia dasyphylla E C Parish & Rchb)

The Pursuit

A very rare plant in its natural habitats. To my surprise I found this species on a roadside tree during one of my routine surveys. It was a tall single trunk tree to the right side of the road on the valley. Every time I pass through that location I make a short break there to see the tree and this species. I was aware of its blooming season from my referral book. The flowers are so small and not much documentary evidences about its flowers were available. Moreover, I am fond of documenting small flowers, where I can use my skills very well. By the first monsoon showers itself, I noticed buds developing on those small stems. The plants were high as 24 ft, quite a terrifying height when the tree is single trunk and in a valley. To avoid risky climbing on that tall tree everyday, I had erected a flat top ladder and was observing the plants and its flowers from very close quarters. Within ten days, most of the buds were in bloom. Then only I observed that the flowers are less than a cm across and got a lot of colour variations externally and also few markings and spots inside its small lip. On the base of the lip, the colour variation was more interesting. It was like gradually changing from pale to dark shade. I wanted those colourations to be recorded without any manipulations and tried hard with the micro flashes. Even the use of micro flashes were not of any help. The opening of the lip was just 8 mm only and the flash lights were not able to lit inside the lip. As there were a lot of buds and flowers I was having some time to rethink and plan my strategies. For the next few days, emails flew across continents and hours of phone calls to many people ended up with a new idea of using an optical fibre cable to light up the inside of the lip. Two optical fibre cables were brought all the way from the Land of Rising Sun in a chartered supersonic jet. The same was brought to the hills in a helicopter. Due to the combined ideas and efforts of several people things were made easy for me. Rest was something great, the use of a new technology till now unknown to the world. The images I produced with that new technology was amazing. It brought out till unknown details of a small flower. Also it had opened the flood gates for future flower photography too. I owe a lot to many people around the globe for this wonderful idea and this beautiful photograph.

Eria lasiopetala (Willd) Ormerod.

Epiphyte as well as lithophyte. Pseudo-bulbs much compressed with sheathed bases, vertically ribbed, 4 to 7 cm long and 2 to 3 cm in width, arranged at a distance of 3 to 4 cm apart on a stout and clothed rhizome. Leaves from the apex of the bulbs, three to five in numbers, almost oblong, tapering to the base, 5 to 9 cm long and 2 to 3 cm in width. Raceme from the base of the bulbs, erect, stout, fully covered with soft hairs. Flowers 4 to 10, about 2 cm across. Sepal hairy on the outer surface; dorsal small, lanceolate, arching; lateral large, triangular and spreading. Petals parallel over the column, narrowed at the base. Lip oblong, three lobed; lateral lobes very narrow, terminal lobe oblong, acute, slightly deflexed, the disc with two ridges.

Eria flava, Lindl (Eria lasiopetala (Willd))
Eria flava Lindl (Eria lasiopetala (Willd))

The Pursuit

A very common plant of the tropics. Can be easily distinguished by its compressed and ribbed bulbs. I had seen this species on various habitats of the region during my earlier visits itself and documented it in the year 2011. However, back in my class room in Delhi only I noticed the fact that I miserably failed in documenting the very peculiar characteristics of this species. This species got soft, wooly hairs on its external side of its sepals. As usual one more year of wait to see those in bloom again. In the year 2012, I visited the same place and documented new flowers from the same plant with more concentration and lighting techniques to document its very peculiar characteristics. Even though I had spend extra money and time on this species, my professor back in the college was very much happy to see the new documented evidences.

Pinalia amica (Rchb.f) Kuntze.

Epiphyte. Pseudo-stem 3 or 4 arise from one point, clavate shaped, ribbed from base to apex, with several large sheaths. Leaves from the apex, 3 to 5 in number, oblong-lanceolate, tapering to the base, 5 to 8 cm in length and 2 to 3 cm in width. Each stem with 3 to 4 raceme, arising from the axils of each sheath. Flowers many, less than 2 cm across. Sepals and petals brownish yellow with 5 purple veins all through its length. The lateral lobes, disc and lamellae of the lip is purplish red and its apical lobe bright yellow.

Eria confusa, Hook (Pinalia amica (Rchb.f) Kuntze
Eria confusa Hook (Pinalia amica (Rchb.f) Kuntze.)

The Pursuit

A beautiful species with wide range of habitats in the region. Its peculiar stems are an attraction and can be easily spotted. I had located the species in my earlier days of flower hunt itself. However, I missed it for a couple of seasons and got the opportunity to document it in the year 2012 only. When I visited the plant I marked for documenting, the whole branch of that host tree was full of flowers of this species. Even though the flowers are only 2 cm across, they grow in dense raceme to create a beautiful view. Being a common species, I haven’t put much attention and was casually documenting it with 5 micro flashes. After the shoot, when I was transferring the photographs only I noticed its peculiar lip disc and the well developed lamellae. Then I decided to document those flowers again and to record those details in a better way. With fallen logs and bamboo pieces from the forest floor quickly made an erect structure of about 8 ft high. Tied it to the host tree with local creeper twigs and climbed on to it to create a steady view of the flowers. Selected a few freshly bloomed flowers and with 11 micro flashes and 2 optical fibre cable lightings I produced this wonderful photograph of the species. If anybody ask me to gift the best photograph from my collection, I will surely offer this photograph.

Pinalia bractescens (Lindl) Kuntze.

Epiphyte. Pseudo-bulbs cylindric, closely arranged, minutely curved, slightly tapered to its apex. Bulbs are wrinkled during the flowering time. Leaves 3 to 5 from the apex of the bulb, 4 to 7 cm long and 1.5 to 3 cm in width, elliptic-oblong, tapering to its base. Racemes 2 to 4, arising from the axil of the leaves, peduncles sheathed. Flowers 4 to 5, 2 cm across. Sepals, petals, sheaths and its racemes are of an uniform yellow colour; the lamellae on the lip is orange red. Sepals sub-acute; the dorsal narrowly elliptic, arching over the lip; the lateral spreading, broader than the dorsal. Petals much shorter than the sepals, oblong and blunt. Lip oblong, widening towards its three lobed apex, lateral lobes erect, terminal entire and blunt, the apex deflexed. The disc with three glandular margined lamellae.

Eria bractescens, Lindl (Pinalia bractescens (Lindl) Kuntze
Eria bractescens Lindl (Pinalia bractescens (Lindl) Kuntze.)

The Pursuit

The rarest of the rare from the region The authors King and Pantling admitted its non-existence in the region. They took the reference from a couple of drawings made by Late Dr. Simons from specimens collected from Assam, another far away North East state. In the referral book the altitude of this species was mentioned as between 1000 and 3000 ft. I made a comparative study of tropical places of Assam and that of Sikkim-Himalayas and decided to search for this species from those locations. One note of the authors assisted in the further search of the species. They mentioned about another species Eria confusa, Hook as its nearest allied species. I was knowing the habitats of Eria confusa, Hook from the region and concentrated my search on the same habitats of it for this species. Thousands of trees from several square kilometers were searched for this species everyday. Every other day the journey was extending further east on the tropical zone. I came to know about an orchid lover of that locality who had devoted his life in conserving the local species. He was nice enough to accompany me to many locations and show me different species. But the wanted one was missing. With his advice, I shifted to a location near to a protected forest area of the region at a very low altitude. As the main railway line to the North East states passes through that area, everyday me and my team travelled half the way by train, which was cheaper and faster. Six days went off with no trace of this species. In between I found another 4 species which I haven’t got earlier, which compensated the huge financial logistics spend of this particular species. On the seventh day, a herd of wild elephants created havoc in the area and we were forced to move to another location which was around 2 km away from our actual planned search area for the day. I was very much disappointed while walking to the new location. After an hour of search I found three plants with so much similarities to this species. Cross checked with the referral books, it was almost the same. Made arrangements with a very responsible person of that area to visit the plant once in every five days and report to me over phone. He was kind enough to oblige responsibly. Finally after 23 days he reported sighting of racemes and I again visited the place to find 14 raceme all together. By the presence of the sheaths on each of its peduncles I understood this was the species I was looking for. It took another six days and two more visits to see those in bloom and produced this wonderful photograph. On the final day as we were waiting on the railway platform to catch our train back, the 12423 Dibrugarh-New Delhi down Rajdhani whistled pass there making my eyes wet. When ever I see the Delhi bound Rajdhani I go home sick!!!

Epipogium roseum (D. Don) Lindl.

Terrestrial. A plant with smooth and hairless unbranched stem between 8 to 45 cm in height. With many 1 cm long scattered small obtuse sheaths. Flowers distant, dropping, around 1 to 1.5 cm long. The entire plant almost white to pale cream, flowers white with many pink to purple spots. Sepals and petals linear-oblong with the latter slightly shorter. Lip elliptic, concave, entire with its apex irregularly ridged, the spur short and bulbous.

Epipogum nutans, Reichb (Epipogium roseum (D. Don) Lindl)
Epipogum nutans Reichb (Epipogium roseum (D. Don) Lindl)

The Pursuit

A very interesting orchid plant of the region. Just after the first monsoon rains, this plant appears on its habitats from its underground tuber. The whole plant is almost white to cream coloured and devoid of any leaves, can be spotted from a distance even in thick forests. The local population who venture into the forest calls it “Bhooth pautha” (Ghost plant). Due to my regular interactions with the locals, I came to know about the presence of this plant in that region. People who frequented the forests were well aware of its locations and helped me to the exact place of its presence. The location I was shown was near to a stream with too much of undergrowths and huge tall trees. We have to descent from an altitude of 7400 ft to 5800 ft to its location. I had made arrangements with a friend of that area to visit the location regularly and inform me when the plant is in bloom. After a week I got a call from him that he saw the plants as high as 12 to 15 cm and asked me to come there. Unfortunately I was around 180 km away at another place and was waiting for another rare plant to be in bloom. Hence, I was not able to reach to the “Bhooth” in the next three days. On the fourth day I was there around 11 AM. As we were descending down the hill, I found 7 plants together just to the side of the trek inside thick undergrowths. It was a wonderful sight, a cluster of pure white plants in the midst of dense green leafed plants. Then I understood why the locals called it “Bhooth”. I had a nice documentary session there itself with too many leech bites all over my body. Again went down the hill to see the other plants. They were also in bloom, but less in numbers and in height. After that I had seen this plant on three other locations also. All of them were accidental sighting, thus proving this rare species is still there in its natural habitats. Due to some special characteristics of this species, I wanted to visit the plant in the night also. Our trek in the evening got abruptly ended with a furious female bear chasing us all the way out of the forest.

Phalaenopsis taenialis Lindl.

Epiphyte. A plant with a solitary pendulous leaf and numerous spreading, flat roots running into meters. Leaf elliptic-oblong, sessile, tapering to its base, 3 to 7 cm long and 1 to 2 cm in width. Flowers in racemes, longer than the leaves, pendulous, 5 to 9 flowered. Flowers small, 1 to 1.5 cm across. Sepals and petals are pale pink, the epichile of the lip and anther are dark punk, the base of the spur with a faint yellow shade. Sepals unequal, the dorsal lanceolate, the lateral broader than the dorsal, undulate on one side. Petals obovate to spathulate. Both sepals and petals five nerved. Lip adnate to the foot of the column, its hypochile turned into a stout sub-cylindric spur and with two narrow lobes, the epichile oblong, entire.

Doritis taenialis, Benth (Phalaenopsis taenialis, Lindl)
Doritis taenialis Benth (Phalaenopsis taenialis Lindl)

The Pursuit

This species got long and flat root network, often forming large clusters. In the winter months when most of the trees shed their leaves, its root network can be easily spotted. I spotted the species in the winter months because of this reason. By the early spring, leaf appears on this plant, a single pendulous leaf, from the centre of the root network. Then within a few days a pendulous raceme. I was making a visit to the location every week to ascertain its status. The authors in their monumental work mentioned about the plants producing white flowers too. However, till date there is no photographic evidence for that. Hence, I was looking for more plants from the region, to make sure I would get flowers in white. The search ended up with not much success as I was not able to find more plants from that area. With the start of early monsoon showers, the buds opened. The flowers were so beautiful, but its peculiar lip shape made the documentation time consuming and needed more technical skills than expected. There were seven flowers on the raceme I selected to document. I tried with the lower most flower on the raceme on the first day. Even after several attempts I was not getting the result I desired. The position of the pendulous flowers were also not providing a good opportunity for me to position my flashes. The day ended with much disappointment. Next day I started the journey to the location by Sunrise, determined to rectify the defects of the previous day. The location was around 7400 ft high, deep inside a forest, hence there will always be fog and slight shower. As I was about to reach there, it rained heavily and made my last stretch of trek impossible. One more day ended up on a dissatisfactory mode. The third was a bright day and I reached the place around 8 in the morning to find one more raceme in bloom on another tree. Decided to try to document those flowers and with the help of a local cattle herder, who helped me with holding six micro flashes between his short fingers, produced this wonderful photograph. However, my hunt for those white flowers of this species is still continuing. 

Dendrobium transparens Wall.

Epiphyte. Stems erect, slender, long as 15 to 35 cm, with narrow thickening nodes. Leaves linear-lanceolate, 3 to 5 cm long and 1.5 cm in width, apex acute. Flowers 2 to 3 cm across, in pairs from the nodes of leafless stems. Sepals white; petals white flushed with pink; lip white except at its undulate apical lobe which is flushed with pink on its exterior, the disc with a large purple patch and its convolute sides with many streaks of purple. Sepals lanceolate, acute. Petals of the same length as that of petals, ovate and with almost blunt apices. Lip long as sepals, elliptic-obovate, clawed at the base, side lobes convolute, the terminal lobe sub-orbicular with undulate edges.

Dendrobium transparens, Wall
Dendrobium transparens Wall.

The Pursuit

When in bloom, this plant attracts the attention of all passing by. It is still fresh in my mind, the first time I saw this plant in bloom. It was inside a tea estate in the plains of the region. The estate was carpeted for miles and miles with fresh grown green leaves. The plant was on the top branch of a dried tree, with many full bloom flowers on leafless erect stems with the blue sky as background. It was one of the amazing sites of my flower hunts.

The plant is a common species of the tropics. Its erect stems are always an easy identification mark. I found this plant two years back during my routine survey and waited for its blooming time. After the first monsoon shower, buds started appearing and it bloomed in the second week. The tree in which I spotted this species was an almost dead and there was a possibility of it falling down soon. My first intention was to protect the tree from falling down, thus saving the habitat of this species. With the help of the estate manager and his workers we fixed five 15 ft tall wooden poles around the tree and tied them with iron wires. The nature enthusiast manager promised to give similar help for any trees in his territory. I was lifted up to the top of the tree on the blade of an earth mover to further safe guard the tree as well as me and my equipments. The close up view of this flower was more amazing. With its pure white petals and pink flushed sepals I think this is the most beautiful Dendrobium flower of the tropics. I was even more happy to have a wonderful position on the blade of the earth mover and produced this wonderful photograph with its pale colour variation well recorded.