Coelogyne stricta (D.Don) Schltr.

Epiphyte with comparatively large sized cylindric, smooth pseudo-bulbs, sheathed at the base, long as 6 to 13 cm and 4 to 6 cm in diameter. Bulbs are attached at a distance more than 4 cm apart on very stout sheathed rhizomes. Leaves in pairs, slightly coriaceous, elliptic oblong, acute, narrowed at the base to a long petiole. Leaves as long as 15 to 25 cm and 2.5 to 4 cm in width. Peduncle arising between the leaves from the apex of the adult bulbs, rather short or of the same size of the leaves, naked on the lower portion, with many closely arranged imbricate sheaths just below the raceme. Raceme 7 to 10 cm long, distichous, many flowered. Flowers 2 to 4 cm across, sepals and petals pale ochraceous, the lip white, the middle lobe with a broad wide spot of yellow spread across and with two parallel purple streaks. The flowers are of an unpleasant smell. Sepals sub-equal, oblong, sub-acute, spreading, three veined. Petals very narrowed, slightly longer than the petals, sub-acute, single veined. Lip elongate, the lower part oblong and with narrow entire side lobes, separated from the sub-orbicular anterior lobe by an erose edged sinus; anterior lobe irregularly erose, undulate, obtuse; the disc with two erose-crenulate lamellae from the base to almost apex.

Coelogyne elata, Lindl (Coelogyne stricta (D Don) Schltr
Coelogyne elata Lindl (Coelogyne stricta (D Don) Schltr).

The Pursuit

A sub-tropical species, which blooms along with the summer rains. Its large pseudo-bulbs and long leaves in pair draws attention even to casual plant hunters not to mention about explorers like me. I spotted this plant long back, but missed it in bloom for 3 years in a row. Determined to photograph it in bloom, I planned my trip to the region in the year 2012. The location was a place across a deep valley however the distance to be covered to reach there through the winding road was not less than 18 km. The road was also not motorable in any way for light vehicles. We were forced to hire a four-wheel drive vehicle at a very high price. The “hiring negotiations” took quite some time and delayed our journey till noon. The “expert” driver of the vehicle mis-calculated a muddy portion of the drive at the “9th mile curve” and got his precious asset stuck in knee deep mud. All his expertise went in vain and we were forced to have a long walk that afternoon with looming dark clouds over the hills. The location of the flowers was more than 6 km away and uphill. No option was left with us other than trekking. Reached the spot with much difficulty around 4 PM with blessings from the sky in the form of a heavy shower. Waited inside a makeshift shed for the rains to stop. The dense jungle coupled with cloudy skies made the area darker much before the sunset. I rushed to climb up the tree and photograph the flowers. The entire process took hardly 40 minutes to get a beautiful photograph like this. By the time I finished my task, it was pitch dark and with the help of my “Kathmandu” head lamp, we started the journey back. By the time we reached our stranded vehicle, its driver had disappeared leaving the vehicle back. To be frank, I really enjoyed that whole night walk, back to the base camp and to my surprise there was not a drop of rain that whole night!!!