Habenaria dentata var. dentata.

Terrestrial. Whole plant about 35 to 80 cm in height. Lower part of stem sheathed, middle leafy and upper part bracteate. Leaves 4 to 6 cm long, oblong to elliptic, 5 nerved, sometimes 7 also, the base of the leaf narrowed into a long tubular sheath. Spike 4 to 8 cm long, laxly flowered. Sepals sub-equal, broadly ovate, acute, spreading, the lateral pair sub-erect. Petals narrowly oblong, sub-acute, curved inwards, shorter than the sepals. Lip as long as the sepals, variable in breadth, with large cuneate or rounded, fimbriate or crenate side lobes and a small oblong entire apical lobe. Spur infundibuliform at the base, slender laterally compressed, geniculte, sub-clavate below the knee, longer than the shortly stalked beaked ovary. Stigmas separated by the area in the centre by the orifice of the spur.

Habenaria dentata var. dentata
Habenaria dentata var. dentata

The Pursuit

The local people of the region had seen this plant in bloom and had admired its beauty for many years, to them this is the most attractive flower of their forest. I located a few places, where this species appears every season and was following it to document in bloom. Information came from local villagers that they found two plants with buds about to bloom, so I reached the area. The plants were on a height of about 800 ft on a steep hill. For seven continuous days I climbed up the hill only to see them in buds. As I have to document some other plants I decided to leave them behind and proceeded to the other location, thinking I will only see them in bloom the next season. To my surprise, on the drive home, all of a sudden, from the window of the moving vehicle, I spotted the species in full bloom on the road side. I got down on that deserted forest area to see six plants with four of them in full bloom. I have never experienced anything like that in my entire flower hunt, something I waited for long is right in front of me. I will never forget those moments as well as the 17 km trek I made after that to reach the nearest village!!!!

 

 

Habenaria malintana (Blanco) Merr.

Terrestrial. Whole plant about 30 to 65 cm in height. Lower part of stem sheathed, middle leafy and upper part bracteate. Leaves 4 to 6 cm long, oblong to elliptic, 5 nerved, the base of the leaf narrowed into a long tubular sheath. Spike 4 to 7 cm long, laxly flowered. Sepals sub-equal, broadly ovate, acute, spreading, the lateral pair sub-erect. Petals narrowly oblong, sub-acute, curved inwards, shorter than the sepals. Lip as long as the sepals, lanceolate, always curved upwards. Spur totally absent. Stigmas united.

Habenaria malintana, (Blanco) Merr.
Habenaria malintana (Blanco) Merr.

The Pursuit

As this species is a look alike of Habenaria dentata var. dentata, it was very difficult to distinguish them without flowers. Repeatedly visited the area, every other day, trekking around 12 km. In the end, spurless buds came confirming it as Habenaria malintana, (Blanco) Merr. Then came the obstacle in the form of a land slide which brought the vehicular movement in that region to a standstill. Took the help of villagers in finding an alternative route across the river, using bamboos, ropes etc. Frequenting to there every other day became a huge hazard and decided to camp there for the bloom. This time the buds behaved nicely, they bloomed much before than expected and got the photographs of the species in bloom for the first time from the region.

Bulbophyllum penicillium C.S.P.Parish & Rchb.f.

Epiphytic. Pseudo-bulbs arranged close together, in some instance slightly apart also, broadly ovoid, between 1.5 to 3 cm long. Rhizome stout. Leaf 7 to 12 cm long, oblong to lanceolate, narrowed at the base into a channelled sheathing bract. The raceme longer than the peduncle, decurved with a stouter rachis. Flowers in distance of 1 to 3 cm. Sepals sub-equal, narrowly lanceolate. Petals smaller than the sepals, orbicular, fleshy. Lip longer than the sepals, very mobile in nature, lanceolate with a truncate auricled base, broadly fimbriate-fringed except at the base.

Bulbophyllum penicillium, C.S.P.Parish & Rchb.f
Bulbophyllum penicillium C.S.P.Parish & Rchb.f

The Pursuit

After Sir George King and Robert Pantling’s monumental work, “The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas”, published in the year 1898, several publications by various authors on orchids came up. A lot of research works got the descriptions and study details of this species also. However, no photographs were made available by any of the other authors, pointing to the conclusion that this plant was not located by anyone from the wild. Sir George King and Robert Pantling mentioned August and September as its blooming time. The same was noted by all other authors who wrote about this species. After a lot of efforts I located the plant, just a few, from the region. I visited the plant several times during the months of June, July and August thinking it will bloom in those months. However, no flowers were found during those months. Then I realisied the fact that the blooming time mentioned by Sir George King and Robert Pantling may be wrong and all others followed the mistake. So decided to follow the plant round the year, visited the region once in every ten days. After a long wait, the racemes started appearing in the month of November and finally it bloomed after the winter in the first week of March. Later I got another confirmation of the blooming of the species from Meghalaya, there also it bloomed in the month of March, thus concluding to the fact that a mistake had cropped up with the monumental work. The most interesting fact is that a lot of eminent researchers followed the “mistake” by mentioning the blooming time as August and September in their publications and findings. This single incidence proves the need to study each and every species in their natural habitat before bringing out publications.

 

Arachnis labrosa var. labrosa.

Epiphytic. Stems woody, long about 2 to 3 feet, pendulous. Leaves coriaceous, keeled, unequally bilobed, 10 to 15 cm long. Raceme long as the leaves. The peduncle and rachis slender. Flowers arranged in distance of 2 to 3 cm, floral bract broad. Sepals unequal, oblong to oblanceolate, blunt. Petals smaller than the sepals, oblong and acute. Lip shorter than the petals, shortly clawed, the blunt apex with a large papilla. Spur recurved, blunt and cylindric between the papilla and the base. Sepal and petals are yellow with dark brown markings. The lip yellow has dark pink lines and auricles with bright pink blotches.

Arachnis labrosa var. labrosa
Arachnis labrosa var. labrosa

The Pursuit

After Sir George King and Robert Pantling described this species in their monumental work, “The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas”, published in the year 1898, several publications came up with the descriptions of this species. However, no photographs were made available by any of the other authors, pointing to the conclusion that this plant was not located by anyone from the wild. Hence, I put extra efforts to locate this plant. Sir George King and Robert Pantling mentioned their find from “Bhotan near the Sikkim frontier in the Rumpti Valley at a low elevations”, prompted me to survey low altitude areas of the region in the early monsoon days. After several weeks only, a couple of plants with much similarity to the descriptions of Sir George King and Robert Pantling were found. However, it took another three months to confirm (by theoretical research) the same as Arachnis labrosa var. labrosa, by that time it bloomed thus confirming my efforts. Thus able to document the species for the first time in flower from the region.

 

 

 

Corybas himalaicus (King & Pantl.) Schltr

A small plant of the height 4 to 5 cm. Stem glabrous, with a single sheath near its base. Leaves solitary, 1 to 1.5 cm long, sessile, just under the flower, green with many white nerves. Flower solitary, dorsal sepal blunt, concave, arching over the column and the basal half of the lip, lateral pair short, filiform, lying between the two spurs of the lip. Petals none. Lip oblong, longer than the dorsal sepal, the basal portion convolute, with two short cylindric straight spurs at the base.

This species is the only orchid with no petals from the region of Sikkim-Himalayas.

Corysanthes himalaica, King and Pantling (Corybas himalaicus, King and Pantling (Schltr))
Corysanthes himalaica, King and Pantling (Corybas himalaicus, King and Panting (Schltr))

The Pursuit

Sir George King and Robert Pantling in their monumental work, “The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas”, published in the year 1898, described this plant. They found it from Lam-teng in the Lachen Valley at an altitude of 9000 ft, from a vertical moist rock. Part of my research work, I surveyed all the areas of Lam-teng, which is mostly of very difficult terrain, with high rocky mountains on one side of the river and dense forests on the other. The mention of “moist vertical rock” by Sir George King and Robert Pantling made me search and survey all the vertical rocks especially those on the banks of the river. After a search of 18 days, I finally found the plant from a moist vertical rock itself, probably the same place from where Sir George King and Robert Pantling found it some 125 years ago!!!!!