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.

Anoectochilus roxburghii (Wall.) Lindl.

Terrestrial. A small plant of the height between 7 to 15 cm of stem and 3 to 6 cm of inflorescence. Leaves ovate, the petioles short and somewhat expanded at the base, glabrous. Peduncle glandular-pubescent, with few scattered sheathing bracts with acuminate spices. Raceme much shorter than the peduncle, bearing 2 to 5 resupinate flowers. Sepals unequal, dorsal broadly ovate, acuminate, its apex shortly recurved; the lateral pair oblong, acute all glandular-hairy. Petals smaller than the sepals, oblanceolate, with hooked spices. Base of the lip adpressed to the face of the column and with two calli, claw with seven or eight pairs of slender unequal fimbriae.

Anoectochilus roxburghii, (Wall.) Lindl.
Anoectochilus roxburghii (Wall.) Lindl.

The Pursuit

The most photographed of all Jewel orchids, because it is available in most of the nurseries across the region. However, seldom photographed in bloom. Very rare in the wild also. It was a dream to document this species in bloom. Tried several seasons to find the plant in bloom. Grows in low altitudes and bloom in winter months, made it a habit every year to survey for this. Finally found from the Eastern zone of the region, during the month of November in buds. As there are not much blooming in those months of any other species spent considerable days in and around the region to document it in bloom. However, it took considerably more days to open than expected. With some urgent work I was forced to move to another location for a couple of days and returned to the region to find a single bud opened the same day. It was a delight to my eyes and will never forget that moment.

Goodyera repens (L.) R.Brown.

Terrestrial. A small beautiful plant of the size 6 to 12 cm in height. Stem leafy below and bracteate above, passing into pubescent peduncle. Leaves ovate-elliptic to elliptic, the peduncle sheathing in the lower half. Raceme sub-secund, its rachis and the bracts and ovaries sparsely pubescent or sometimes sub-glabrous. Sepals sub-equal, ovate, sub-acute. Petals about as long as the sepals, cunneate-oblong, acute at the apex. Lip about as long as the sepals, saccate at the base, the apical lobe short.

Goodyera repens, (L.) R.Brown
Goodyera repens (L.) R.Brown

The Pursuit

This species was documented from the Western Himalayas by several people who visited the “Valley of Flowers”. However, even though described by many from Eastern Himalayas, none was able to produce a photograph (It never grows in any nurseries like other Jewel orchids may be the reason!!!). I decided to survey an area between 12000 and 13000 ft. As it grows near to streams and water bodies, I concentrated on areas with wet and moist surroundings. Even though it is a small plant, its leaves are very attractive and draws attention. At those altitude the main trees are the Rhododendrons with very thick and strong branches which make survey under them very difficult. However, with very much difficulty I crawled under those thickets in search of this species for several days. Finally all of a sudden I was standing in front of the species, altogether around 15 plants scattered on a wet moist land. They were in buds only, however it took another two weeks to see them blooming. In the two weeks I visited the area for 6 days. Finally I got it on a rainy day. I still remember the efforts I put that evening to dry up my camera stuff.

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!!!!!