Coelogyne corymbosa Lindl.

Epiphyte. Pseudo-bulbs crowded, ovoid, slightly sheathed at the base, 2 to 4 cm long, attached to a stout rhizome. Leaves narrowly elliptic-oblong, acute, narrowed to the sessile base, 8 to 12 cm long and 2 to 4 cm in width. Raceme of variable size, decurved, its peduncle enclosed in large sheaths. Flowers 3 to 5, but for the yellow blotched lip the flower is pure white through out, very sweet-scented. Sepals and petals sub-equal, with the later narrower, lanceolate. Lip oblong, much contracted about the middle, the lateral lobes broad and blunt, the terminal lobe ovate.

Coelogyne corymbosa, Lindl
Coelogyne corymbosa Lindl.

The Pursuit

A rather sub-alpine species, found growing above 8000 ft only. However, becoming very rare in the wild. Enjoyed and photographed the beauty from the region in 2007 much before I started my work on orchids. Very attractive and sweet scented flower, also found in one of my favorite places in the hills. It is always in bloom along with the Summer rains. As it is milk white throughout, getting a perfect photograph, no shadows – no marks, will be always a bit tricky. This particular photograph was from my 2012 collection, by that time the species has gone rare.. However, I got this perfect one without any markings and spots on its sepals and petals from a very tall tree. The tree was so huge and tall with heavy branches, so had a nice climb and sat comfortably near the flower and produced this beautiful photograph. Also, the “seating” was so comfortable, which enabled me use the optical fibre cable lighting, to lit up the three lamellae!!!!!

Smitinandia micrantha (Lindl.) Holttum.

Epiphyte. The whole about about 25 to 30 cm in height with stout stem. Leaves oblong, keeled, obliquely truncate and slightly bifid, the base sheathed, as long as 6 to 10 cm long and 2 to 3 cm in width. Racemes leaf opposed, longer than the leaves, the peduncle and rachis stout. Flowers small, sepals and petals pale pink to rose base, lip of the darker shade, opening a few together from the base. Sepals broadly ovate, obtuse, spreading. Petals smaller than the sepals, very narrow, oblong, spreading. Lip fleshy, as long as the sepals with a wide blunt spur adpressed to and as long as the ovary.

Cleisostoma micranthum, (Lindl.) King & Pantl (Smitinandia micrantha (Lindl.) Holttum)
Cleisostoma micranthum (Lindl.) King & Pantl (Smitinandia micrantha (Lindl.) Holttum.)

The Pursuit

Another tropical plant with beautiful small flowers. The plant can easily be spotted at low altitudes. But for my regular visits to the region to look for other species I would have missed this one in flower, as it had bloomed much before than expected. Sir George King and Robert Pantling mentioned its blooming time as July and August, that is the monsoon months of the region, however it is found out that it is not a monsoon bloomer, it blooms much before the rains. I was observing the flowers, to make sure that whether all the buds will be open at the same time or not. The flowers, a few of them together, open from the base.I studied several plants and found that by the time the apex flowers are in bloom the base ones wither away. So I decided to find some fresh flowers (base end ones) in bloom and to document it. Found this particular one and photographed it with precision lighting to get the perfect colouration.

Bulbophyllum umbellatum var. umbellatum.

Epiphyte as well as lithophyte. Thick rhizomes with fibrous sheaths and many roots. Pseudo-bulbs 2 to 3 cm long, ovoid, wrinkled, either attached closely or slightly apart to the rhizome (hardly 1 cm apart). Leaf solitary, thick, narrowly oblong, the apex obtuse and notched, narrowed to the base, sessile, 7 to 10 cm long and 2 to 3 cm in width. Scape about twice as long as the pseudo-bulbs, with a sheath at the base. Flowers between 2 and 4 in umbels. Floral bract lanceolate, shorter than the stalked ovary. Flowers with pale brownish base with purple spots through out, the lip is pale green and column blotched with red. Dorsal sepal free at its base from the lateral pair, broadly ovate, acute; lateral sepals longer than the dorsal, free, ovate-lanceolate from a broad base, sub-acute, falcate, their upper margins curved inwards. Petals ovate, very obtuse. Sepals and petals veined. Lip oblong with a broad base, tapering to the sub-acute apex.

Cirrhopetalum maculosum, Lindl (Bulbophyllum umbellatum var. umbellatum)
Cirrhopetalum maculosum Lindl (Bulbophyllum umbellatum var. umbellatum)

The Pursuit

My favorite of all Cirrhopetalums. Not so common, but I found a good population in a deep dense forest the previous year. Missed the first year of blooming as the species bloomed much before than what was described by Sir George King and Robert Pantling in their work. Despite a long trek through the dense forest I was so disappointed to see the species in seed pods. Searched the whole area to find at least one flower in bloom, without any success. I still remember the return journey from the forest. The bus owner who doubles as its driver too, was asking me, “kya hogaya Swamiji, phool nahi mila?” (what happened Swamiji, hasn’t got the flower?). In the year 2012, determined to find them in bloom, I visited the spot much before the time of my previous year’s visit. Followed it with several visits in the coming weeks. Finally on a rainy day, with the Sun playing hide and seek, I got it in full bloom. As far as photography is concerned this is a very tricky flower to shoot, too much shadows are produced because of its peculiar shape. Finally after several shots and draining a huge number of batteries got this particular photograph. While returning I told to the bus owner, “bhai milgaya aach….!!!! (brother got it today). He was more happy than me.

Bulbophyllum scabratum Rchb.f.

Epiphyte as well as lithophyte. Always in clusters with pseudo-bulbs crowded together forming dense turfs. Bulbs very small, ovoid less than 1 cm long. Leaf solitary, linear-lanceolate, acute, the base narrowed to the petiole 5 to 8 cm long and less than 2 cm in width. Scape much shorter than the leaves, slender, erect, minutely bracteate, bearing at its apex 3 to 7 flowers in an umbel. Flowers bright yellow throughout with slight ocherous tinge here and there. Dorsal sepal free at its base from the lateral pair, very concave, vaulted over the column, ovate, shortly acuminate. The lateral pair much longer than the dorsal, linear lanceolate, partly coherent, the bases and apices free. Petals broadly ovate, acute. The margins of petals and sepals are teethed. Lip oblong, sub-acute, entire, fleshy, very concave near the base.

Cirrhopetalum caespitosum, Wall. ex Lindl (Bulbophyllum scabratum Rchb.f.)
Cirrhopetalum caespitosum Wall. ex Lindl (Bulbophyllum scabratum Rchb.f.)

The Pursuit

A very small plant, found specially on rocks attracts attention with its cluster growing nature. Found few clusters on rocks and on trees around a sub-tropical habitat. Identified as Cirrhopetalum caespitosum, Wall. ex Lindl (Bulbophyllum scabratum Rchb.f.) with its cluster growing property. Waited till the summer months to document it in bloom. The route through its habitat was used frequently by me for other surveys in the region, so at least visited the plant twice a week during the summer months. After seeing them in buds, the anxiety level to shoot them in bloom made my visiting frequency go up. However, I never took more tension on this particular species as there were a few clusters around that region. If I miss one in bloom I can zero on another one. It started blooming by the mid Summer and initially it seems the flowers are very small, so waited for a full grown cluster to bear healthy flowers and got this wonderful photograph.

Bulbophyllum spathulatam (Rolfe. ex E.W .Cooper) Seidenf.

Epiphyte. Pseudo-bulbs narrowly ovoid 1 to 3 cm long, attached 2 to 4 cm apart on annulated naked thin rhizomes. Leaf solitary, fleshy, narrowly elliptic, obtuse or sub-acute, narrowed to the base, sessile, 4 to 7 cm long and 1.5 to 3 cm in width. Scape stout, much shorter than the leaves, the peduncle also very short, with 5 to 8 flowers in umbel, flowers dorsally compressed. Rose red with spots of darker tints with leathery texture, will open only for a day (rather few hours only). Dorsal sepal broadly ovate, apiculate, concave and pressed to the column, lateral sepals much longer than the dorsal, oblong, obtuse. Cohering by their inner edges to form a sub-panduriform blade, slightly bifid at the apex. Petals oblong, nearly as long as the dorsal sepal, slightly falcate, obtuse. Lip oblong, entire, sub-acute, the base dilated, the upper surface slightly concave. The whole plant is of a coppery hue.

Cirrhopetalum bootanense, Hook
Bulbophyllum spathulatam (Rolfe. ex E.W. Cooper) Seidenf.

The Pursuit

A plant which will be in bloom for hardly an hour, during that short span all the flowers from each bulb open and close together. As the whole plant is of a coppery hue it is very easy to distinguish it from others. I got lots of them on tall trees from a tropical valley two years ago. It blooms in the peak summer days. I missed the first year, as it bloomed little earlier in the month than expected. Noted the days and waited for the next year. In 2012, I was there at the right time with buds about to bloom. As the crossing of the river and the trek to the spot take a few hours everyday, it was decided to camp at the site to get the perfect photograph. Camped there for three days, on the third day a few of the flowers bloomed at sunrise and could documented them very nicely. The opening of the flowers is also very interesting, the dorsal sepal just rises a little and the petals spread a little, the lip rises hardly half a cm. Everything happens within 5 to 10 minutes and the flower closes in less than an hour. By the time we reach the tree top, the show is finished!!!! So I sat on the tree top in the early morning hours to get the perfect shot.

Calanthe brevicornu Lindl.

Terrestrial. The whole plant is less than 15 to 20 cm in height. Pseudo-bulbs small, ovoid, pointed, arranged very closely. Pseudo stem 5 to 7 cm, with wide sheaths. Leaves usually 3, very rarely 5, sub-equal, oblong elliptic, shortly acuminate, tapered to the wide sheathing base, 12 to 20 cm long and 4 to 7 cm in width. Peduncle and raceme longer than the leaves, former with a few scattered short bracts; later around 15 to 20 cm long, with scattered flowers. Flowers beautiful, dull red to brownish red, with the base of sepals and petals flushed with white, both sepals and petals white veined (usually three), lip slightly pale in colour compared to sepal and petals with distinct white margins throughout. The mouth of the spur is lined with retroflexed hairs. Sepals sub-equal, oblong-lanceolate, acute and spreading. Petals slightly shorter and narrower than the sepals, lanceolate. Lip attached to the lower half of the column, 3-lobed, and with a short, blunt straight spur.

Calanthe brevicornu, Lindl
Calanthe brevicornu Lindl.

The Pursuit

Easy to locate from the forests, as it appears and blooms before the monsoon showers which make the forest floor fully covered with undergrowths. I found a few of this species in the end of April, while on a routine survey to the forest. However, in the initial stages, confusion prevailed with correct identification, as few Calanthes of the region are look alikes. Repeated visits were needed to the region to find them in bloom, as the flowers are quite larger the blooming also takes a longer time. Finally it bloomed, one by one from the bottom providing an opportunity to photograph a new flower every other day. To be frank, the sepals, petals and lip of this species are spreading and as well as flat, hence not much difficulty to get a sharp photograph like the one here.

Bulbophyllum triste Reichb.

Epiphyte. Pseudo-bulbs turbinate with umbonate apices arranged at 1 to 3 cm apart on very thin naked rhizomes. Leaves two, sub-membranous, flaccid, narrowly oblong, tapering on both sides – to the acute apex and to the sub-sessile base, 5 to 8 cm long and 1.5 to 2 cm broad. Leaf less during flowering. Scape 6 to 8 cm long, the peduncle slender, erect with a few filiform bracteoles, twice as long as the drooping densely flowered raceme. Sepals purple with greenish margins. Dorsal sepal oblong, ovate blunt, concave. The lateral pair slightly longer, cohering at the tips and with margins incurved. Petals purple, almost triangular, mid nerved, much shorter than the sepals. Lip brownish red with a very narrow yellowish margin, stipitate, oblong-lanceolate. The flowers are of an unpleasant odour.

Bulbophyllum triste, Reichb.
Bulbophyllum triste Reichb.

The Pursuit

The authors, Sir George King and Robert Pantling, wrote that, the collection of the species by them were the first of its kind from the region. Previously it was believed to be a native of Burma only. This doubled my interest to find the species from the region again. Its pseudo-bulb is something unusual in comparison to other Bulbophyllums. Keeping this in mind that, I searched hard for the species, especially in the tropical valleys but in vain. However, in the mid February of 2012, I stumbled up on a few leaf less pseudo-bulbs atop a tall tree near the valley. However, the bulbs were not the same as described by Sir George King and Robert Pantling in their book. Still I kept hope in those bulbs as Bulbophyllum triste, Reichb. However, the summer heat produced a forest fire and the whole area got burnt down. It was understood that the same species may be somewhere around also. The tropical torrid atmosphere coupled with windless river valleys stand as a big obstacle to do repeated tree climbings in that area. But luck was in my favour. One of my friend from the village while collecting leaves for his cattle flock found just one pseudo-bulb with a rather unusual long flower. He informed me over phone and next day I visited the place to see an unusually long raceme in full bloom. Documented it the best way I could.

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.