Aphyllorchis montana Rchb.f.

TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS by NARESH SWAMI

ISBN 978-93-5258-377-5

Aphyllorchis montana Rchb.f. – a very rare species seldom located across its habitat; never photographed from the region since its mention by Sir George King and Robert Pantling in their monumental work of 1898. The book, TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS, presents the first ever documentary evidences of the species from the region.

Aphyllorchis montana Rchb.f
Aphyllorchis montana Rchb.f.
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami

Anthogonium gracile Wall. ex Lindl.

TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS by NARESH SWAMI

ISBN 978-93-5258-377-5

Anthogonium gracile Wall. ex Lindl. – not an uncommon species. However, the species was included in the book, TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS, because the author was able to locate its rare white as well as a new yellow to pale brown forms.

Anthogonium gracile Wall. ex Lindl.
Anthogonium gracile Wall. ex Lindl.
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami

Anoectochilus sikkimensis King & Pantling

TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS by NARESH SWAMI

ISBN 978-93-5258-377-5

Anoectochilus sikkimensis King & Pantling – this species for reasons unclear and unwanted was reduced to Anoectochilus brevilabris Lindl. However, field observations show that the latter is a species with varying characteristics. The stunning close-up photography presented in the book, TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS, helps in understanding the characteristics of the species in great detail and dimension.

Anoectochilus sikkimensis King & Pantling
Anoectochilus sikkimensis King & Pantling
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami

Anoectochilus setaceus Blume

TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS by NARESH SWAMI

ISBN 978-93-5258-377-5

Anoectochilus setaceus Blume – a new report from the region of Eastern Himalayas. The book, TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS, presents the first ever photographic evidence of the species from the region in bloom, with its characteristics and habitat explained in detail.

Anoectochilus setaceus Blume
Anoectochilus setaceus Blume
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami.
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami

Anoectochilus roxburghii (Wall.) Lindl.

TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS by NARESH SWAMI

ISBN 978-93-5258-377-5

Anoectochilus roxburghii (Wall.) Lindl. – I wonder how many have seen this species in bloom in its natural habitat?

Anoectochilus roxburghii (Wall.) Lindl.
Anoectochilus roxburghii (Wall.) Lindl.
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami.
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami

Androcorys pugioniformis (Lindl. ex Hook.f.) K.Y.Lang

TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS by NARESH SWAMI

ISBN 978-93-5258-377-5

Androcorys pugioniformis (Lindl. ex Hook.f.) K.Y.Lang – my special hunt for orchids growing above 15000 ft produced the documentary evidence of the highest growing species of the Himalayas, if not on Earth.

The book, TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS, presents more details about its altitude, habitat and characteristics.

Androcorys pugioniformis (Lindl. ex Hook.f.) K.Y.Lang
Androcorys pugioniformis (Lindl. ex Hook.f.) K.Y.Lang
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami.
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami

Androcorys gracilis (King & Pantling) Schltr.

TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS by NARESH SWAMI 

ISBN 978-93-5258-377-5

Androcorys gracilis (King & Pantling) Schltr. – one of the tiniest ground orchids from the Himalayas. It is surprising that the species remained elusive and more interestingly till date without a photographic evidence.

The book, TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS, presents the first and only photographic evidence of the species along with its habitat and characteristics.

Androcorys gracilis
Androcorys gracilis (King & Pantling) Schltr.
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami.
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami

TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS by Naresh Swami.

The book, TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS, is part of a research program to study and photograph orchid species from the Eastern Himalayas, covering the regions of Eastern Nepal, Sikkim, Darjeeling district, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Nagaland. Two monumental publications – The Flora of British India (1890) by Sir J.D.Hooker and The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalaya (1898) by Sir George King and Robert Pantling were relied on.

Each species was located in its natural habitats and documented while in bloom, ample time was devoted for this purpose, thereby updating its flowering time precisely, altitudinal range widely, habitat proximately and natural characteristics to detailed perfection. The study also focused on preparing a status report on the population of each species to initiate various conservation programs.

Terrestrial Orchid by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami

The book, TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS, the first of its kind, is a collection of 108 rare to very rare ground orchids in the region. Majority of them are the first ever-photographic evidence. The compilation of data took more than 4 years of rigorous survey in the most difficult inhospitable terrains in the region and 45000 km of trekking on foot.

Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami

During the course of study, not a single specimen was collected nor damaged. Religiously utmost care was taken so as not to disturb the sanctimonious habitat of the studied specimens. The nomenclature of each species is in accordance with the current World Checklist of selected plant families, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.

Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami.
Terrestrial Orchids by Naresh Swami

The author thanks each and every individual and all institutions in the region as well as from around the globe, who directly or indirectly helped on a daily basis or for a short duration, during the course of study.

Naresh Swami

Official distributor of the book: CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY Pvt. Ltd., P-20, Connaught Circus, New Delhi 110 001.        Phone: +91-11-43631313.                       Email: books@cna.co.in

Alternatively, the book can be purchased from Amazon.in, using the link http://www.amazon.in/Terrestrial-Orchids-Naresh-Swami/dp/9352583779/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462636271&sr=8-1&keywords=terrestrial+orchids

Bhutanthera albovirens Renz.

The Plant

Terrestrial. Whole plant 5 to 7 cm in height. Tuber solitary, ovate, 1 to 1.2 cm long and less than 1 cm in cross section, with 2 to 3 fleshy stout around 2 to 3 cm long roots and a few fibrous roots attached to it. Stem cylindrical, fleshy and more than half the length of the whole plant, its base with two long clasping oblong sheaths with the upper one with wide mouth, both 1 to 1.4 cm long. Leaf two arising from the apex of the stem, sub-opposite, lanceolate to ovate – closer to the latter, sessile, narrowing towards its base to a clasping base, 2.7 to 4.5 cm long and 1.4 to 1.7 cm wide. Flower solitary arising from the apex of a narrow cylindrical and ribbed scape shorter than the stem.

The Flower

Flower around 2.5 cm across. Sepals un-equal, ovate, margins towards the apex slightly curved up to form a minutely keeled apex. Dorsal larger than the lateral sepals, erect, 1.2 to 1.5 cm long and less than 0.7 to 0.8 cm wide. Lateral sepals shorter and narrow than the dorsal, spreading. Petals erect, slightly shorter than the lateral sepals, obdeltoid in outline with straight and narrowing to the base margins, base broad. Lip deeply three lobed, diverging towards its apex, lobes with straight and narrowing to the apex margins, 0.3 to 0.4 cm wide at its base and 0.2 to 0.3 cm wide at its apex, the middle one wider and longer than the side lobes. Spur small, cylindrical to globose, minutely curved towards its apex, 0.3 cm long. Floral bract very small, 0.4 to 0.5 cm long, erect, clasping and arising from the upper base of the erect and arching ovary.

Sepals shinning green with silvery white reticulations throughout, margins white. Petals pale cream to pale yellowish with a broad pale green patch running from its base to the middle. Lobes of the lip white to pale cream, mouth of the spur pale green. Floral bract green.

Note: The discovery of Bhutanthera albovirens Renz., from the region of Sikkim-Himalayas was the first of its kind. Until its discovery in 2012 in Sikkim-Himalayas, this species was believed to be endemic to Bhutan.

Bhutanthera albovirens Renz.
Bhutanthera albovirens Renz.

The Pursuit

Till its discovery, this species was considered endemic to Bhutan and reported only a couple of times. Interestingly, I was totally unaware about such a species. Later on during my research on the species I found out that a Japanese botanist photographed the species from the high hills of Bhutan and that is the only photographic evidence of the species till the time I found it.

It was my first Alpine flower hunt season and I was really happy to have succeeded in locating more than 55 alpine orchid species. Many of those species were rediscoveries after they found mention in the monumental work of Sir. George King and Robert Pantling 120 years back. In the last month of the flowering season, I was concentrating on altitudes above 14000 ft. The blooming pattern of flowers in the Himalayas is very interesting; it starts from the lower altitudes by the early summer and moves higher and higher. By the last of the season it reaches the highest meadows, which shares border with the permanent snow line.

As most of the species I was looking for were discovered I was in a relaxed mood in those days. Still kept my routine field study intact looking for more species. In the Himalayas every other day brings surprises with many new finds, hence I was hopeful of something new.

I was on a high mountain on that day; I searched that location many times during several of my previous visits. Around half the height of the mountain there were large rocks, which were full of moss cover and with many small plants growing on it. Every time when I visited that area I always spent considerable time observing those small plants on those rocks with eagerness. On that day too, I spent considerable time studying many plants from there. As I was about to move out to the higher side, my attention was drawn towards a small plant with a solitary flower. On close observation I found that there were four plants growing close to each other with two of them in flower. As the plants where on the lower side of the rock with many thorny bushes around, it was very difficult to reach it. Slowly I removed those thorny bushes and bend down to have a closer look. With its three lobed lips I instantly identified it as a species from the genus Bhutanthera. I was really overjoyed with its find, as I know there are no reports of any other Bhutanthera species other than the one reported earlier. However, to be frank, I was not able to identify the species at that moment. As it was only a couple of plants in bloom I took absolute care to document the plants and its flower without even disturbing its habitat. At those altitudes with high winds and thorny bushes around, it was very difficult to produce the desired documentary results I was in need. With my experience of working on those altitudes coming handy, I managed to produce some amazing documentary results of the species, but with great difficulty.

I still remember that evening like yesterday, the excitement it created after seeing those documentary evidence on my laptop. Then it took a couple of days of research to confirm its identity properly with help from abroad. The confirmation of the species identity was one more feather to my cap, as this is the first time the species was reported outside Bhutan.

Reference:

Bhutanthera albovirens Renz., is a new report to the region. This species was not reported from the region till date and was believed to be endemic to Bhutan only.

Neottia alternifolia (King & Pantl.) Szlach.

The Plant

Terrestrial. Whole plant 8 to 17 cm in height, with 4 to 5 long naked roots from its base. Stem more than half the height of the plant, naked, ribbed, fleshy, with a long tubular bract at its base. Leaf two arising around the apex of the stem, alternate, oval, sessile, base narrowed to a short tubular sheath, 1.5 to 2.5 cm long and less than 2 cm in width, three nerved and leathery. Flower two, in a long puberulous peduncle; its raceme very short, flowers arranged close together at its apex.

The Flower

Flower small, 1. 5 cm in cross-section. Sepals unequal, oblong to linear; dorsal shorter than the lateral, diagonally arching; lateral spreading, with its apex curving ahead. Petals as long as the sepals, oblong, spreading. Sepals and petals single nerved. Lip longer than the sepals and petals, obcordate with broad base, with a very minute canaliculate running down to its middle from its base. Floral bract ovate, erect, much smaller than the pedicel of the erect ovary and arising from the lower base of it.

Sepals, petals and lip pale green with its nerve and canaliculated of a darker shade. Floral bract green.

Neottia alternifolia (King & Pantl.) Szlach.
Neottia alternifolia (King & Pantl.) Szlach.

The Pursuit

Discovered and described by King and Pantling in their monumental work, “The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas” more than 120 years ago. However, till date no researchers or botanists managed to locate the plant from its natural habitats and produce documentary evidence. For more than a century the only reference of the species is a drawing from the work of King and Pantling. Even though the authors mentioned its altitude as well as the location, none of the modern age researchers were able to locate it.

During my alpine orchid pursuit days, I was in the area from where King and Pantling located it. The location is a narrow valley with towering mountains on both sides and a river running in between. Both of the sides were heavily forested and with thick undergrowth. The monsoon showers made the forest floor thickly covered with various shrubs and plants. It was apparently impossible to locate anything of the size of this species. As I was aware of its presence from the referral book, I took special attention to conduct more surveys in those areas with a hope that I would be able to locate the species.

Everyday the monsoon was causing too much havoc and the survey was limited to the time when there were no rains. Moreover, I never studied this genus hence my knowledge about its habitat was limited. As it was my first alpine assignment, I had already decided to survey each and every corner of the region and was working according to plan.

Several areas of the dense forests were surveyed. Even though I found many other species this species was not traceable. It is a common phenomenon that many of the small plants described more than a century ago were never spotted again and many are believed to be extinct. I also thought the same about this species.

On one of those days in the second month of my alpine work, heavy rains stopped my survey and I was returning to my camp along the main road. As I was walking through a narrow turn with high hills on both sides, my instinct made me concentrate on the left side of the road. The side was as high as 40 ft and with many creepers and climbers tangled up together. My attention went to an open area, where the rock was white in texture. Suddenly I spotted a slender plant with alternate leaves. The alternate leaf arrangements were easily recognizable to me even from the road. But, as the plants were so small that I was not able to identify it from that distance. On that day I was missing my binoculars for a closer look. Then next to it I spotted another plant of the same composition but small in height. My curiosity gone much higher and I decided to climb the sidewall that was almost perpendicular. But with many strong climbers hanging down, climbing that wall was not a difficult matter. After leaving my backpack on the road I slowly climbed up the wall with the help of those tangled climbers. The plants were growing about 18 ft high. As I was moving up, I found two more plants of this species. Those two were the ones I was able to observe from close quarters and I immediately recognized the species. Tangling on the climbers about 15 ft high on a rock wall and confirming the find of such a rare plant on Earth will make any explorer so exited. Those moments cannot be described in words; it should be experienced. I climbed down swiftly to cross check the findings with the referral drawing and to make sure my find it correct.

It took another 15 to 20 minutes to control my breath and the anxiety. Then I started thinking about documenting the plant. Climbing up again with cameras and accessories was not so easy. If the twigs break there is a possibility of my expensive equipment getting damaged made me think about some other methods. Finally I decided to make a ladder to climb up to those plants. With the help of some fallen tree trunks I made a make shift ladder and reached the plants. While near to those first two finds, I found one more plant thus making the total finds to five, that too all in flowers. But the only difference was that all the plants were with only two flowers, a major contradiction to the 7 to 9 flowers on each plant as described by the authors. Sitting on the top step of the ladder and tied to many twigs of those climbers I made all requisite notes and drawings and also made the first ever photograph of this species. It was history in making as there I stood on top of that ladder. The first ever photograph of the species, which will enable the scientific fraternity across the globe to study and work on the species, was thus created. Also, the evidence will make us thing about the presence of many unseen plants from the region. I feel the theory of extinction should be changed to a way that “no species went extinct, they are just not recorded as no one ventured to their habitats”.

Reference:

King, G. & Pantling, R. (1898). The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas. Ann. Roy. Bot. Garden. (Calcutta). Listera alternifolia King and Pantling. Pg. no. 257.