Bulbophyllum careyanum (Hook.) Spreng.

The Plant

Epiphyte. Pseudo-bulbs ovoid, ribbed, erect, 1.5 to 2 cm long and 1 to 1.3 cm in diameter, attached to a woody stout rhizome either close together or at a a distance of around 2 cm apart. Leaf fleshy, oblong, tapering on both ends, sub-sessile, apex notched, 6 to 14 cm long and 1.2 to 2 cm in width. Flowers in a scape arising from the side of the pseudo-bulb, 2 to 3 cm long and clothed with many lanceolate dried bracts, raceme decurved, densely flowered, 9 to 12 cm long.

The Flower

Flowers small, about 1.2 cm long, pedicellate. Sepals unequal, dorsal very small, oblong; lateral more than twice longer than the dorsal, ovate, acute, converging at its apex. Petals small, broadly triangular. Lip half the size of the lateral sepals, curved, disc channelled from its base to the middle, edges minutely ciliolate. Column with two apical teeth. Floral bracts longer than the ovary, lanceolate.

The outer surface of the sepals are of shinning brown with even darker marks throughout, inner side is pinkish brown with uneven darker markings. Petals pinkish brown. Lip reddish pink fading to its apex and margins. Column brilliant yellow. Pedicel bright red, scape greenish red, floral bracts pale brown.

Bulbophyllum careyanum, (Hook.) Spreng.
Bulbophyllum careyanum (Hook.) Spreng.

The Pursuit

A very interesting plant as well as flower of the region. In the monumental referral work of King and Pantling, the authors added a special paragraph to describe this species and its allied ones. However, they mentioned the altitudinal range of the species as “warm valleys” only. The altitudinal range and the blooming period are the two key factors that help in locating each species. The advantage I acquired about this species was the illustration of Pantling in the referral book, the drawing was excellent and the uniqueness of its pseudo-bulb attracted my attention. I took the unique shape as a reference and was searching for the species. In 2013, during the summer months I was stationed in a tropical warm forest with my work. During the survey work, I noticed few clumps of an orchid on the main trunk of some tall trees growing close by to each other. The plants were around 20 to 25 high and I was not able to study them from ground level. On observation with binoculars I noticed the unique shape of the pseudo-bulbs, but one important description of the plant by King and Pantling never matched, “pseudo-bulbs erect, ovoid, ribbed, about 3 in. apart……”. The bulbs of those plants I found were not 3 inches apart, most of them were arranged close together. As the blooming time of the plant was mentioned October, November and December in the referral book, I decided to mark the location and visit them in the next winter months. It is always advisable to re-visit unidentified plants once in ten or fifteen days to make sure they are not in bloom. However, I could not make those regular visits possible as I normally spend the months between May and October in the high alpine regions.

When I was back from the Alpine zone in the mid of October, I remembered about this species and the first trip was made to this location. To my surprise I found few fully developed racemes with almost matured buds ready to open. As the flowers were about 20 to 25 feet high and getting or making a ladder of that height was impossible, we thought of some other ideas. Near to the location, there was a new home being constructed and they had just removed the bamboo support from the concrete of its first floor. With the help of those workers we made a temporary stilt platform and sitting on that I produced this wonderful photograph. Also, I was also able to update the fact that the pseudo-bulbs bulbs of this species can grow close together as well as in a distance as described by the authors.


Bulbophyllum careyanum Spreng., Page no 71 – 72  of The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas by Sir. George King and Robert Pantling (1898).