Calanthe masuca (D.Don) Lindl.

The Plant

Terrestrial. Pseudo bulbs, closely arranged, conical with annular scars, 4 to 6 cm in height, many long stout roots arising from its base. Leaves elliptic, acute, narrowed at the base to a short petiole, 4 to 6 in numbers, 8 to 12 cm long and 3 to 5 cm in width, veined. Flowers many, in peduncle arising between the outer leaf and the inner ones, and longer than it, with 2 to 4 narrow lanceolate bracts at regular intervals. Raceme much shorter than the peduncle. Floral bract narrow, lanceolate, arising from the lower side of the stalked ovary.

The Flower

Flowers about 3 to 4 cm across, depressed. Sepals sub-equal, lanceolate; dorsal slightly shorter and wider than the lateral, arching or diagonally erect; lateral spreading. Petals smaller and narrower than the sepals, oblanceolate, one veined. Lip smaller than the sepals and petals, three lobed; basal lobes oblong, stretching forward; apical lobe large, spreading, rhomboid, deeply emarginate at its apex; the disc with three irregular long calli at the centre and two short ones on to its sides. Spur cylindric, longer than the stalked ovary. Floral bract arising from the lower side of the stalked ovary and less than half the size of it, lanceolate.

Sepals and petals pale violet to pink, petals much paler than the sepals. The margins of both closer to pinkish white. Lip of a darker shade of sepals and petals, the ridges on its disc are reddish brown. Spur and ovary pale violet. Floral bract green.

Calanthe masuca, (D.Don) Lindl.
Calanthe masuca, (D.Don) Lindl.

The Pursuit

During the alpine hunt months between May and October my visits to the lower altitudes were very seldom. With some urgent financial issues I was forced to make a trip down hill. Luckily without any roadblocks and landslides we reached the town and I attended the work and were about go back. One of my friends from the town who got news about my presence in the town invited us to have lunch from his home. As we were driving to his home, I spotted several plants of this species in full bloom on the valley side of the road. As I never expected this species there at that time, it needed a closer look to identify it. As I was carrying my camera and accessories I decided to document it then and there. I had studied this species earlier so it took hardly 30 to 40 minutes for the documentation. Then we proceeded to my friend’s home, had lunch and went back up hill.

My first encounter with this species was more exciting and I wish to share it here. The find was two years before I started living in the Sikkim-Himalayas. While in the college I took two field trips every year to the North East states under the educational program funds, spanning for 60 to 70 days each. I was traveling in the 12424 Dibrugarh Town bound New Delhi-Dibrigarh Town Rajdhani express, a journey which will take about 39 hours. On the second day of the journey around 13 hrs with a major station approaching, the train was moving at slow speed due to some rail replacements on the track. As I was looking out of the window, I saw several of this species in bloom inside the bushy under growths on the sides of the rail track. As the Rajdhani was running at a very slow speed and proximity of the flowers in bloom helped me to identify the species and I wanted to document it. That was my first encounter with this species in bloom. By that time the train had entered the station, and I was so eager to study and document it, that I instantly decided to de-board. De-boarding the huge load of luggage, staying for that night there and re-scheduling the trip ahead etc., never came to my mind, as I was totally mesmerised by those flowers at that time. Got off the train with all my luggage and headed straight the Station Superintendent’s office. I explained to him about my journey ahead and the reason of de-boarding the train. He was a very kind man and told me not to worry. He called a helper and put my entire luggage in his official room. I was so relaxed and happy to see the luggage kept safe and I walked all the way under the hot sun to the location of those flowers and studied and documented them. As it was my first encounter with the plant it took more than 3 hours to finish the documentation work. By that time, the Station Master got worried and sent a search party to look for me. To the relief of the Station Master, I returned with the search party. I slept in the retiring room, arranged by the Station Master for the night, along with many annoying mosquitoes!!! Next day, the Station Master using his official influence got me another confirmed ticket for the same 12424 Rajdhani of that day for Dibrugarh Town and I proceeded to my destination, with a wonderful find to my kitty.


King, G. & Pantling, R. (1898). The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas. Ann. Roy. Bot. Garden. (Calcutta). Calanthe masuca Lindl., Page no 173