Neottianthe secundiflora (Kraenzl.) Schltr. – The Alba form (New Report).

The Plant

Terrestrial. Tubers unequal, two to three with a few thin and short roots, globular to cylindrical. Whole plant 12 cm in height. Stem about one third of the whole plant, with two leaves attached to its upper part and a thin membranous long sheath at its base. Leaves linear oblong, acute, narrowed at its base to a long tubular sheath, veined, 5 cm long and 1.5 cm in width, diagonally erect. Flower many in a spike longer than the stem, ribbed.

The Flower

Flower small, 1.5 cm across. Sepals unequal, dorsal ovate; lateral sepals lanceolate, broader than the petals; petals as long as the lateral sepals, oblong; all connivent to form a diagonally curved up hood. Lip longer than the spur, decurved, apex three lobed, the middle one longer than the other two, ovate with broad base; side ones slightly diverging, oblong, shorter and slender than the middle one. Sepal, petals and lip translucent. Spur like a funnel, much broader at its apex and converging to a cylindrical blunt apex. Floral bracts lanceolate, longer than the ovary, diminishing in size upwards, arising from the lower side of the erect ovary.

Sepal, petals and lip white. Spur white with its apex turning pale creamy yellow. Floral bracts green.

Neottianthe secundiflora (Kraenzl.) Schltr. – The Alba form (New Report)
Neottianthe secundiflora (Kraenzl.) Schltr. – The Alba form (New Report)

The Pursuit

I am grateful that with the discovery of this Alba form, I contributed one more new report to the scientific world of orchids. I consider this discovery as one of the most thrilling. In the last year of my alpine work in the Sikkim-Himalayas, I ventured to many unexplored areas. Every day I trekked long distances away from civilization and was very successful in finding a number of species. I was able to locate a habitat of Neottianthe secundiflora (Kraenzl.) Schltr., from a remote corner of the region. The area was very deep inside a valley where I don’t think any humans had ever ventured not to mention of any botanical explorations. As I noticed around 80 specimens in flower in a small area, I thought of extending my exploration to more areas from that valley. I was aware that I had extended my trek and exploration to unknown terrains putting myself at great risk of life and limb. I overcame my fear and decided to survey more areas. The sound of the harsh winds itself is so frightening, that even seasoned trekkers turn around. In my case I was all-alone. On that day I decided to trek ahead for another 20 minutes. Every day I kept extending my deadline further which later took a heavy toll on my heath. As the valley is above the height of tree line there were only small shrubs and visibility was very good. As I was walking over a wet area with too many Primulas in bloom, I found a single small plant in flower. It was so strange that I noticed it from among many other plants in flower. It was the only plant with white flowers there. I bend down to it for a closer look, and to my surprise it was history in making – a new discovery of an Alba. My eyes were not able to believe what I saw. I was all alone so I had to pinch myself to ascertain what I had seen not an illusion. It took some time to realize that I am really sitting in front of a new discovery.

As it was a single plant, I carefully studied and documented it without even touching it. It is always very difficult to produce technically perfect photographs of white flowers under bright sunlight. All my experience in handling and documenting small plants and flowers were to be used together to produce the best of the pictures. It took more than 3 hours for all scientific analyses and documentations. I was really exhausted with all those precise microphotography. After that I crisscrossed that area to look for more of that Alba in vain. For the next 6 days I made those long treks to the location and covered many square miles in that valley looking for more of that Alba, but that too ended without any find.


There is no reference of this Alba in The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas by Sir. George King and Robert Pantling (1898).