Cremastra appendiculata (D Don) Makino.

Terrestrial. Leaves single, 15 to 25 cm long and 2 to 5 cm in width, plicate, elliptic to lanceolate, narrowed into a long petiole, veined. Flowers dropping, on a terete, erect, naked racemose arising from the bulbous stem, as long as 22 to 30 cm. Flowers pale pink with varying darker spots and streaks, especially on petals and lip. Sepals and petals narrowly lanceolate with the the former three veined. Both closely pressed at the base and the former slightly spreading towards the apex. Petals smaller than the sepals. Lip adnate at the base of the column, erect, linear, minutely sub-saccate at the base, 3 lobed at the apex. The lateral lobes oblong and divergent, the apical exceeding the lateral, oblong and blunt with a fleshy appendage near its base.

Cremastra wallichiana, Lindl. (Cremastra appendiculata, (D Don) Makino.)
Cremastra wallichiana Lindl. (Cremastra appendiculata (D Don) Makino.)

The Pursuit

This is a species I searched for three years. This species was never documented from the region and the drawing and the descriptions in the referral book was totally inadequate. No information on its habitat was available in any of the books except “at elevation of 6000 to 8000 ft”. Another confusion also prevailed in the form of the number of leaves. King and Pantling mentioned as “Leaves usually two”, but in other referral photographs collected from various scientific works showed only solitary leaf. However, I got a clear idea of its flowering season from various works and decided for a detailed survey during early monsoon days especially around 7000 ft. With the monsoon the leeches are very active at those altitudes, also the forest floor will be full of undergrowth, making it a very difficult task to find a small plant which hardly grows for 30 cm. Determined to find, I repeatedly visited a hill slope with semi-alpine trees all over. That area got one more obstacle in the form of some itching plants, which causes too much itching and irritation for days. The search continued for several days, with no trace of Cremastra. However, every other day I found some other species, so the leech bites I got every day was worth a deal. Finally, on the 17th day of survey at that place, I found three plants of this species, one in full bloom and the other two in buds. The plants were hardly 25 to 30 cm in height only, so I have to sit flat on the forest floor for documenting it, which made the leeches so healthy!!!. Every evening I spend considerable time in pulling them off from my body. Even the “imported” leech guards we use for those terrains were of no use. Documented it very well to my great satisfaction and returned home with all those leeches all over my body. While comparing the photographs with various descriptions on that evening, I found out the peculiarity in the lip of the flower. Wished to a have a low angle photograph to bring out its details. Travelled again to the area the next day to see the second plant also in bloom, which was around 30 cm in height. To get a low angle shot of a 30 cm height plant on a forest floor full of leeches is like offering a grand feast to the leech community. My previous encounters made me insert cotton balls into my nostrils and ear holes. Lied flat on the forest floor for that particular low angle photograph, the rest was not something I want to experience again!!!! I still remember the satisfaction I got on that evening, when I transferred the photographs into my laptop.

Habenaria malintana (Blanco) Merr.

Terrestrial. Whole plant about 30 to 65 cm in height. Lower part of stem sheathed, middle leafy and upper part bracteate. Leaves 4 to 6 cm long, oblong to elliptic, 5 nerved, the base of the leaf narrowed into a long tubular sheath. Spike 4 to 7 cm long, laxly flowered. Sepals sub-equal, broadly ovate, acute, spreading, the lateral pair sub-erect. Petals narrowly oblong, sub-acute, curved inwards, shorter than the sepals. Lip as long as the sepals, lanceolate, always curved upwards. Spur totally absent. Stigmas united.

Habenaria malintana, (Blanco) Merr.
Habenaria malintana (Blanco) Merr.

The Pursuit

As this species is a look alike of Habenaria dentata var. dentata, it was very difficult to distinguish them without flowers. Repeatedly visited the area, every other day, trekking around 12 km. In the end, spurless buds came confirming it as Habenaria malintana, (Blanco) Merr. Then came the obstacle in the form of a land slide which brought the vehicular movement in that region to a standstill. Took the help of villagers in finding an alternative route across the river, using bamboos, ropes etc. Frequenting to there every other day became a huge hazard and decided to camp there for the bloom. This time the buds behaved nicely, they bloomed much before than expected and got the photographs of the species in bloom for the first time from the region.