Pseudobulbs of a few orchid species in genera Pleione and Porpax got a unique sheath covering. As the bulb matures, the sheath partially disintegrates to form a fine fibrous radiating set of veins either forming a net-like pattern or longitudinally converging. This characteristic helps in identifying the species while they are not in bloom or leaf-less.
While I was in the 6th class, our Biology teacher demonstrated an experiment to help us understand the way in which water is transported in a plant, with the help of Balsam plants and coloured water. A Balsam plant is placed in a beaker filled with coloured water. After some time we saw the coloured water slowly rising up the stem. She further explained that the Balsam plants are particularly used because they have translucent stems, so that we can see the coloured water moving up the stem. Hence, whenever I think about the word “translucent”, I remember those Balsam plants.
However, it is not just the Balsam plants that have translucent characteristics, a few orchids also have this unique characteristic, even though the phenomenon is very rare.
Presented here is Pholidota protracta Hook.f., with its translucent pseudobulb.
Resupination in orchid flowers is the process by which the pedicel twists to position the lip at the bottom side of the flower. Orchid flowers have one of its petals modified as “lip”, usually the top one. As the bud develops, its pedicel makes a 180° twist to arrange the lip at the bottom side. It has proven that this twist happens to position the lip in such a way to make itself a landing pad for visiting pollinators.
Those flowers with lip at the bottom are called resupinate flowers and those at the top are called non-resupinate flowers (or not resupinate). Majority of the orchids have resupinate flowers.
It may be tricky to understand, hence, I am making it simple here. Look at the 2 pics carefully, flowers with the apex of the lip pointing downward are called resupinate flowers and the other, pointing upward are called non-resupinate flowers.
Bulbophyllum is the largest genus among all orchids with the highest species diversity in India. The plants are generally perennial, with most of the species growing on tree trunks (epiphytic) or boulders (lithophytic). Many species are gregarious in nature, covering up the whole tree trunk or the boulder where it occupies.
Bulbophyllum hainanense Z.H.Tsi – a new report for India from Arunachal Pradesh.
Epiphytic. Rhizome creeping, slender, branching, rooting at nodes. Pseudobulb absent. Leaves 1-1.5 cm apart, oval-elliptic, 0.8-1.2 X 0.4-0.7 cm, oblique, petiole short, apex acute and notched. Scapes from nodes, with 2-3 sheaths; 2-flowered. Sepals ovate-triangular to ovate-lanceolate, 0.5-0.8 X 0.3-0.5 cm, apex acute; lateral oblique. Petals oblong-spatulate to oblong-obovate, 0.3-0.5 X 0.2 cm, apex obtuse. Lip broadly ovate, longer than petals, recurved, apex acute. Floral bracts ovate-lanceolate, shorter than pedicellate ovary.
5400 ft; April; Extremely rare.
Swami, N. (2017). Orchids of Ziro: Arunachal Pradesh 1-160. Pushpa Mrga, India.
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.
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.
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.
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.