Platanthera bakeriana (King &Pantl.) Kraenzl.

The Plant

Terrestrial. Whole plant between 15 to 22 cm in height. Stem thick, ribbed. Leaves three, oblong to linear, acute, sessile, sheathing and many nerved. Flower many, laxly arranged in a terminal spike.

The Flower

Flower small, 1 to 1.25 cm across. Sepal unequal, dorsal ovate, shorter than the lateral, erect and conniving with the petals to form a hood; lateral lanceolate, spreading. Petals as long as the dorsal sepal, ovate. Lip slightly longer than the lateral sepals, ovate to lanceolate, entire. Spur more than twice longer than the curved ovary, curved, cylindrical, tapering towards its apex. Floral bract lanceolate, erect, longer than the curved ovary and diminishing in length towards the apex of the spike, lower ones twice as long as the upper ones, arising from the lower portion of the erect ovary.

Platanthera bakeriana (King & Pantl.) Kraenzl
Platanthera bakeriana (King & Pantl.) Kraenzl.

The Pursuit

A very rare plant from the alpine region, yet to be photographed after its description in the monumental work of King and Pantling. I spotted this plant on the first day of my alpine exploration in the year 2012.

My base camp was in a place where electricity was erratic, no mobile connection and no proper transportation and with only basic amenities. It would be very difficult to get accustomed to a place like that. However, as the blooming season had all ready started, I was left with no options to take time to get adjusted with the climatic conditions and the surroundings. The very next morning I was ready o undertake a long trek. The only advantage was that I got a kind person in the form of a local forest official to accompany me. He was not at all a botanist not to mention about his interests on orchids. On the previous evening I had shown him the monumental work of King and Pantling. His interest on the subject and the illustrations on the book made me understand the he will be of immense help during my work. I have to mention here that because of his continuous support and guidance my work in those difficult terrains turned a success.

He took me to a thick-forested area 1200 ft above our base climb. The climb was very hard, with all camera accessories and reference books. The uphill climb took more than 2 hours. After reaching the top of the mountain the terrain turns flat with very dense forest. But, interestingly there was a trekking route inside those forests. It was a mystery that on the hundreds of visits I took through that trek during the next six months I never encountered a human being. He took me deep on the plateau mountain and we did a detailed survey spotting many species. As we were documenting another plant in bloom which was growing on a huge tall tree, I noticed this species. It was a single specimen, on the other side of the base of that tree. Out of sheer coincidence, I spotted this plant. Its leaf shape made me identify the plant. Before the start of my exploration, I had made a list of plants to be found and this find made a head start to my entire work. The buds were so small and a vague study of the plant guided made me to make my next visit in the following 12 to 15 days.

Later on, in the same month, after four visits I found the plant in bloom, with four of its flowers fully open. It was a memorable moment to stand in front of plants never documented. The documentation techniques in the high hills are entirely depended on species to species and it was not an easy task to produce perfect results every day. However, I was lucky to produce some wonderful photographs of this species on the first day itself.

Even after spending 18 months in the region spanning 3 years, I never encountered this species from any other location. However, at the same location I found it growing again and again, every time it was a solitary plant.


King, G. &Pantling, R. (1898). The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas. Ann. Roy. Bot. Garden. (Calcutta).Habenaria bakeriana King and Pantling Page no 314 – 315.