Herminium albovirens (Renz) X.H.Jin, Schuit., Raskoti & Lu Q.Huang – a new report for India from the state of Sikkim.
Terrestrial. Plants 4.5-7 cm. Tuber ovoid, 0.5-1, 0.7-1.2 cm in diameter. Stem cylindric, 2.5-5 cm, slender, rooting from base. Leaves lanceolate-oblanceolate, 2-3.5 X 1-1.7 cm, sessile, apex acute-recurved. Peduncle ribbed; flower terminal. Sepals 0.7-1.2 X 1-1.5 cm, apex blunt-minutely concave; dorsal ovate; lateral ovate-lanceolate. Petals oblong-obovate to oblong-rhombic, 0.5-1 X 0.7-1 cm, apex blunt. Lip as long as sepals; 3-lobed; lobules oblong-lanceolate, apex blunt. Spur cylindric, apex blunt. Floral bract lanceolate, much shorter than ovary.
13200-13400 ft; August/September; Extremely rare.
Swami, N. (2016). Terrestrial Orchids 1-228. Pushpa Mrga, India, as Bhutanthera albovirens Renz
Terrestrial. Pseudo-bulbs small, less than 2 cm long, ovoid with conical apex, with several long stout roots arising from its base. Pseudo-stem about 2 to 3 cm long, sheathed with two lanceolate bracts, with the upper one more than twice longer than the lower smaller one. Leaves four to five, unequal with undulate margins and veined surface, elliptic, acuminate, narrowed to the sheathed base, 5 to 8 cm long and 2 to 4 cm in width. Flower many, laxly arranged, in a peduncle arising amongst the leaves, usually single rarely two. Peduncle much longer than the leaves, with an erect lanceolate bract around its middle. Raceme minute ribbed as well as puberulous.
Flowers 2 to 3 cm across, facing diagonally down. Sepals unequal, lanceolate with broad base; dorsal erect; lateral longer than the dorsal, the basal margin curved upwards towards its upper side and spreading behind the ovary to form a sickle shape; dorsal and sepal three veined. Petals erect, very narrow, longer than the dorsal sepal, linear with pointed apex, spreading, one veined. The base of the lip adnate with the column, three lobed; basal diverging, oblong, blunt; the apical lobe broadly quadrate with short fimbriated margins and pointed tip, its base converging and extending to a narrow short broad linear base. The disc with two narrow short calli arranged between the basal lobes. Floral bract lanceolate, curved up, arising from the base side of the stalked and decurved ovary, shorter than the latter.
Sepals and petals translucent, pale lavender. The basal lobe of the lip pale pink, the dorsal with a triangular shade of the same colour with white margins and a long narrow white separation running through its middle. The disc with two long parallel irregular broken dark pink markings. The column yellow with dark pink markings. Ovary pale brownish pink. Floral bract green.
In the first year of my orchid hunt of the region I planned to visit the location of this beautiful species. One of my local contacts in the region had seen this plant from a place quite far away from my base camp. Due to various reasons I missed that trip for a few months and was able to go for the hunt by the mid of September only. By that time it had bloomed and its seedpods were dry. When the habitat is located it will be only a matter of re-visiting it at the time of its bloom the next season. Hence, I was happy with my local contact for guiding me to make this find.
The next year I planned the trip in the month of June itself along with the start of monsoon rains. However, the long winding road to the location got blocked with several landslides and reaching the location turned out to be impossible. I tried several short cuts to bypass those landslides but without much success. I was really disappointed with the natural events. It is the worst nightmare for any explorer for not being able to reach the location of a find. Finally, after many efforts I decided to look for another locations for this species.
In the third year of my research, I was camping in a protected area during the monsoon months. The forests there were sub-tropical to sub-alpine and I was able to find many ground orchids from the region. But this species remained elusive. Inside the protected area there were two narrow streams. The steams were with full flow around the year. In summer because of the melting snow in the high hills, in monsoon due of rains and in winter due to several springs downstream. Those wet surroundings of the two streams are always home to several plants and ground orchids, especially annuals. I concentrated on the banks of one of the streams for this plant. I trekked along the banks of the stream on its entire length to look for this plant. As both the sides of the stream are of vertical steep mountains I was forced to walk in waist high waters of the river. This made the trek very difficult. The higher I went the denser the forest, with the presence of many wild animals that frequently visited the stream. I was always exposed to danger due to the wildlife. Camping inside the forest was impossible, which made me walk back to my base camp every day after my hunt. By the mid of July it was time to move to another place. I had only three more days at that place and I decided to move much deeper inside the forest to look for this species.
On the penultimate day, I took a route never ever used even by the forest patrol party. The new route took me so deep inside the forest and for the first time in my entire work in the region of Sikkim-Himalayas I encountered a leopard and a bear the same day, that also within a span of 15 minutes!!! I always felt that I get more courage to venture into deep forest after encountering wildlife. My instant courage helped me survey a vast area on that day and finally found this species, a set of 15 plants scattered over a small area under thick undergrowth. Of the 15 plants 4 were in buds. Buds means more and more visits to the place in the coming days. As I haven’t found this species from any other locations there were no other options other than visiting that location in the coming days. I never advocated the practice of others researchers who took plants to their homes and research laboratories to have it in flower. On the way back I made several reference points to negotiate my coming trips to that deep area. On comparison with the measurements of buds taken and that of the reference book made me understand that those buds will bloom within 7 to 10 days. As the species got many flowers and they bloom one by one from the bottom of the peduncle, if late by a couple of days also I will get one or other flower in bloom. The next day I moved to the new location. From there I visited this location on the ninth day and was accompanied by another researcher of the region. Even though he was not working on orchids, the locals of the region and I suspected that he collected many orchids for others. Hence, none were happy with his presence. But, sometimes due to compulsions I am in company of such personalities. We reached the location on the previous evening and rested at the base camp.
Early morning with pack lunch, we proceeded to the location. As we ventured very deep inside the dense forest, my friend was not willing to accompany us. His usual research trips were on the fringes of forests and he was not at all accustomed with wild life areas. Then it came from the horse’s mouth itself, that, “I want to return”. He tried several attempts to take my assistant along with him to safeguard his return journey. My assistant gifted him one of our lunch packs and said “namaste dhaju” (Dhaju means elder brother). After he disappeared from our eyes we proceeded to the location by taking reference from the markings we made on our last return journey. Till our friend was there with us we never discussed about the references we made for our journey as we feared he might pass on that vital information to plant collectors of the region. We reached the spot without much difficulty to see several of them in bloom. I selected the freshly bloomed flowers and made this wonderful photograph. Also, the in-situ study of the species made reveal many new characteristics of the species, which were not even described by the pioneers in their monumental work.
The return journey was also breathtaking, with a female leopard following us for almost an hour!!!
King, G. & Pantling, R. (1898). The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas. Ann. Roy. Bot. Garden. (Calcutta). Calanthe puberula Lindl., Page no 166.
Terrestrial. Pseudo-bulbs very small, oblong to cylindrical, less than 1.5 cm long, with many stout long roots. Pseudo-stem short, about 2 cm long. Leaves 4 to 5, narrow, linear- lanceolate, acute, erect and arching diagonally, sessile, distinctly veined, 7 to 12 cm long and 1.5 to 2 cm in width. Flowers in a peduncle longer than the leaves, arising from the inside of the outer leaf, flowers arranged laxly at the top quarter of the peduncle, the peduncle with a single erect, large lanceolate bract around the middle of it.
Flowers 1.5 to 3 cm across, erect. Sepals sub-equal, lanceolate, much narrowed towards apex; dorsal erect; lateral spreading; surface and margins irregularly curving, three veined. Petals narrow than the sepals, lanceolate, spreading, surface and margins irregularly curving, one veined. Base of the lip adnate with the column, side lobes absent, trowel shaped with few irregular rounded lobes at its margins, much narrowed to its apex. The disc with two lamellae converging from its base and running parallel to two-third of its length, puberulous to its apex. The opening of the mouth is triangular in shape with its interior covered with fine hairs. Spur short, cylindrical with rounded apex, minutely puberulosus. Ovary stalked, curved and puberulous. Floral bract erect, lanceolate, as long and arising from the lower base of the stalked ovary.
Sepals with long varying sized purplish brown margins running parallel to its veins, broader at its base and diminishing and disappearing to its apex. Petals as same as the sepals, but the purplish brown margins are broken or irregular in length. Lip creamy white with its base with pink margins, the inside base of the converging lamellae are also marked with pink. The fine hairs on the opening of the spur is pure white. Spur creamy white, translucent. Floral bract dark green. The exterior of the sepals and petals are green with few darker veins.
Another beautiful Calanthe of the region, but very rarely found or documented from its natural habitats. In the description of this species in the monumental work, the authors mentioned “Mahaldaram Peak” as its habitat. Even with that reference also no researchers were able to locate it from its natural habitat till now from the region.
In the year 2012, with my alpine region flower hunt, I was able to visit many densely forested hills and mountains of the region during the monsoon season. Monsoon months are generally the blooming time of most of the Calanthes. Hence, I was determined to locate this species also.
Several visits to Mahaldaram Peak never yielded any result in finding this species. With my studies on orchids of the region, I found several orchid species showing proximity to many trees and plants of the region and were also found growing near to those same trees and plants from different region too. Hence, I particularly collected more details of some trees and plants of the region. I was very much confident that if this species was growing at this peak during the work of King and Pantling, the trees and plants here will help me in finding the species from some other region. Hence, during my visit to several other places I was looking for the same trees and plants of the Mahaldaram Peak. The monsoon season is full of activities in the hills with many plants flowering and many animals breeding. The breeding time of animals are not the best time time to be inside deep forests, as they attack any intruders into their territory. Frequent visits were not possible to all locations due to inclement weather and road blocks due to heavy monsoon showers. But I always tried to utilise the days maximum with regular surveys. Once during the peak monsoon days I was very far away in a dense forested area in connection with another find. I came across many of the same species trees and plants of the Mahaldaram Peak. I shared the information to my assistant that there is a possibility of finding this species there as the region’s habitat is as close to that of Mahaldaram Peak. I shown him the drawing of the species by Pantling and requested him to search other areas while I concentrate on documenting another species. After the documentation was done I also started searching for the species. Presence of a leopard with its new born cubs made both of us search together. The plant is very small and looking for it from thick undergrowths on a wet rainy day was very difficult. As the days are with many flowering orchids across the region, my days were very busy traveling length and breadth of the region. Hence, each and every hour matters and I am very particular to use the hours available at the maximum.
By evening, we found three small plants very similar to this species. As one more Calanthe resembles this in plant form, it was not sure whether it was this species itself. I visited the place several times in the next 20 days to see the growth progress of those plants. Finally, after around one month it produced a long peduncle. By studying the features of the peduncle I understood this is the species I am looking for. It took another 3 weeks to the flowers to open and to produce this wonderful photograph. By that time my travel log book got 17 records of visits to this location, which was more than any other species finds.
However, in the year 2013, I found 2 more plants of this species from another location of the region accidentally. As I was trekking to a high altitude location I found two of them from the near to the trek route, one in buds and the other in bloom. As I was in a hurry I haven’t documented the flowers on that occasion, but I noted down many other trees and plants of that location only to prove my findings of plant to plant relationships.
King, G. & Pantling, R. (1898). The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas. Ann. Roy. Bot. Garden. (Calcutta). Calanthe trulliformis King and Pantling, Page no 168.
Terrestrial. Pseudo-bulbs small, ovoid, 1 to 1.5 cm long, with many stout roots. Pseudo-stem 4 to 6 cm long. Leaves three, unequal, oblanceolate, acute, much narrowed to its base, with short petiole, veined, 7 to 12 cm and 2 to 4 cm wide, petiole 1 to 1.5 cm long. Flowers many, laxly arranged, in a long erect peduncle arising amongst the leaves. Raceme less than half in length of peduncle.
Flowers 2 to 4 cm across, pendulous. Sepals sub-equal, lanceolate; dorsal minutely wider than the lateral pair, apex margins curved to form a boat like structure, diagonally erect; lateral curved forward, apex like that of dorsal; both 1 to 3 veined. Petals as long as the lateral sepals, linear with pointed apex, curved forward, 1 veined. Lip broadly oblong, decurved, three lobed. The base forming a rounded cavity like depression with a didymous puberulous callus on the apex to its entrance. The basal lobes linear, spreading with its rounded apex curved up. The apical lobe oblong, obtuse, decurved, edges undulate, its disc with three parallel projecting ridges running its entire length with the middle one longer than the other two. Floral bracts very small, lanceolate, clasping, arising from the lower side of the stalked ovary.
Sepals and petals pale green. Outside of the sepals with few dark veins. The base of the lip pinkish purple, its callus creamy white. Basal lobes pale cream. The disc and the ridges of the apical lobe are reddish to purple turning white to the lip margin. Floral bract translucent, pale green.
The alpine region starts around 8700 ft and above. According to the text of King and Pantling, the altitudinal range of this species was at 6000 ft. Hence, I never included this species in my search list for the alpine region. My place of stay was in a village around 8500 ft, their electricity was provided from a small hydro power station located near a huge waterfall. The village was provided with 24 hours of power supply, a very rare phenomenon in the Himalayas. However, due to some technical reasons coupled with hidden political agenda of people in authority, the generators of the power house went silent and authorities decided to construct a new power station with more production capacity a couple of kilometers away from the water falls. The contract was given to a private company, which brought in people from the plains of India to work there. As I was also staying in that village I developed a good friendship with some of the workers. They were fixing a huge iron pipe to carry water to the powerhouse from the waterfalls. The entire slope of the hill was cleared to fix several concrete pillars to support the iron pipeline. Every day I observed with distress the destruction happening to the floral population on that hill.
I moved to higher altitudes to document other in bloom. While I was camping much higher in the region, I received a vague message. It was sent by a driver of a transport vehicle carrying fresh vegetables to security personnel manning the high altitude posts. The message was short – “some flower in bloom, come down immediately”. In that region communication links are not available to verify the news or even proper transportation facilities to move around at ease. Hence, I decided to come down in the same vehicle when it returns after unloading the vegetables. I reached downhill by 6 PM in the evening and went to the camp office of the new construction company from where they had sent the message. On enquiry the person who was in the office confirmed that they found some plants in bloom and they believe it was an orchid and wanted me to see it. The word “orchid” made my adrenaline counts go up.
By then it was dark and climbing up hill was not possible. So I retired to rest in one of their cabins with my mind unrest with many thoughts on all possible species. During dinnertime, one of their staff came to me and shown a photograph he had taken on his mobile phone. He said that while they were clearing the slope they spotted this plant in bloom and wanted me to see it. I was surprised to see the photograph of this species. Till that time I never thought I will find this species from the alpine region. I had a sleepless night, as every time I closed my eyes the photograph of the plant in bloom was interrupting my sleep.
Next morning, I was up early to walk up the hill to the location of the plant. After a steep climb of around 30 minutes we were there. There were three plants, with several flowers, but mostly withered. One plant was left with two open flowers. I was disappointed that nobody noticed three plants before all its flowers withered off. I was left with no options other than be satisfied with those two flowers. I tried my level best to produce the best of the results from those two flowers. With God’s grace I succeeded in that.
My next priority was to make sure the construction activities going on the hill slope should not destroy the plants. I had a discussion with the man who is in charge of the whole work and explained to him the importance of the plant and its find. He was convinced to some extend and he fenced that small area to prevent any destruction. To date the iron fence still stands there protecting this species, with five plants appearing this season. I too made improvements in my notes and the documentary evidences by re-visiting those plants!!!
King, G. & Pantling, R. (1898). The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas. Ann. Roy. Bot. Garden. (Calcutta). Calanthe tricarinata Lindl., Page no 166.
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.
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.
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
Terrestrial. Pseudo-bulbs closely arranged, cylindric, with two or three annular markings, tapering to both ends, 2 to 4 cm long and 1 to 1.5 cm in diameter, with few scattered stout roots. Pseudo-stem very short, sheathed. Leaves three, unequal, oblanceolate, acute, tapering towards a short petiole, 7 to 12 cm long and 2 to 4 cm in width, petiole 1 to 1.5 cm long, distinctly veined. Flowers few, laxly arranged in a peduncle arising from the inside of the outer leaf. Peduncle smaller than the longer leaf and with a single lanceolate bract around one third of its height from the base.
Flowers 2 to 3 cm across. Sepals almost equal, ovate with pointed apex, margins to the apex curved up to form a boat like structure. Dorsal sepals arching or diagonally erect, lateral not spreading, curved forward, five nerved. Petals smaller than the sepals, lanceolate with pointed apex, the boat shaped margins toward the apex is not prominent as that of sepals, not spreading but curved forward. Lip as long as the sepals, without side lobes, broadly lanceolate when spread, margins fimbriate as well as curved up to form a boat like structure. Spur straight, cylindric, longer than the decurved ovary and narrowing to its minutely bifid apex. Floral bracts lanceolate, diminishing upwards, arising from the upper side and less than half the size of the decurved ovary,
Sepals and petals pale creamy white at their bases turning greenish white to their margins and apexes. Lip creamy white, its disc with five pinkish brown parallel broad lines running through its entire length. The fimbriate margins, under side of the lip and the portion on the sides of the disc are with irregular markings and spots of pinkish brown. Spur pale creamy white. Floral bract pale green to its base and turning green towards its apex.
A plant found and described by Sir. J. D. Hooker on his epical voyage in the Sikkim-Himalayas back in 1848-49. However, even after more than 164 years this plant was not documented at all from the region. Several publications by many eminent researchers were out in the market in those 164 years with descriptions of this species. But none of them were able to produce a photograph of this species in flower or in plant thus underlining the fact that none of them had ever spotted the plant from its natural habitats. The description of the plant were merely a “cut and paste” from Hooker’s publication.
I was determined to find this plant at any cost. During my alpine region work in the monsoon months I had put extra efforts to locate this species. Two monsoon seasons went without any trace of the species. In 2012, during the monsoon I was in the high hills doing my alpine hunt. The region is mostly under the control of border security force and needs many reporting at several points for my movement. Due to various reasons beyond explanation I became very familiar and close with many of the officials, which enabled my movement and work in the region without much obstacles. On one such day, as I was there on the reporting desk to report about that day’s trip, the official who was in charge of co-ordination asked me whether I am willing to accompany a team of personnel on a mission inside the deep forest. My reply to such a wonderful opportunity was affirmative.
Within a short time the entire party was ready to leave and I accompanied them. They were trekking to a deep forest inside a valley for fixing some communication lines that had snapped during the previous day’s rain. The area was a region I had never ventured. It was a golden opportunity to explore a new area, along with many security personnel; some of them had undergone jungle warfare coaching. The sixth sense in me was saying, “that today I am going to find something new”. It was the monsoon season and there will be many annular plants in bloom. The only difficulty is that to locate them from the thick under growths, which cover the forest floor during the monsoon. The only advantage of those alpine forests is that there will not be any poisonous snakes. The first one-hour went without any new finds, all the species I spotted were all recorded earlier by me. As the personnel were working with their assignment, I ventured down to the valley, which was covered with towering trees all around. The forest was silent but for the sound of the flow of a small stream. My experience with thick forests in the alpine region shows that the streams inside thick forest are heaven for annular plants especially terrestrial orchids. As the valley was having a steep slope it was very difficult to walk ahead to the stream. As I had a strong back up team few meters behind me to tackle any emergencies I was determined to move forward to the stream. It took me around 40 minutes to cover few meters to reach down to the stream. It was hardly 2 m wide, but the flow was so strong I was not able to cross it. Hence, I decided to climb up-hill along its side so that I can survey both the sides of the stream. As the valley was deep the up hill climb was more difficult. I dropped the idea of up-hill climb and decided to go back and join the personnel at work. As I was turning around I spotted three small plants in bloom, less than 15 cm in height, on the other side of the stream. I was not able to identify it, however I understood it was an orchid species. I never missed any opportunity to document an orchid, how great the difficulties I have to face. I thought of several ideas to cross the stream, but crossing it all alone was very risky. Then I thought of taking the help of security personnel at work. Surprisingly, an interesting idea came to me – climb up a tree of this side of the stream and move across a branch hanging to the other side and jump down!!! I don’t know from where I got the courage or skills, I was up a tree in a few seconds, moved across and jumped down on the other side of the stream. With great difficulty I reached those plants and to my surprise it was Calanthe alpina Hook., a plant which was never found for more than 150 years from the region. I was in a state of ecstasy that I have no words to explain. The flowers were fresh bloom with many buds still to be in bloom. “It seems they were waiting for me”. I sat there near to the plant on that wet forest floor, spread out my notebook to make drawings and noted down other details, and started documenting it. By then, the security personnel started beckoning me. I responded with message that I will join them soon. I documented the plant and its flowers till all the batteries I was carrying drained out.
The most interesting part of that day was still to follow; I found no ways to cross the stream. Most of the trees on the other side were with wide trunks and I was unable to climb. After several attempts, I called for help and a few personnel came running to my rescue. They helped me with ropes and fallen tree trunks to cross the stream. We all returned to the base after around 2 hours of steep climb. In the evening I got a message from the highest security official of the unit to meet him next day. I guessed it would be regarding my risky affairs of the day. The next day I visited him at his office. Before he started the topic I mesmerized him with many beautiful photographs of the species and explained to him the importance of the find. The talk and discussion went for about half an hour and by that time he virtually had forgotten for what he had called me.
King, G. & Pantling, R. (1898). The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas. Ann. Roy. Bot. Garden. (Calcutta). Calanthe alpina Hook., Page no 170.
Epiphyte. Pseudo-bulbs, crowded, conical, slightly flattened, 1 cm in height and 1. 2 to 1.8 cm in diameter at its base, with many woody roots; wrinkled during flowering. Leaves in pair, arising from the apex of the bulb, oblong, narrowed to the base, sessile, 4 to 7 cm long and 1 to 1.5 cm in width, deciduous during flowering. Flowers in scape arising from the base of the bulb. Peduncle erect or diagonally erect, with two ovate clasping bracts at equal distance from the base of the scape, 4 to 9 cm long. Raceme pendulous, 6 to 14 cm long, many flowered.
Flowers pendulous, arranged spirally. Sepals unequal, lanceolate, ciliolate, less than 1 cm long; lateral linear, both fused together except at its base to form an oblong shape and partially twisting along the middle, laxly ciliolate, 4 to 7 cm long and 0.8 to 1.2 cm in width, 10 to 12 veined. Petals very small, triangular, densely ciliolate. Lip longer than petals but shorter than the lateral sepals, fleshy, oblong, lower surface convex, hairy. Floral bracts from the upper side of the short sessile ovary, lanceolate. Flowers with a soothing scent.
Dorsal sepal, petals and lip are whitish brown base with broad markings of purple, the marginal hairs of sepals and petals as well as the lip hairs are dark purple. Lateral sepal which forms the most attractive part of this flower are bright yellow mixed with purple shade, its base with minute purple dots; but turns brownish yellow when old. Floral bract pale brown.
King and Pantling described this species as “a curious plant”. It is true anyone who has seen this flower once will never forget it. I was aware about the peculiar shape of this orchid flower and was studying it much before I started my work on orchids of the region. In the winter months I made a couple of trips to the Himalayas for finding this, but those short trips never brought any results other than enjoying the coolness of the Himalayas.
When I started living in the region from 2011 with the current project, my first intention was to see and document this flower. I enquired about this plant wherever I went and whomever I met in connection with my work. Finally in the early winter month I met a group of villagers who had seen this in flower in a forested area near their village. After several calls and a lot of coordination, a few of those villagers accompanied on the pursuit. We were 4 people on that particular day and searched by climbing up several trees. Unfortunately we were not able to spot the plants. That year was not fruitful in spotting the species.
In 2012, I was traveling to a distant village, which is in a deep valley surrounded by semi tropical dense forested hills on a friend’s bike. On this particular day I was on hunt for another plant. We were there by 9 in the morning and did its documentation very well, had a small survey of the surrounding area till noon. After having lunch from there we were riding back, this time I tried my luck with the handle bar. The ride was almost uphill all the way back and needed careful riding. Hence I was concentrating on the forest road to negotiate the vehicle properly. Almost half way on the uphill road, I spotted something strange on top of a tall tree to the right side of the road. Immediately I stopped the vehicle for a close look. To my surprise I found two plants of this species in full bloom. I will never forget that moment, as it is a bonus to find two plants in full bloom!!! Both of them were on a thin branch almost 60 ft high. The branch was extending to the road and was almost 16 to 20 ft long. There was no way to reach it. Even if we climb the tall tree, we would not be able to reach the flowers, as the branch in which it was growing was very thin and would not hold my weight. We both thought of many ideas but without any success. The village, which we visited, was more than 17 km away and bringing somebody from there for help was also not feasible on that day as it was already evening. We returned with great disappointment. I was not able to sleep even for a minute on that night, my mind was thinking about various ideas to reach those flowers.
Next day, we went again to the spot to try our luck, with two long ropes and the local knife, “the kukri”. After many rounds of ideas and suggestions, it was decided to break the branch of that tree and bring down the plants, study and document them and replant those plants to another branch. I never advocated cutting down any branches or pulling out any plants from its natural habitat. But in a situation like this I was left with no other options. Before taking a final decision we both surveyed the entire area to look for any other specimens but in vain. Then we decided to go for the most painful decision of my orchid hunt in the Himalayas till date. My friend climbed up the near by tree and tied a long rope to the apex end of the branch with flowers. Simultaneously I roped the other end to the trunk of the tree. Then, I started cutting the branch with great care and detached it from the trunk. Now, the thin branch was up there with the support of those ropes tied to its either sides. We untied those ropes and lowered the branch to ground level with utmost care. We came down the tree and I have no words to describe my first close view of this beautiful orchid flower. The next couple of hours were with notebook and camera for documenting it. Noted down all its characteristics, checked it several times to make sure everything was right and documented those flowers until a whole bag of flash batteries got drained out.
Then came the most important part of the current hunt, “to replant those plants”. I read many articles by eminent scientists from the Neo Tropical region and their way of trans-locating plants from fallen trees to new locations. Taking much clue from those notes and directions we trans-located those 11 buds to a new branch. Later on, in the coming weeks I made several visits to the locations to make sure the plants are growing in their new locations.
Last year, around the same time I found 6 flowering scape and the number of bulbs increased to 16. That sight had given me more joy than the find of this species exactly one year before. The Lord has answered my prayers for not being the reason for the extinction of this species at least from that location.
King, G. & Pantling, R. (1898). The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas. Ann. Roy. Bot. Garden. (Calcutta). Cirrhopetalum refractum Zollinger., Page no 87.
Epiphyte, but grows as lithophyte also. Pseudo-bulb sub-cylindric, smooth, 1.5 to 2 cm long and less than 1 cm in diameter, attached to a woody branched rhizome 4 to 7 cm apart. Leaf oblong, narrowing to the base, sessile, 4 to 7 cm long and 1.5 cm in width, slightly decurved at the apex. Flowers small, capitate, on a scape arising from the base of the pseudo-bulbs, with 2 to 3 lanceolate clasping sheaths, 4 to 6 cm long. Floral bracts longer than the pedicellate ovary.
Flowers 1 to 1.5 cm across. Sepals sub-equal, lanceolate with broad base, apex varying – terete to pointed. Dorsal smaller than the lateral, diagonally arching; lateral spreading on the base flowers, the rest arranged forward parallel to the lip. Petals smaller than the lip, ovate. Lip fleshy, curved, with a narrow lanceolate ridge running from the base to almost the mid of its disc, margins of the lip as well as the ridge with fine hairs. Sweet scented.
Sepals and petals white to pale creamy. Lip orange red, its margins as well as the ridge margins on its disc are white. Floral bracts pale cream and translucent, scape green.
A very interesting plant with sweet scented beautiful flowers. As it has a huge altitudinal range, it can be easily located from many places of the region.
I too located it without much difficulty, but it took three flowering seasons to produce a photograph of my desire. During its flowering season in the first two years, I was working in the Alpine zone and my visit to the lower altitudes were very seldom. Seven times I tried to reach to this species during its flowering time, but failed due to various reasons. Twice I was there when it was in full bloom, but the monsoon rains prevented me from producing perfect pictures.
In 2013, as I was finishing all undocumented and already discovered species, I took special efforts to document this. Its flowers are very small and its round flower head were not documented in detail by anyone. Its flower bracts are translucent; also there is a fine white margin on its lip and disc. Even though its flowers are widely documented because of its availability in nurseries, homes and roadsides all over the region, none produced the details needed for further studies and references. Hence, I put extra efforts to document those details in that season. The flowers I selected were hardly 3 to 5 ft high from the ground level. I sat comfortably on a chair, which is always loaded in our vehicle, arranged multiple flashes on many monopods and documented the flowers. To make sure all details were captured, I transferred the photographs to the laptop and checked it there itself. It was a fulfilling moment to see such details documented.
King, G. & Pantling, R. (1898). The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas. Ann. Roy. Bot. Garden. (Calcutta). Bulbophyllum odoratissimum Lindl., Page no 79 – 80.
Epiphyte. Pseudo-bulb small, less than 1.5cm across, turbinate and depressed, attached to a thick, branching rhizome more than 4 to 6 cm apart; rhizome clothed and with numerous roots arising in intervals. Leaf narrowly oblong, acute, narrowed to a short petiole, 5 to 8 cm long and 1.5 cm in width. Flowers small, in scape arising from the older bulbs, decurved. Peduncle as long as the racemes, laxly arranged.
Flowers 1 to 1.5 cm across, pedicellate. Sepals equal, broadly lanceolate and acuminate, dorsal diagonally erect, lateral spreading. Petals very small, lanceolate with ciliolate margins. Lip as long as the sepals, oblong, decurved, with ciliolate margins and a channel like cut at the base. Floral bract very small.
Sepals various shades of pale pink to rose, its outer surface with many irregular dots of dark pink at its base. Petals and lip creamy white to creamy pink. Floral bracts pale green.
The only Bulbophyllum species from the region, which has an unusually depressed bulb. This species covers the host trees, criss-crossing its trunk and branches with thousands and thousands of its plants, attached to the trunk as well as hanging out. As such it can be spotted from a mile away and recognized easily because of its pseudo-bulb’s shape. The same way, I too spotted it from agood distance on a routine survey in the monsoon months. With enough moisture and wetness due to regular rains, the plant was producing numerous new young leaves. Even though an individual specimen is very small in size, the entire growth covered the huge host tree leaving no room. Prior to that find, I had seen the species only from the drawings of Pantling. Hence, it was a joyous moment for me to see the unusually shaped pseudo-bulbs and to study it. The fact that the plant blooms in the early winter days made me take necessary notes and mark it for later observations.
In the early winter days I visited the location to examine the plant and observed many scape arising. After a week I made my second visit, but was disappointed to see them still in buds. On my third visit I found many of them in bloom. Then I observed the small hairy margins on its petals and lips (Even though King & Pantling had mentioned about this in detail, I had missed to register it). I had developed some lighting techniques to document minute hairy outgrowths in flowers and the technique had enabled me to produce fantastic results. Hence I thought of documenting this flower with those lighting techniques. However, on that particular day I was not carrying those lighting instruments. So one more visit was needed to finish this documentation. The next day I was forced to be in my camp house itself due to a local strike. On the third day, I went with all necessary equipment and produced this amazing photograph of the species with its minute hairs on its petals and lips.
Bulbophyllum thomsoni Hook., Page no 83 – 84 of The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas by Sir. George King and Robert Pantling (1898).
Epiphyte. Pseudo-bulbs ovoid, ribbed, erect, 1.5 to 2 cm long and 1 to 1.3 cm in diameter, attached to a woody stout rhizome either close together or at a a distance of around 2 cm apart. Leaf fleshy, oblong, tapering on both ends, sub-sessile, apex notched, 6 to 14 cm long and 1.2 to 2 cm in width. Flowers in a scape arising from the side of the pseudo-bulb, 2 to 3 cm long and clothed with many lanceolate dried bracts, raceme decurved, densely flowered, 9 to 12 cm long.
Flowers small, about 1.2 cm long, pedicellate. Sepals unequal, dorsal very small, oblong; lateral more than twice longer than the dorsal, ovate, acute, converging at its apex. Petals small, broadly triangular. Lip half the size of the lateral sepals, curved, disc channelled from its base to the middle, edges minutely ciliolate. Column with two apical teeth. Floral bracts longer than the ovary, lanceolate.
The outer surface of the sepals are of shinning brown with even darker marks throughout, inner side is pinkish brown with uneven darker markings. Petals pinkish brown. Lip reddish pink fading to its apex and margins. Column brilliant yellow. Pedicel bright red, scape greenish red, floral bracts pale brown.
A very interesting plant as well as flower of the region. In the monumental referral work of King and Pantling, the authors added a special paragraph to describe this species and its allied ones. However, they mentioned the altitudinal range of the species as “warm valleys” only. The altitudinal range and the blooming period are the two key factors that help in locating each species. The advantage I acquired about this species was the illustration of Pantling in the referral book, the drawing was excellent and the uniqueness of its pseudo-bulb attracted my attention. I took the unique shape as a reference and was searching for the species. In 2013, during the summer months I was stationed in a tropical warm forest with my work. During the survey work, I noticed few clumps of an orchid on the main trunk of some tall trees growing close by to each other. The plants were around 20 to 25 high and I was not able to study them from ground level. On observation with binoculars I noticed the unique shape of the pseudo-bulbs, but one important description of the plant by King and Pantling never matched, “pseudo-bulbs erect, ovoid, ribbed, about 3 in. apart……”. The bulbs of those plants I found were not 3 inches apart, most of them were arranged close together. As the blooming time of the plant was mentioned October, November and December in the referral book, I decided to mark the location and visit them in the next winter months. It is always advisable to re-visit unidentified plants once in ten or fifteen days to make sure they are not in bloom. However, I could not make those regular visits possible as I normally spend the months between May and October in the high alpine regions.
When I was back from the Alpine zone in the mid of October, I remembered about this species and the first trip was made to this location. To my surprise I found few fully developed racemes with almost matured buds ready to open. As the flowers were about 20 to 25 feet high and getting or making a ladder of that height was impossible, we thought of some other ideas. Near to the location, there was a new home being constructed and they had just removed the bamboo support from the concrete of its first floor. With the help of those workers we made a temporary stilt platform and sitting on that I produced this wonderful photograph. Also, I was also able to update the fact that the pseudo-bulbs bulbs of this species can grow close together as well as in a distance as described by the authors.
Bulbophyllum careyanum Spreng., Page no 71 – 72 of The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas by Sir. George King and Robert Pantling (1898).