Terrestrial. Whole plant 12 to 16 cm in height. Tuber solitary, attached to the dried previous year’s tuber, rotund to oval, 1.2 cm long and 0.8 cm in cross section, with many fleshy long roots arising from the fresh tuber as well as dried roots of the previous year’s tuber. Stem almost half the height of the whole plant, arising from the apex of the fresh tuber, fleshy, with three lanceolate clasping sheaths surrounding its base, sheaths 0.75 to 3 cm long. Leaf one or two, arising from the top of the sheath or high above it, lanceolate to elliptic, 2.5 to 4 cm long and 1.2 to 2 cm in width at its widest part, diagonally erect, narrowed to a long clasping petiole. Flowers two, arranged at the topmost portion of a long cylindrical and faintly ribbed terminal spike, secund.
Flowers large, 2 to 2.5 cm across. Sepals un-equal, the dorsal half the size of the lateral, ovate, arching forward over the petals. Lateral sepals spreading, ovate, upper margin sickle shaped and with upward pointing apex, one to three nerved. Petals as long as or slightly longer than the dorsal sepal, ovate, arranged forward with curving and overlapping apex. Lip less widely than the lateral sepals, obcordate in outline, with its apex cut to form mid and side lobes; mid lobe apiculate or rounded, side lobes oblong, both with irregular apex margins. Spur as long as the ovary and the lip, cylindrical, slightly curved upwards and compressed. Floral bract lanceolate, erect, longer than the ovary but diminishing to less than half in length in the apex flower and arising from the upper base of it.
Sepals and petals white with the latter being translucent. Petals with minutely yellow or thickened white veins. Lip pure white. Spur creamy white and translucent. Floral bract pale green.
Note: The Alba variety of Ponerorchis nana (King and Pantling) Soó., is a new report to the region as well to the family of orchidaceae.
Another new find to the world of orchids. I never came across any literature on the Alba of Ponerorchis nana (King and Pantling) Soó., during my initial home work on orchids of the region. Hence, never thought about looking for it.
In the third month of the Alpine flowering season I was camping around 16,000 ft in a valley far away from any human settlement. The valley, which is to be mentioned as virgin and devoid of any scientific explorations, was home to thousands of plants. Every other minute I was able to spot some or other plants, which are rare or new to my knowledge.
As there were no human settlements, the only stream of the valley hasn’t got many bridges across it but for one. The bridge – half broken, was constructed to facilitate security patrols to the International border. Even though the river is not deep, the water is so cold and the flow very rapid, thus preventing crossing over on foot. Thus surveying the region turned out to be of great difficulty, as I have to reach the point of the bridge to cross the river, which was very far away from my location of stay. However, I was determined to explore more and more areas every day by walking the extra mile.
During those the region received heavy showers, which made my pursuit tougher. Even though I was equipped with all weather tents, the strong winds along with heavy showers made the stay there very uncomfortable. The heavy winds made rainwater drip inside my tent through its air openings. Also, keeping the camera and other accessories dry and safe turned out to be very difficult. Three days passed by like that with similar climatic conditions. As we were unable to cook anything because of heavy rains and winds, my assistant and I were forced to live on dry fruits and fruit juices. Even drinking water went scarce; as we were not able to boil water, which we normally collect from the river or rain.
On the third night, winds settled down and clouds disappeared, making way to twinkling stars in the sky. At those high altitudes with clear sky, stars appear to be brighter and the sky beautiful. I was so delighted to see the clear skies and started planning for the next day’s trip.
We set out on our journey early morning – after a very good breakfast. I will always remember that morning food as we were deprived of any cooked food for previous three previous days. As we were walking to the bridge to cross the river, my assistant suggested that we should cross the river by walking across the waters. Even though we both will get wet up to chest high, he suggested that we could save more than 2 hours and do more survey in that time. The waters were freezing and were flowing at very high speed. After a brief thought and prayers I agreed with my trusted lieutenant. We both tied rope to each other around 5 feet apart, carried the waterproof camera bag and lunch pack on our heads and crossed the river with at most care. It took almost 3 minutes to cross the river of hardly 8 meters wide. The chill was unbearable, but we took each step with at most care so that none of us stumbled. I was taller than my assistant and was chest deep in water, not to mention about his apathy.
Across the river, we sat on the ground for drying our clothes. At those altitudes Sun is so bright and heavy winds make the clothes dry very fast. As we were there, my handkerchief put for drying flew away in a strong wind. My assistant chased it and got hold of it around 35 meters away. As he picked up the handkerchief, he spotted a batch of plants with pure white flowers. He, working with me for the previous six months became a very good orchid hunter and called up on me to come there and have a look.
I put few stones on the rest of the clothes so that winds will not dislocate it and went to my friend’s location. It was a total surprise to see those plants – the Alba of Ponerorchis nana (King and Pantling) Soó., a variety never ever discovered. I can’t forget that first sight of those plants and the circumstances that made me discover it for the scientific world. But for those three rainy days and the crazy mind of both of us in crossing a chill cold fast flowing river, this variety would have went unnoticed at least for that flowering season.
The interesting second part of the find– documentation, turned out to be so hard in those windy and sunny conditions. We were forced to construct walls with our dress on three sides to prevent winds from oscillating the plants. Finally, after more than two hours of hard work I was able to produce documentary evidence of this variety to my satisfaction.
The Alba variety of Ponerorchis nana (King and Pantling) Soó., is a new report to the region as well to the family of orchidaceae.