Peristylus fallax Lindl.

The Plant

Terrestrial. Tubers two, ellipsoid to elliptic with a few short stout roots arising from it. Whole plant 12 to 17 cm in height. Stem more than one third of its total height with its base sheathed, cylindrical. Leaf solitary, arising around the apex of the stem, ensiform to linear, long, 5 to 8 cm in length and 1.5 cm in width, decurved, narrowed to a long tubular sheath, the base of the sheath covered by another long sheath attached opposite to it. Flower many in a spike longer than the stem, ribbed.

The Flower

Flower 1.5 cm across, facing diagonally downwards. Sepals unequal; dorsal ovate, shorter than the lateral sepals, arching; lateral oblong to ovate, diagonally spreading; petals oblong shorter and slender than the sepals and petals, connivent with the dorsal sepal, arching diagonally. Lip three lobed; middle lobe longer than the side lobes, ovate to oblong; side lobes very small, diverging, oblong with its outer margin bottlenose shaped. Spur very small, obdeltoid. Floral bracts longer than the ovary, diminishing in size towards the apex, lanceolate, erect, arising from the lower side of the curved ovary.

The whole flower including its sepals, petals and lip pale green with the outer surface of the sepals with a darker shaded margin running through its middle. Spur pale green, translucent. Floral bract pale green flushed with darker shade.

Peristylus fallax Lindl.
Peristylus fallax Lindl.

The Pursuit

It was a very bright sunny day, with no trace of any clouds. Both me and the forest guard, who was assigned to assist me, were ready for the day’s work. We travelled to the alpine region in an army vehicle every day. The road to the alpine region runs along the banks of the main stream of the valley for about 35 km. On that day we were planning to cross the stream at a location 18 km ahead and trek for another 6 km and return by afternoon. I always enjoyed the stream with its milky waters and had produced many scenic photographs of it on various days. Whenever I travel uphill I prefer to sit on the right side of the vehicle so that I can always enjoy the view of the milky waters. As I was enjoying the waters and remembering the many photographs I produced, the river turned muddy and the speed of the flow increased many fold. In seconds, the stream turned like a broad river with water level rising many feet. We understood something strange had occurred in the high hills. Our vehicle stopped there and we decided to return. It will be always safe to be cautious in the alpine hills. The vehicle returned to its base camp with other people, but we decided to take a walk back. By then we had understood that there was a cloud burst in the high hills.

As we were returning back on foot, we used the opportunity in surveying both sides of the road. We found several species but all of them were studied earlier. As we approached an ascending portion on the route, we both rested on a rock to have hot tea and biscuits we were carrying. As we were having only one cup to share the tea, I always offered my companion to have the pleasure of tea first. On this day after having his cup of tea, the forest guard was on his way to wash the cup from a small falls on the roadside. On his he accidently found this species – a single plant with several buds and a few of them in bloom. That was the first time I was also seeing the plant and was very happy for the find. We both spend more than 2 hours there searching the whole area on either side of the road and even on the banks of the river with rushing waters in vain. As we were not able to find another specimen and as we had to walk back all the way, we decided to study and document the only specimen we found. As the location was dry and open, I produced some fantastic photographs of the species.

While on the way, we both were discussing the ways and means the Almighty shows to find each species. The cloudburst in the alpine region made us abandon the uphill ride and return back on foot. If we were a few minutes late we would have returned much before the point from where we found the species, thus, may be, making the species still elusive for me.


King, G. & Pantling, R. (1898). The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas. Ann. Roy. Bot. Garden. (Calcutta). Habenaria fallax King and Pantling., Page no 325.