Anthogonium gracile Wall. ex Lindl. – the alba form.

The Plant

Almost the space as that of the species one, but with relatively larger pseudo-bilbs and longer leaves and peduncle. Flowers 4 to 5, laxly arranged in distance.

The Flower

Sepals, petals and lip pure white. Anther bright yellow, ovary pale green, floral bract brown.

Anthogonium gracile, Wall. ex Lindl - the white form
Anthogonium gracile Wall. ex Lindl – the white form.

The Pursuit

In the monumental publication, King and Pantling noted, “A white-flowered variety is not uncommon”. However, this white form was not much reported or documented from the region. That made this white form one of the most sought orchid from the region for me.

As the rose coloured species are available in plenty, almost everywhere, it is a familiar species to the local population. However, due to its peculiar shape most of the people cannot relate it as an orchid! Wherever I went for other species during those months, I was asking everyone about the white coloured one, without any success.

In the year 2012, I was working in the alpine areas of Sikkim-Himalayas between May and October. As the road connectivity always got blocked due to monsoon-triggered landslides I seldom came to the plains during those days. In those alpine areas there are not much of private transport available and I totally depended on Army vehicles to shuttle between places. In the month of September, I was forced to make a trip to the State capital in connection with finalizing some publications. I took an early morning army vehicle, which was going to their base camp in the town downhill. Those huge trucks are built for those terrains and are the safest mode of transport on those hilly terrains. As we crossed the half way, the walkie talkie in the cabin relayed message of a landslide a few kilometers ahead and asked the vehicle to return to its starting point. As there were some officials who have to board a train to their home that very same evening, they requested the pilot of the vehicle to drop them up to the landslide point. After getting permission from the higher authorities he took us to the landslide area. The slide was about 80 ft long and the road was covered with almost 4 to 5 ft high mud and many rocks. As I have to attend the meeting next day, I decided to take the risk and cross the landslide on foot and get another lift from the other side. The road was totally covered with mud and in some places my legs sunk in the slug up to my knees. I was muddy all over from my shoes to my cap. Somehow, with the help of many others I walked the entire landslide and reached the other side. Went to the stream ahead washed the clothes and shoes without much success. Waited with hope for a vehicle to go downhill. As the message of the slide was relayed over walkie talkie, the check post downhill prevented any vehicle movement and those people who crossed the slide were stranded there. As I was with very little luggage I decided to walk down hill to the nearest town, which was about 16 km away.

As I was walking down hill, I started spotting many of those rose coloured flowers of this species on both the sides of the road. I was concentrating on both sides for any colour variations with a hope that I will find the white one. As I was taking a sharp turn, made by cut opening a projection of the rocky hill, I spotted few white flowers on the left side of the road at a height of about 20 to 25 ft. The sides were full of undergrowth and spotting them was very difficult. I tried to climb that side, but it was almost vertical and climbing up was impossible. My efforts to find a long bamboo to clear the undergrowths from the road and identify those white flowers also met with no success. As I was wondering what to do next to reach the flowers, I heard the sound of army trucks coming up the hill. They were going with porters and helpers to clear the land slide and open the road for traffic. Luckily, I knew the personnel on the first army vehicle and they stopped by to inquire about the landslide. Then I requested the pilot of that vehicle to move his truck to the right side of the road, so that I can climb on the top of its cabin and reach out to those flowers. He obliged with a firm reply that he could spare just a couple of minutes. I climbed up the cabin and cleared some undergrowths and was happy to identify the white form of this species. As the trucks have to go to clear the slide and open the road for traffic, I climbed down immediately to let them go. Then I decided to stay back in the downhill town for the day and come to those flowers next day with proper arrangements for the documentation.

Next day, I hired a vehicle and arranged a long ladder and proceeded to the location and with the help of the driver, climbed up the ladder and cleared some undergrowths and documented the plants. They were altogether 6 plants with 16 flowers and 7 buds. Most of the flowers were fresh and I selected this particular one and produced this wonderful photograph.


Anthogonium gracile Lindl., Page no 96 – 97 of The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas by Sir. George King and Robert Pantling (1898).