Calanthe brevicornu Lindl. – a species while in bloom can be spotted from quite a distance. Field study spread across the Eastern Himalayas by the author produced documentary evidences of many variations of the species. The book, TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS, presents the detailed photographic evidences of the species in bloom, with its characteristics and habitat explained in detail.
Terrestrial. The whole plant is less than 15 to 20 cm in height. Pseudo-bulbs small, ovoid, pointed, arranged very closely. Pseudo stem 5 to 7 cm, with wide sheaths. Leaves usually 3, very rarely 5, sub-equal, oblong elliptic, shortly acuminate, tapered to the wide sheathing base, 12 to 20 cm long and 4 to 7 cm in width. Peduncle and raceme longer than the leaves, former with a few scattered short bracts; later around 15 to 20 cm long, with scattered flowers. Flowers beautiful, dull red to brownish red, with the base of sepals and petals flushed with white, both sepals and petals white veined (usually three), lip slightly pale in colour compared to sepal and petals with distinct white margins throughout. The mouth of the spur is lined with retroflexed hairs. Sepals sub-equal, oblong-lanceolate, acute and spreading. Petals slightly shorter and narrower than the sepals, lanceolate. Lip attached to the lower half of the column, 3-lobed, and with a short, blunt straight spur.
Easy to locate from the forests, as it appears and blooms before the monsoon showers which make the forest floor fully covered with undergrowths. I found a few of this species in the end of April, while on a routine survey to the forest. However, in the initial stages, confusion prevailed with correct identification, as few Calanthes of the region are look alikes. Repeated visits were needed to the region to find them in bloom, as the flowers are quite larger the blooming also takes a longer time. Finally it bloomed, one by one from the bottom providing an opportunity to photograph a new flower every other day. To be frank, the sepals, petals and lip of this species are spreading and as well as flat, hence not much difficulty to get a sharp photograph like the one here.