Epipogium roseum (D. Don) Lindl.

Terrestrial. A plant with smooth and hairless unbranched stem between 8 to 45 cm in height. With many 1 cm long scattered small obtuse sheaths. Flowers distant, dropping, around 1 to 1.5 cm long. The entire plant almost white to pale cream, flowers white with many pink to purple spots. Sepals and petals linear-oblong with the latter slightly shorter. Lip elliptic, concave, entire with its apex irregularly ridged, the spur short and bulbous.

Epipogum nutans, Reichb (Epipogium roseum (D. Don) Lindl)
Epipogum nutans Reichb (Epipogium roseum (D. Don) Lindl)

The Pursuit

A very interesting orchid plant of the region. Just after the first monsoon rains, this plant appears on its habitats from its underground tuber. The whole plant is almost white to cream coloured and devoid of any leaves, can be spotted from a distance even in thick forests. The local population who venture into the forest calls it “Bhooth pautha” (Ghost plant). Due to my regular interactions with the locals, I came to know about the presence of this plant in that region. People who frequented the forests were well aware of its locations and helped me to the exact place of its presence. The location I was shown was near to a stream with too much of undergrowths and huge tall trees. We have to descent from an altitude of 7400 ft to 5800 ft to its location. I had made arrangements with a friend of that area to visit the location regularly and inform me when the plant is in bloom. After a week I got a call from him that he saw the plants as high as 12 to 15 cm and asked me to come there. Unfortunately I was around 180 km away at another place and was waiting for another rare plant to be in bloom. Hence, I was not able to reach to the “Bhooth” in the next three days. On the fourth day I was there around 11 AM. As we were descending down the hill, I found 7 plants together just to the side of the trek inside thick undergrowths. It was a wonderful sight, a cluster of pure white plants in the midst of dense green leafed plants. Then I understood why the locals called it “Bhooth”. I had a nice documentary session there itself with too many leech bites all over my body. Again went down the hill to see the other plants. They were also in bloom, but less in numbers and in height. After that I had seen this plant on three other locations also. All of them were accidental sighting, thus proving this rare species is still there in its natural habitats. Due to some special characteristics of this species, I wanted to visit the plant in the night also. Our trek in the evening got abruptly ended with a furious female bear chasing us all the way out of the forest.