Galeola lindleyana (Hook.f. & Thomson) Rchb.f.

The Plant

Terrestrial. Rhizome thick and long clothed with many fleshy scales. Stem thick, 3 to 5 cm in cross section, cylindrical, 4 to 11.7 ft in height, hollow, puberulous. Leaf less. Flower many, in panicles at regular intervals with the lower ones erect and arranged parallel to the stems as well as long as 15 to 55 cm, the upper ones shorter in length, spreading and diagonally erect. Panicles puberulous and hollow, with a small lanceolate arising from its lower side of the base

The Flower

Flowers large, 3 to 5 cm across, spongy, in short stalks. Sepals un-equal, with rough wavy ribs externally; dorsal oblong, diagonally erect, smaller than the lateral pair; lateral oblong to elliptic, spreading, margins to its apex curved upwards. Petals larger than the sepals, ovate, margins minutely fimbriate, apex curved back, spreading. Lip cup shaped, sessile, with a three lobed notch at its apex, the inner surface hairy throughout. Floral bract small, lanceolate, arising from the upper side of the stalk.

Sepals bright yellow inside, pale brownish yellow outside. Petals bright yellow. Lip bright yellow outside, orange red inside. Floral bract dark brown.

Galeola lindleyana (Hook.f. & Thomson) Rchb.f.
Galeola lindleyana (Hook.f. & Thomson) Rchb.f.

The Pursuit

Another beautiful and striking plant of the region. Due to various habitat destructions this species turned out to be very rare to find from its natural habitats. With my extensive survey work in the region, I encountered this species from three different locations spread over 4 years. The last find was some something very unique and special to the scientific word, hence I am narrating that find here.

Already found twice earlier, this species was not in my “to find” list for the year 2012. I was working in a semi-tropical region with very good access to dense forested high hill areas. Hence, every alternate day I visited high hills as well as slopes for my routine surveys. On a visit to a nearby village, I was informed about few villagers who had cardamom farms inside the forest almost two decades ago. They were forced to leave that area after it was declared as part of a National Park. As those villagers inherently lived inside the forest in connection with their farming activities I thought of having an interaction with some of them. I was sure they might be having some interesting stories about that forest which will be of immense help to me. As I was sharing my experience on orchids they expressed their desire to see some of my photographs. I obliged them by displaying the orchid photographs in my Ipad. An elderly man after seeing this species photograph started describing about a same plant much taller than him (like all others from the hill, he was also around 5 ft high). My curiosity made him describe the height of the plant as taller as a plantain tree growing near to his hut. The plantain was around 10 ft in height. After this particular interaction I was very eager to visit that place. I decided to make a trip later as the blooming time of this species was still two months away.

After 40 days I was there in the village and requested the same man to find somebody to take me there. He was so kind enough to send his son with me to the forestland, which was once their home. The trek so was difficult. The monsoon had made the entire forest floor with thick undergrowth and many leeches. That area was always full of leeches, especially the long ones. After around 1 hr and 40 min trek we reached the area where they were having their cardamom plantation some 20 years back. To our surprise, he found 4 plants of this species growing there. All of them were around 5 ft in height. On close observation it was found that the plants were relatively young and would grow taller in height.  We returned to the village by evening and I decided to shift my place of stay to this village temporarily, so that I can visit this species every other day and study its growth pattern. Luckily, the elderly man asked me to stay in his house itself. For the next 46 days I visited the plants every second day till it reached a staggering height of 11′ 7″. Every time I visited the plant my excitement was growing so high, that I thought I might go “freak”.  The batteries, which got drained on every visit, were countless. However, when the statistics were compared with other available data it was found that this specimen which was at 11′ 7″was the highest growing orchid specimen ever recorded from the region.

More interestingly, the happy news was the species survived at the same area for more than 20 years. A great news to the conservation related works of the Forest Department officials of the region. A senior official attributed the presence of the species surviving there to the eviction of villagers and their cardamom farm. However, many villagers are still unhappy about abandoning their cardamom farms.


King, G. &Pantling, R. (1898). The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas. Ann. Roy. Bot. Garden. (Calcutta). Galeola lindleyana, Reichb., Page no 264/265.