Neottianthe secundiflora (Kraenzl.) Schltr.

The Plant

Terrestrial. Tubers unequal, two to three with a few thin and short roots, globular to cylindrical. Whole plant 10 to 16 cm in height. Stem about one third of the whole plant, with two leaves attached to its upper part and a thin membranous long sheath at its base. Leaves linear oblong, acute, narrowed at its base to a long tubular sheath, veined and leathery, 4 to 6 cm long and 1.5 to 2 cm in width, diagonally erect. Flower many in a spike longer than the stem, ribbed.

The Flower

Flower small, 1.5 cm across. Sepals unequal, dorsal ovate, shorter than the lateral sepals; lateral sepals lanceolate, broader than the petals; petals oblong; all connivent to form a diagonally curved up hood. Lip longer than the spur, decurved, apex three lobed, the middle one longer than the other two, ovate with broad base; side ones slightly diverging, oblong, shorter and slender than the middle one. Spur like a funnel, much broader at its apex and converging to a cylindrical blunt apex. Floral bracts lanceolate, longer than the ovary, diminishing in size upwards, arising from the lower side of the erect ovary.

Sepals and petals pale rose to pink minutely flushed with white. Lip is of the same shade, but the base of it white. Floral bracts brown flushed with green.

Neottianthe secundiflora (Kraenzl.) Schltr.
Neottianthe secundiflora (Kraenzl.) Schltr.

The Pursuit

This is one of the beautiful ground orchids I had ever studied. Its beauty and elegance cannot be compared with any of the Himalayan orchids. Ironically, its beauty went unnoticed as it was not documented properly.

As I was in the alpine region for many months together, I had studied and documented the full cycle of many species from its spurting, growth, flowering and its speed pods. This was one of the species I followed closely, visiting it every day. In the alpine region I was unable to communicate to my dear and near ones, I made it a point there to greet all those orchid plants I discovered on a regular basis. The first find of this species was very interesting. En-route the high alpine region, there is a small hamlet. In one of those houses they were having some religious function and one of the younger members of the family invited me to join. All religious functions of the Himalayas will never be over without a great feast of non-vegetarian food and locally made brew. As I am a strict vegetarian every household of the region has trouble in feeding me. The exact thing happened there also. They got a lot of dishes but nothing vegetarian. As the people of the hills are very good host, the elderly woman of the house asked her grandchildren to collect some local plants from the banks of a stream nearby to make some dish for me. I also joined them in plucking the plants. As the children were collecting the plants I found this species growing there. The plants were very small. Even though not properly able to identify the species, it was understood that it was an orchid. One of the children remembered that it produces pink flowers in the previous season. If my memories are correct, I visited the plant every day for the next 42 days to see them in flower. However, as the leaves emerge I was able to identify the species. Then onwards it was of more anxiety and finally I produced this beautiful photograph of the species without much difficulty.

Later on, in the last year of my stay in the alpine region, I found about 80 plants of this species growing near to each other from a location very far away from any mode of road transport. May be I am the only person till date who had visited that location. I hope the species will remain there for many years to come in their undisturbed environment.


King, G. & Pantling, R. (1898). The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas. Ann. Roy. Bot. Garden. (Calcutta). Habenarias ecundiflora Hook., Page no 330 – 331.