Platanthera juncea (King & Pantl.) Kraenzl.

The Plant

Terrestrial. Tuber solitary, ellipsoid with many fibrous hairs. Whole plant about 12 to 20 cm in height. Stem two third of the whole plant, very slender but with a comparatively stout base which is covered with lanceolate sheaths, cylindrical; also with a narrow lanceolate erect bract around its upper third portion. Leaf solitary, arising from the base of the stem, oblong to ovate, slightly decurved at its apex, 1.5 to 2.5 cm long and about 1.25 cm in width, narrowed at its base to a tubular sheath, three veined. Flower many in a spike, laxly arranged.

The Flower

Flower very small, less then 1 cm across. Sepals unequal, ovate to lanceolate; dorsal broader and shorter than the lateral, diagonally erect; lateral spreading diagonally. Petals ovate, as long as the dorsal sepal and connivent with it to form a hood. Lip longer than the sepals and petals, entire, its apex minutely decurved. Spur very small, cylindrical with broadened apex. Floral bracts narrow and erect, smaller and arising from the lower portion of the erect and twisted ovary.

The whole flower is pale green with the outer surface of the sepals a darker shade, spur pale green and translucent.

Platanthera juncea (King & Pantl.) Kraenzl.
Platanthera juncea (King & Pantl.) Kraenzl.

The Pursuit

A very slender ground species of the region. A publication came out with a documentary evidence of this species; even though the photograph was not providing the details of the plant and its flowers. Hence, I was so eager to find it from its natural habitats and document it. During the first year of my alpine region work I was eagerly looking for this species. King and Pantling’s mention of its altitudinal range – 11,000 to 12,000 ft, made me put this species on the check list of “those to be found” by the second month of the alpine hunt. In the first month I was relatively working on lower altitudes, between 8,800 and 11,000 ft. As it was my first alpine hunt each day was hectic with too much trekking and lot of finds. The main road of the region was made by carving out the mountain, hence it’s both sides got supporting brick walls. Shrubs and climbers start appearing on those walls along with the first showers of the season and will get fully covered in a few weeks. I had found and documented many rare plants growing inside those shrubs and climbers. Hence, every time when I get opportunity I survey those walls. On a routine survey I found four very slender orchid plants from a thick bushy region on the walls. Its solitary leaf prompted me to think it could be this species. However, the plant was so small to properly identify. I marked the area and waited for its growth. In the coming days I visited the location twice to confirm its presence. However, on the third visit I found the entire shrubs and climbers on those walls were removed by the government officials residing there. They found a couple of poisonous snakes in their residential area and cleared all forest undergrowth from the region including my rare find. I was really disappointed with the loss but was determined to find it again.

That year went without its find. In the second year of my alpine work, I particularly visited the same location from where I found this species on the previous year. To my surprise there were again four slender plants almost at the same location. Fearing another miss due to some unforeseen reasons, we fenced that area. Every few days I visited the location to make sure no destruction has happened to my finds. Within the next week itself I was able to confirm its identity. After many visits and cautious wait I found them in flowers and made this beautiful photograph. Surprisingly on the very next day of my documentation of those four plants, heavy rains triggered landslide and the whole stretch of those supporting wall crashed down destroying all the floral population for around some 20 m length.


King, G. & Pantling, R. (1898). The Orchids of the Sikkim-Himalayas. Ann. Roy. Bot. Garden. (Calcutta).Habenaria juncea King and Pantling., 315 – 316.