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Wild Orchid in Eastern India - where I least expected it to be

Discussion in 'Orchid Species' started by Muddassar, Sep 24, 2018.

  1. Muddassar

    Muddassar New Member

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    Hi Everyone,


    In this thread I will be documenting my first encounter with wild orchid in the most unlikeliest of places that I could have ever thought of (My small town where I was born and raised)


    My name is Muddasar and I currently work in Toronto. I am originally from a very remote place in eastern India. I grew up in a small town surrounded by hills, forests, hill streams and finally few small lakes which now serve as a destination for many varieties of migratory birds in winter.


    I didn’t knew anything about orchids except that it is a genus of plants that grows everywhere else but where I lived, mostly because where I live can be extreme in terms of weather. Summers (April-Jun) can be 45 Degree C at max with temperatures between 38-42 for almost 3 months. Jul-Sept is mostly Monsoon but relentless heat and humidity and temp around 33-38 degrees. Winters are minimum 3 Degree C and foggy most of the times.

    The first (any only) orchid I ever kept was in Toronto, a phal which I got from a local store and which didn’t flower for me for 2 years until I decided to put it on a window of my northwest facing apartment and watered it weekly with dilute fert. It decided to send out two spikes in less than 3 months in its new location.

    I happened to travel to India in September to meet my family and was travelling to meet my In Laws (120 km away from my home town). There is a forest on the way that has been the hotbed of Left wing guerillas over the past two decades. The first reaction of vehicles crossing the forest is to complete that 12 km stretch before 2 pm and pray to god that they don’t set their sights on men lurking on side of the streets (spotters). Uneventful instances have come down recently but its always a priority to cross that stretch without stopping. The forest is dense and primarily has Sal tree, Butea Monosperma (should see them bloom in season) and few Mahua (Madhuca Longifolia) trees.


    It is here in this forest, at a distance from the road I saw few huge Madhuca Longifolia trees hosting what it look like an immense volume of epiphytes. I was a little excited but not a lot. “After all, it can not be orchids”. I’ve never seen them in 32 years having crossed the same forest multiple times, let alone ever being discussed by any locals I grew up with. I didn’t stop (risk vs reward) and went to meet my in laws. While there, the thought crossed multiple times, the leaves, the hanging bundle of roots. “What if they were Orchids”?? I mean it is highly improbable but what if they are indeed Orchids.


    On my way back, I took the risk. While crossing the same spot I saw 2 old shepherd couple around the same spot with their granddaughter. Surely can’t be spotters. Frail, had sticks in their hands and no cell phones so worth a risk. I stepped down and went to have a small conversation with them. Asking them is it safe to go to those distant trees. They said their animals are grazing here and therefore surely no wild animals and added that the forest has been quieter (alluding to the left wing guerillas).


    I took my camera and walked towards the tree and with each step I could see that they looked more and more like orchids but the sheer amount of those plants discouraged me from the fact that they can be orchids. The whole tree was covered in them, like literally choking due to them. And I could see another 20- 25 trees spread around with pretty much the same story to tell. I finally reached the first tree and Yes, the leaves looked like Orchids, the roots looked like orchids but they were just too many of them for me to believe. I mean, all my life I have never seen more than 40 of them together at a store and never saw or heard in my town and here I am with perhaps hundreds of thousands of them suffocating trees as huge as a 2-3 storeyed building. Root balls and plants so huge that they were hanging midway between the trunk and the ground by their sheer weight. Pillow sized clumps of root and plants that fell on the floor and were just lying there.


    One final proof that I needed was flowers. I am an aquarium hobbyist and for identifying confusing cryptocorynes my friends would rely on efflorescence and this is what I wanted to find next but could not find it. Remember, I was in a totally risky territory with my wife and son witting in the car with our driver and in those places there are just too many ‘what ifs’ that cross the mind. I took as many photos as possible, came towards the road and asked the old shepherd couple of have they ever seen any flowers on these plants. They both said no. Understandably so, in their life which is spent between searching for one meal after the other, attention to flowers is least of their worries. The old man put some effort and walked to the other side of the road to the 2-3 trees that were there and exclaimed ‘hai to yahaan’ (means ‘here it is’ in hindi). I rushed towards him and I saw it and yes it looked like an orchid to the bare eyes. It was on top of a broken branch and I took my camera out and took a photo and yes it was an Orchid. There were no other flowers in sight. Post transferring some of my photos to my PC I noticed that a lot of the clumps had what it looked like bare flower stalks, Not too dry, so maybe I missed the bloom season by 15-30 days. Maybe Augusts first week until September end is when they bloom with peaks around mid aug-end of aug.


    I am sharing the few photos that I took or whatever I can take. i know there are approx 27,800 species of Orchids so finding one at my native town isn't a great find. But them growing in such hot and mostly dry temperatures is what gets me excited. And as always, what if there are more species in those forests waiting to be discovered.

    Thanks.
    Muddasar converted00000013.JPG converted00000016.JPG converted00000023.JPG converted00000025.JPG
     
    GaryYG, AnonYMouse, Kipper and 4 others like this.
  2. pcolman

    pcolman Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Looks like Vanda tessellata. Pretty huge clump there. Thanks for the info and photos.
     
    GaryYG likes this.
  3. Muddassar

    Muddassar New Member

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    Wow. Thanks for the identification. Reading about it on its medicinal properties, I now remember that the lady told me that in their village they use it for ear pain.
     
  4. RustyExotics

    RustyExotics Nicholas - It's a terrestrial thing

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    Fantastic post. That's really a great find. Thank you for the pictures and the story to go along with it! Stay safe out there!
     
    Selmo likes this.
  5. Bernard McDonald

    Bernard McDonald Active Member

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    Wonderful narrative, it looks like you have your own outdoor greenhouse with the correct growing conditions. Good luck with your further excursions.
     
  6. Piranhacon

    Piranhacon Member

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    Wonderful storytelling. It was very exciting from beginning to end.

    Congratulations on finding an orchid in the wild! They are not always easy to find in nature. A find like yours is truly a treasured moment.

    Good thing everything worked out and you and your family ended up being safe.

    They are indeed beautiful Vandas!
     
  7. shashidhar sastry

    shashidhar sastry Active Member

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    Hi
    yes it is Vanda tessellata, there are about six colour variations in this between India and Srilanka, thanks for your article
     
  8. Muddassar

    Muddassar New Member

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    Thanks everyone. I am maybe a little too excited for such a common orchid :) but seeing trees full of them Was quite an experience. Next time I’ll plan my vacation around mid August so I can see them in bloom and hopefully find other varieties too growing in wild. Also, there are 2 other forests around my town and if it is safe, I’ll visit Them. The government has almost cleared one of them already of the guerillas and planning to turn it to a tourist spot around new year (due to lots of variety of birds, specially migratory ones in winters). Thanks once again for reading my post.
     
  9. AnonYMouse

    AnonYMouse aka Ree, the not-so-stealthy lurker

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    Great find!
    India should be home to hundreds of species of orchids. There has to be some resource/catalogue/field book of plants online for the region (orchid people are geeks that way).