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Phalaenopsis Species of Northern India


									Phalaenopsis Species of Northern India
                                                       GANESH MANI PRADHAN

                                                     AMONG the well-
                                                     known species of
                                                     Indian orchids
                                                     popular with
                                                     growers all over the
                                                     world, species of the
                                                     genus Phalaenopsis
                                                     are an important
                                                     group. In the
                                                     northeast region of
                                                     India we have three
                                                     Phalaenopsis species
                                                     along with probably
                                                     one or two more of
                                                     the long-lost species
                                                     lurking in remote
                                                     jungle areas.
                                                     Phalaenopsis mannii
was discovered by Gustav Mann of the Indian Forest Service in the year
1868. In the original description of this species by Reichenbach no
locality was given, but it was later found in the forests of Assam. The
habitat is now known to be among the foothills of eastern Nepal and
adjoining Darjeeling District, right through the Bhutan foothills and on to
Assam in the east. Phalaenopsis mannii is rather catholic in its taste of
growing habitat in that it inhabits ecological niches that are close by
forest streams and marshland where atmospheric moisture is available

 Left: Phal. mannii ‘Mahogany Giant’, AM/AOS; Grower: Stones River Orchids,
 Photographer: James A. Moore
 Right: This pure yellow, Phal. mannii ‘Sandra’s Best’, AM/AOS was grown by
 Rodney and Sandra Atkinson and photographed by Dan C. Backhaus.
to it year round, in accordance with the seasons. Dense undergrowth of
the forests prevents drying out of the forest floors in the drier months, thus
keeping the area buoyant and moist even though surrounding areas may
be absolutely dry.
   In the wild, I have come across plants of Phalaenopsis mannii with large,
glistening leaves up to 15 inches long and so turgid during the
monsoon rains that they snapped at the slightest rough handling. In
most cases, plants were found about 10 to 15 feet above the forest floor
level, growing on main trunks of rough-barked trees or on outstretched
main limbs, always facing the light source. Deep in the jungles it can
get pretty dark at the ground level. In order to glean food from its
rough-barked host tree, Phal. mannii grows a vigorous root system. This
root system also helps the plant to perch firmly on its substratum. The
roots grow to enormous lengths, 10 to 12 feet and more, and grow
both upwards and downwards on the tree trunks. The roots, both old
and new, grow actively during the monsoon months of June through
September, with the plant putting out one or two new leaves. The cool
weather of winter restricts growth of both roots and leaves. Flowering
is in March and April.

   Phalaenopsis mannii in situ, showing the root system on the host tree

Another surprising fact about plants of Phal. mannii growing in the wild
is that each plant puts out many flower spikes. Larger plants have even
four spikes out at one time, which are branched. The flowers, which last
a long time, are star-shaped with a basal yellow color and brown
banding. There are a lot of variations in the banding of flowers in this
species and the accompanying photographs are illustrative of this. The
banding in some is washed out, while in others it is bold and more deeply
colored. A pure yellow form of Phalaenopsis mannii turned up in the
collection of Mr. D. S. Pradhan of Universal Nursery, Kalimpong
recently. On closer examination, it was found that very light banding on
the petals and sepals was apparent on the flowers of this clone. Another
form in bloom was brought to me by a collector, and this clone does
have pure yellow sepals and petals. A good seed pod is developing on
                                           this clone, and since it was a
                                           wild, collected plant, the
                                           growth has checked due to
                                           the pod, though the root
                                           system is as healthy as
                                             Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi
                                          is a native of Burma and
                                          some parts of Southeast
                                          Asia. It was a bit of a
                                          surprise when plants of this
                                          species turned up a few
                                          years ago in Kalimpong,
                                          India. A collector found
                                          them growing in the area
                                          where             Dendrobium
                                          aggregation is found in the
                                          jungles of Assam in
                                          northeast      India.     The
                                          flattened rachis of the
                                          inflorescence immediately
                                          gave a clue to its identity,
                                          and, on flowering, proved to
                                          be Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi.
                                          The curious part of it all is
                                          that the flower spike does not
                                          die down after the flowering
   This very dark form of Phal. mannii    season is over but stays on
   (‘MAJ’s Ebony’, AM/AOS was grown       in a green condition. During
   by MAJ Orchids and photographed by     the next flowering season,
   Walt Wager.                            this flower spike elongates
                                          from the old tip and new
                                          flowers are produced, along
with those on the new spikes. Take into account flower spikes on the
plant from two or three years previously, and one has a really prolific
flowering plant, with healthy specimens.

        Phal. cornu-cervi ‘Bryon’, HCC/AOS, grown by Bryon
        K. Rinke and photographed by Karl Siegler is a fine
        example of the typical color form.
    Phal. cornu-cervi ‘Lynn Cook’, CHM/AOS grown by Lynn Cook and
    photographed by Maurice Marietti is an unusual color form with the
    inferior halves of the lateral sepals unmarked.
  Obviously, Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi is exposed to very strong light, as
its leaves are a very light yellow-green in color when brought in from
the habitat area. Flowering is from mid-spring into summer, but,
unlike Phalaenopsis mannii, all flowers are not open on the spike at
one time. However, since this plant has a number of old and new
spikes, there are numerous flowers opening on and off. Bright light
conditions seem to do well for this species, and the rooting is
vigorous, though the leaves do not grow as large as in Phal.
mannii. Flowers are star-shaped with a basic, dull-yellow color
and brown markings. The intensity of the brown markings varies
widely. One variant that is found quite frequently has the two
lateral sepals divided longitudinally into a brown-marked portion
                                                  and, on the other
                                                  half, a clear, basal
                                                  yellow color.

                                                       Phal. cornu-cervi ‘Pravit
                                                       Chattalada’, Grown by David
                                                       L. Grove is a representative of
                                                       the deeply colored form Phal.
                                                       cornu-cervi var. chattaladae.
Phalaenopsis lobbii flowering in situ. Note the roots and the rough-
barked tree with fissures in the bark.

  Phalaenopsis lobbii was introduced into England by Thomas
Lobb, collector of Messrs. Veitch, in the period 1849-1850 from the
jungles of Assam. Unfortunately, the plant was not described
before a collection was sent into England
by Reverend Parish from Burma, in 1864. The species was
formally described by Reichenbach in 1865 and named after Rev.
Parish. Lobb's collection later on was named a variant of Phal.
parishii. Phalaenopsis lobbii represents a geographical variant of the
type-species which is only found in Burma, and is very rare at this
moment. The main difference between the type and the variant is
in the color of the lip. The type-species has distinct, magenta-
colored vertical bands while the variant has these bands colored
chestnut brown.
                                              Phalaenopsis lobbii has
                                           a very short stem with a
                                           mass of flat, green roots
                                           produced from the stem
                                           base and growing all over
                                           the host tree. It inhabits
                                           the     warm      foothills,
                                           growing on rough-barked
                                           trees that have a lot of
                                           fissures on the bark
                                           surface. These fissures
                                           hold a lot of decaying
                                           humus, and it is into
                                           these fissures that the flat
                                           roots make their way.
                                           These roots grow to great
                                           lengths.    During      the
                                           monsoon growing period,
                                           one or two thick leaves
                                           are produced from the
   Phal. lobbii ‘Tejas’, AM/AOS was        growing apex of the stem.
   grown by Ken Avant and photographed     In the dry, cool winter
   by Danny Lentz.                         period the leaves drop
down, probably to conserve moisture. Each plant produces more
than one flower spike in spring; often three to five spikes are
produced. These spikes are short and bear up to four or five
flowers each. All open out within a short period and last in bloom
for about a month. In moister habitat areas, the plants do not lose
their leaves, and in greenhouse cultivation, the leaves stay on the
plant more often than the rule.
  By nature of its vegetative structure, Phalaenopsis lobbii is most
suitable for growing on a tree-fern slab in slightly shaded
conditions. Once the roots start growing and attach themselves to
the fern slab, the plant grows on vigorously.

  Phalaenopsis lobbii ‘Quail Run’, CCM/AOS
  Grower: Noel Schoenrock; Photographer: Charles Marden Fitch

  As with general Phalaenopsis culture, Phal. mannii, Phal. cornu-cervi
and Phal. parishii benefit from a warm, shaded growing area, with
occasional sprayings and a normal fertilizing schedule. In
winter, these species will stand up to colder temperatures than
hybrids, and, during the winter resting period, should be
provided with cool conditions, as with all orchid species
originating from the northeast Indian region. — Ganesh Mani
Pradhan Orchids, Ganesh Villa, Kalimpong 734301, West Bengal,

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