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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 ever. 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, India.
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