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An orchid with a sweet fragrance of wet blanket

March 16, 2011

Yesterday we had slight rain (1mm) and overcast. Then in the night and morning (18.5°C at 08.15) we received another 23 mm, and it is still raining, which is quite unusual according to the precipitation charts from the Chiang Mai Airport. March is normally the driest month of the year. How the past few days’ rain and humidity affect orchids, mangos and butterflies which normally wants it crispy dry now, will be interesting to see. I fear they will wake up and then when the drought resumes the plants will lose their leaves again, thereby losing time and energy. It means nothing in the life of a tree, but an impatient gardener is not happy for a year with slow growth or ruined fruits. However, for anyone establishing a brand new garden, this is of course great weather if he can maintain irrigation until the rainy season truly begins. The sky gets more clear when the rain brings down the dust and arsonists can not play with their matches for a while. Tourists should not worry as tropical rains are not cold.

Another topic: most orchids are fragrant, but their fragrance are aimed at their pollinators, not humans. Sometimes our rudimentary noses can pick up an orchid fragrance. Coelogyne flaccida (syn. C. lactea, Orchidaceae) is currently in blossom at Dokmai Garden, and it has the weirdest fragrance. Unfortunately there is no smell function on computers, and the closest description I can give is ‘a sweet fragrance of wet blanket’. If you have a better description I should be most interested. Welcome to Dokmai Garden and check it out yourself.

Eric Danell

The native Thai orchid Coelogyne flaccida resembles C. nitida and both species prefer evergreen forests at high elevation (above 1000 meters). Still, it is easy to grow it here in the hotter Chiang Mai valley (350 m above the sea level) if you just let it follow the seasons (do nothing!). For many orchid species, it is the seed germination that requires very special conditions, while the mature specimens seem to accept a wider range of substrates and temperatures, although correct light and water are always crucial. Today our Tropical Gardening School student Simon pollinated this flower. We wish to induce orchid fruits and then germinate the seeds to create genetic diversity. Orchid clones aimed at the ornamental market are all identical.

Did you know that Dokmai Garden has created an Orchid Ark?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. rik permalink
    March 16, 2011 8:30 AM

    My guess is that your image shows Coelogyne flaccida.

    • March 16, 2011 8:47 AM

      You are correct, because Coelogyne flaccida Lindl (1828) is conspecific with Coelogyne lactea Rchb.f (1885). The oldest name should have priority (C. flaccida) while all my Thai literature use the more recent name.


  2. Eszter R. Eszeki permalink
    April 3, 2011 3:25 PM

    My problem is, I have two specimen Coelogyne, which is very similar, but I think these are not the same. The base of the flower they are C. flaccida, but either of them open better, and the smell not strong but nice. The other’s smell is strong and very bad, the flowers aren’t open fully. Some small differs I find among the bulbs and the leaves. Don’t you think, that the first is C. lactea? Some experts tell, that there are two accepted species ( ). I can send the fotos too.
    Thanks: Eszter

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