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Sumalee’s eyelid – a local orchid

May 20, 2011

This orchid, Panisea distelidia (Orchidaceae), was described as new to science in 1987, and is hitherto only reported from northern Thailand and Burma. It flowers in April-May and has characteristically segmented pseudobulbs. The flowers are fragile and peach coloured.

As Eric explained in yesterday’s orchid blog, it is important to find sexy vernacular names to create an interest in wild orchids, and to win the hearts of politicians when presenting inventories. Today’s orchid, Panisea distelidia (Orchidaceae) has been tormented with the English name ‘the two-column tooth Panisea’. Panisea is derived from ‘pan’ and ‘isos’, meaning ‘all equal’, referring to the sepals and petals looking similar. Distelidia essentially means ‘two column horns’, and the column looks a bit like a snail’s head. We are not aware of any Thai name.

Let’s consider something more elegant than the current English name. How about Sumalee’s eyelid? Sumalee is a Thai girl’s name which also means ‘flower’. The thin membranaceous lip is as delicate as an eyelid.

Since we know very little about its ecology, the Orchid Ark welcomes any field observations, such as pollinating insects, preferred forest type and preferred light intensity. The orchid extermination is real, as reported by the BBC.

If you are a lucky owner of the publication by Ingelise Drozd Lund (1987): The genus Panisea (Orchidaceae), a taxonomic revision, Nordic Journal of Botany 7: 511-527, then please share with us! The knowledge of our vanishing Thai orchids seem to belong to western publishing companies, but the Thai people need this knowledge to save the last fragments.  Access to pdf files would boost reports. Please help!

Panisea distelidia is a part of Dokmai Garden’s Orchid Ark and was donated to us from a collector in Chiang Rai.

The segmented pseudobulbs look as if they were stacked on each other.

Text & Photo: Eric Danell & Ketsanee Seehamongkol

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