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Loyal orchid

July 29, 2011

I am an ungrateful gardener! Ever since the first of May, which is nearly 3 months now, the Dendrobium ellipsophyllum (Orchidaceae) has been in blossom. Not the same flower, but new blossom all the time. It is one of my dearest orchids, and the visitors to the Orchid Ark nursery are always intrigued by her, and like them I have never ever seen this marvel of nature in the wild. It is like a loyal dog, always there, always humble, and still I have neglected to blog about her until now.

This orchid is native to (the extinct) primary evergreen forests of lowland Thailand, Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Yunnan. Like most other monsoon Dendrobium it needs a period of rest in the dry season. If any of our readers knows a site where this orchid still grows wild, I should love to see such a chamber of treasure, but I fear the worst. Its pollinator does not exist at Dokmai Garden, as we get no fruit, although I can see the pollinia disappear. This could be due to another visiting insect of the wrong shape, or maybe the orchid demands cross pollination? Today when I pollinated it by hand, I realized how stiff the flower is. The brown and striped lip is like an animal’s jaw that has to be opened by force to enable pollination.

So, what English vernacular name shall we propose to create an interest in this humble being which disappears in silence? Yesterday’s students suggested ‘box orchid’, because the flower looks like a box. To me this orchid radiates fidelity, so why not call it ‘boxer orchid’, alluding to the fidelity, coat and jaw of a boxer dog, and to the squarish appearance?

When extinct, future generations will talk about the boxer orchid and say; ‘Once, there was a royal orchid, of the Old Time…

Text and Photo: Eric Danell

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