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A pornographic orchid

September 9, 2011

Plants, including orchids, are often mislabeled by vendors (if labeled at all), causing hours of identification work for the buyer. The orchid portrayed below was labeled Coelogyne xyrekes (Orchidaceae), an endangered species from the rain forests in Sumatra, Malaysia and peninsular Thailand. The flowers have just opened and they are not white and shaved like in C. xyrekes, but yellow and unshaved. This is Coelogyne fimbriata syn. C. fuliginosa!

This epiphytic orchid is native to the vanishing evergreen forests in northern Thailand and Esan and so a dear target of the Orchid Ark. It is also found in the Himalayas, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, sometimes growing in crevices on limestone rock. It grows well at Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai, currently forming many flowers.

In many previous orchid articles we have proposed English names to create an interest and concern about the native Thai orchids. Tem Smitinand only mentions one Thai name; ‘ueang kang khen’, meaning crucifix, which shows this is a recent artificial name. Current English names are ‘sooty coelogyne’ and ‘fimbriated coelogyne’. I do not see the use of a vernacular name that is the scientific but backwards. Fimbriata, meaning fringed, is descriptive but boring and shows lack of imagination. The scientific name was coined by Lindley in 1825, a time more stiff and shy than the burlesque 18th century when Linnaeus was active. Linnaeus, I am sure, would have used his sense of humour and coined a descriptive name in the spirit of Clitoria ternatea (butterfly pea) and Phallus impudicus (stink horn), maybe ‘mons pubis’? Since I studied at the same university as Linnaeus (Uppsala) I dare proposing a vernacular name that sticks: kitkat orchid!

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

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