What is Doi Inthanon like in the green season?
Most people go to Doi Inthanon mountain during November-January when the climate in the northern world is dark and cold, or in February to admire the Rhododendron blossom or in March-April to admire birds and Dendrobium orchid blossom.
How about now, during the peak of the green season? Although the long trail at 2100 m is closed between June and October due to falling branches, the two short board walks on and near the summit are open. We walked in a mysterious mist where mosses, clubmosses, mushrooms, lichens and orchids thrived in the humidity. Will said the forest reminded him of Tasmania, I thought of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. We saw two fairy orchids (Oberonia spp) in blossom and by the HQ halfway up we also saw the orchid Dendrobium venustum in blossom. At one spot we saw male flowers of the parasitic plant Balanophora fungosa. Two bolete mushrooms, similar to the king bolete (Boletus edulis), were also found along the Ankha trail. The red lipstick flower Aeschynanthus radicans (Gesneriaceae) decorated the ancient and twisted trees on the summit. Another lipstick flower (A. speciosus?) had orange blossom with brown stripes, and this plant trailed up on the Pinus kesiya pines a few hundred meters below the summit.
The birds were quiet compared to the chorus of March, and we only saw a female or juvenile orange-flanked bush-robin, a bird which stays at high elevation and is normally seen during the cool season.
Just above the chedis we experienced strong winds and rain but we endured and admired fruits of the orchid Dendrobium infundibulum and everywhere abundant budding fairy orchids. Some wild bananas kindly provided fruits full of hard and black seeds, quite different from their domesticated relatives.
A hotspot for mushrooms is within the pine belt near the Sirithan waterfall. We saw the orange false truffle Mycoamaranthus cambodgensis, the ice cream cone-like Gomphus floccosus, the lactating Lactarius scrobiculatus s.lat. and many more. At one place we simply made our way into an anonymous-looking roadside jungle, originally looking for terrestrial Habenaria orchids. We found none, but instead we found an abundance of beautiful and fruit-producing Malaxis calophylla orchids. This orchid displays its upside down flowers in June, but the striking leaves can be admired for a long time. We also saw the leaves of a Spathoglottis orchid and a few more hitherto unidentified terrestrial orchid leaves.
Now and then we were interrupted by rain, but with the backpack under the raincoat it was fine. Good hiking boots are necessary due to slippery trails, and a sweater would have been nice as the temperature was 14-15 degrees C, quite cold when windy and rainy. Luckily you can drink decent coffee at the summit and we ate a superb BBQ lunch.
Text: Eric Danell
Photo: William Kempan, Canada, who joined a private tailor-made tour to Doi Inthanon in support of the Orchid Ark.