A beer belly in blossom
The epiphytic orchid genus Gastrochilus means ‘belly lip’. This name was coined by the Scottish botanist David Don in 1825 due to the fact the lip looks blown up like a beer belly. The genus has been merged with Aerides or Saccolabium in the past but recent authors keep the beer bellies separate.
The species currently in blossom at Dokmai Garden is Gastrochilus obliquus (=G. bigibbus). It is native to eastern Himalaya and northern Southeast Asia including Thailand. It prefers evergreen wet forests at altitudes corresponding with the pine belt (800-1400 m). Such forests are vanishing and so this orchid is a dear member of the Orchid Ark. The plant has powerful aerial roots and leaves somewhat resembling Aerides or Vanda. The flowers are formed in a short dense cluster.
The flower to the far right clearly displays the blown up and almost boat-like lip. ‘Obliquus’ means slanting, referring to the margins of the side sepals not being parallel to each other. Gunnar Seidenfaden described a new species, Gastrochilus suavis, in 1988. It should have fragrant flowers, but I agree with Dr Tsi that this taxon is just a variety (Gastrochilus obliquus var. suavis). To make the orchids more accessible to the general gardener and naturalist, we try to propose catchy English names. ‘Slanting beer belly’ does not make sense. This beer belly looks like it is stained by egg yolk and grape juice. How about ‘Egg-stained beer belly’?