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A stiff orchid

September 27, 2011

The red and yellow Acampe rigida (Orchidaceae) is currently flirting with visitors to the Orchid Ark at Dokmai Garden, Chiang Mai. ‘Akampes’ means stiff and so does ‘rigidus’. Indeed the whole plant seems stiff, rigid, almost artificial or plastic. Lips and sepals are thick, and the whole flower resembles a cage designed to contain something heavy. It almost appears like the gold plated flowers produced by Royal Orchid. The flowers are weakly fragrant, reminding one of a cut flower shop. Since its range coincides with that of the tropical tiger, and since it has dark stripes on yellow, and it emits power and strength, ‘Shere khan orchid’ is a good name. Shere khan was the tiger of Rudyard Kipling’s jungle book published in 1894. It literally means ‘tiger king’. ‘Tiger orchid’ is already often used for Grammatophyllum speciosum.

This orchid is a lowland species, found on rocks and trees in moist or dry evergreen forests. Although the flowers are small, about 2 cm wide, the plant may grow into quite impressive proportions, a meter or more.

Text and Photo: Eric Danell

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