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Another November orchid in blossom

November 27, 2011

Witch tongue, Bulbophyllum pteroglossum (syn. B. monanthum) (Orchidaceae) is easy to overlook when you walk through an evergreen Lanna jungle. It only makes one flower at a time (hence the old name ‘monanthum’ meaning one-flowered). The elongated pseudobulbs are another feature. The scientific name ‘pteroglossum’ means ‘winged tongue’, referring to the lip.

Witch tongue might be a good name also because black magic is still frequently used in Thai culture and because many Thais fear the forest as a home of evil spirits. It takes a while for a foreigner to understand that not only Lord Buddha but a myriad of other spirits are believed to influence the daily life. The small spirit houses you see everywhere in Thailand are not necessarily built for Lord Buddha, Hindu gods or ghosts of dead people, but for the local spirit of a tree, stream or mountain.

With education fear of the forest will be replaced with admiration, but that process will take decades, and many orchids may not endure that long.

Witch tongue is now in blossom at Dokmai Garden, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

One Comment leave one →
  1. Martin Shim permalink
    November 28, 2011 10:45 AM

    Interesting insights into the Thai culture of the spirit world. Thanks for sharing this new bloom.


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