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The crescent orchid

November 29, 2011

There is a peculiar wild Thai orchid with small, purely white flowers, spare a yellow throat. It grows from pseudobulbs so thin they appear like grass, some even like withering grass. Remarkably the buds look like copies of the crescent you can see on this late November night sky. Like so many other white and fragrant orchids it blooms at night. When I saw the buds in the light of the torch I also thought of nail clippings or boomerangs.

This epiphytic orchid grows in trees in the lowlands of northern Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan in southern China. The scientific name, Dendrobium exile (Orchidaceae), was coined by the German botanist Rudolf Schlechter in 1906. ‘Exile’ is Latin meaning ‘slender’, which is also descriptive. Unfortunately, Rudolf’s vast and important herbarium was lost during the bombing of Berlin in 1945.

It is likely that the orchid also occurs in Laos and Burma, but due to the ongoing devastation of their forests, and the replacement of Yunnan’s tropical forests with Brazilian rubber, I guess it is up to the Thais to keep it alive. The Thais call it ‘Sae Phra In’. Phra In is one of Lord Buddha’s guardian angels. As the world looks like now, this guardian needs a guard. Humanity is prepared to spend billions going to Mars to study sand, while we let the life on Earth disappear in silence. I fear we are all trapped inside our brains, living in a dream, or searching for a dream, unable to see the real miracle which surrounds us. Wake up!

The crescent orchid is in bloom at Dokmai Garden right now.

Here the crescents are unfolding. When closed they look like waxing moons.

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. kentiopsis permalink
    November 29, 2011 1:07 AM

    Beautiful orchid; nice writeup. Thanks.

  2. November 29, 2011 8:03 PM

    Stunning orchid and I love the correspondence to the moon. I enjoyed the last sentences in your post – well said.

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