A native Thai Christmas orchid
The ‘monkey hand’ or ‘tarantula leg’ (Dendrobium senile, Orchidaceae) is one of the last orchids to bloom at the end of the Christian year. The Thai new year is in April, and so this orchid could also be considered the pioneer of the upcoming flowering season. Many other native monsoon orchids are dormant now. Even the boxer orchid (Dendrobium ellipsophyllum) which has been in loyal blossom at Dokmai Garden since May, has gone to bed due to the cold and the drought. You should better leave your local northern Thai orchids asleep for a while now, no more watering.
The scientific name ‘senile’ is derived from Latin ‘senex’ meaning ‘old man’, alluding to the white hairs of the pseudobulbs which look like the hair of an old man. Tarantula leg is also very descriptive.
The distribution is quite limited, only found in the mountain ranges of Thailand, Laos and Burma. Being conspicuous it is highly sought for by jungle thieves who sell these orchids by illegal roadside stands for a few Baht.You should better buy a legal clone from a CITES certified dealer.
It normally grows at elevations higher than Chiang Mai city (350 meters), but with misting during the hot season it should be fine. The flowers usually emerge on the brightest side of the pseudobulb.
Text and Photo: Eric Danell