…and even more orchids
First of all some acknowledgements: The Orchid Ark has received unexpected support from Ekkehardt Schwardtke who runs the Lanta Orchid Nursery and the Orchid Garden Khaolak in southern Thailand. He supports the Orchid Ark’s work by generously sharing income from his sales of orchids in flasks, the first nursery in Thailand to do so. From frank discussions about the wild Thai orchids’ situation we can confidently recommend Schwardtke’s nurseries as a source of legally acquired native orchids. In addition, Orchid Arks in Australia and Colombia are under formation, so the idea is spreading.
Now to the botanical blog: A peculiar orchid in blossom right now at Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai is Hygrochilus parishii var. marriottianus (Orchidaceae). It has broad leathery leaves reminding one of Phalaenopsis, but unlike that genus this orchid likes it dry. The original variety is blotched like a leopard and so it was formerly included in the genus Vandopsis. This particular variety has brown petals and sepals instead, but its purple lip is similar to that of the original variety. I have seen this orchid grow very high up in trees in the jungles surrounding Chiang Mai, but not commonly. The aerial root system is thick and impressive, the flowers are stiff and sturdy. It seems adapted to different habitats and can endure droughts without any problems. It is said to be fragrant but it is very weak.
All types of spellings of this brown variety occur on internet (mariottiana, marriotiana etc) which is terribly confusing and makes a search about its biology and cultivation difficult. Since the genus name Hygrochilus (meaning ‘moist lip’) is masculine, the epithet should be masculine too (ending with -us). Unless originally spelt incorrectly in the protologue (the original scientific description of this variety which I have not seen) it should be spelt with two ‘r’ after Sir William Henry Smith-Marriott, Baronet and Lord of the manor in Blandford, England. He was the first westerner to grow this brown variety. ‘Parishii’ is derived from another Briton, Reverend Charles Samuel Pollock Parish who was born in Calcutta in 1822. He spent 25 years as a chaplain in Moulmein, Burma, studying orchids in his spare time.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell