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The Dragon Orchid

March 25, 2012

The dragon orchid (Dendrobium draconis, Orchidaceae) is currently in blossom at Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. It is native to eastern India and Southeast Asia including Thailand. Being a native to deciduous and evergreen forests (500-2000 m) it s quite common and I have seen it in the wild on Shorea roxburghii in Chiang Rai. The dragon orchid may resemble another common orchid (Dendrobium infundibulum), which is a characteristic of Doi Inthanon national park.  The dragon orchid has an orange-red blotch on its lip and quite slender petals, while D. infundibulum usually has a yellow blotch and strikingly broad petals. Although the dragon orchid is said to be fragrant, I can not feel any fragrance at all (a very subjective and unreliable character which also vary between strains). A striking feature of the dragon orchid is the long and slender mentum, a spur-like structure which is more sac-like in another similar species, D. formosum.

In spite of the past few days heat (34-36°C) we have had a steady stream of tourists – we thank you for that. Today’s afternoon rain shower (8 mm) was a refreshing reminder of the upcoming rainy season. Rains here are erratic and so it was still dry 8 km north of us. On one of the hottest days we saw a barn owl standing in the shade under some bushes (Murraya paniculata, orange jessamine). That is a new bird record for Dokmai Garden! I am sure it has been around all the time, but a bird with no typical call and with nocturnal behaviour is easily overlooked until politely posing in full day light. It showed us its elegance in flight and I have seen similarly large shapes with pointed wings before. Other nocturnal birds at Dokmai Garden is the large-tailed nightjar, the collared scops-owl and the Asian barred owlet.

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Shashidhar sastry permalink
    March 26, 2012 12:18 PM

    Dear Sir
    Pertinent information especially trying to distinguish between D.Draconis and D.infundibulum. These kind of overlapping features appear to be common in many Dendrobium spp. In fact we have D. draconis in North Eastern parts of India, I have few plants which flowered last yera but yet to flower this year (of course away from its native habitat).

    • March 26, 2012 12:30 PM

      Dear Dr Shashidhar,
      We are happy we can be of any help. Looking forward to a future collaboration with biologists in Nagaland, India.

      Eric

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