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Hawk tongue

May 23, 2012

These days with so many orchids and a green Thai landscape I am quite busy with the actual garden. I accumulate pictures for the Dokmai Dogma blog but somehow it is full speed from daybreak until I crash into bed. Anyhow, to further expand the previous key to the Aerides and Rhynchostylis orchids of Thailand I here wish to share pictures of an orchid I named ‘hawk tongue’ in addition to ‘blunt rhynchostylis’ which is its older vernacular name.

A feature in common for these two orchid genera is the beak-like column giving the flowers a raptor-like appearance. The Aerides (eagles) have 3-lobed lips and spurs often pointing forwards and the Rhynchostylis (hawks) have tongue-like lips with spurs pointing backwards.

These flowers of the native hawk tongue (Aerides retusa) are from May 12th when they just opened. The raptor-like column which carries the pollinia (look like eyes) is partly covered by the lip which is stiff and tongue-like.

When the hawk tongue flower is studied from the side you can see the prominent spur pointing backwards.

This orchid species is native to Himalaya and Southeast Asia, and is still found in the wild in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, although under a heavy pressure from orchid thieves, fires and illegal logging even within national parks. Here in Thailand it is found in dry and almost savannah-like deciduous forests while in the Philippines and Borneo it is adapted to more wet environments. Survivors usually reside high up in timber-wise useless trees, beyond lazy orchid thieves and fires. Since locals cut down trees to harvest honey, they might do the same to harvest orchids. The Dokmai Garden specimen was kindly donated to us by a Chiang Rai gardener. We always advice the avid monsoon gardener to buy the native orchids from legal CITES certified dealers.

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

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