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A Thai miniature orchid

July 9, 2012

For the first time ever the Dokmai Garden Smitinandia helferi (Orchidaceae) blooms. It is situated on the same mango tree as ‘knitting grandma’ which I treated yesterday.

This is truly a miniature, with about 2 mm broad green and white flowers. It is not (yet?) reported from northern Thailand but there are scattered reports from the rest of Thailand, Burma, Laos and Vietnam. Since it only blooms in July, I ask the Chiang Mai plant lovers to report any findings to the Orchid Ark when trekking this time of the year. In situ photographs would be most welcome.

This orchid was originally described as Saccolabium helferi in 1890, but Garay wanted to immortalize the Thai botanist Tem Smitinand in 1972 and so he created the new genus ‘Smitinandia‘.

A detailed picture would demand a dissecting microscope. Clearly, the flowers are pollinated by miniature insects. An English name? How about ‘Professor Smitinand’ since the flower, under dissecting microscope and at a certain angle, looks like a lecturing man with open mouth (the stigma) and clasped hands resting on the pulpit (the white lip). Another name could be ‘teapot orchid’ since the flower when seen with the naked eye from the side looks like an elegant teapot with green and white glaze, the flowering stalk forming a slender handle.

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2012 6:21 AM

    I’m so envious that you can grow orchids there outside all year round. I’m from Vietnam, but now I’m living in California (we have wonderful weather here, but it’s still too cold for some tropical plants & flowers).

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