The green antelope orchid
An orchid commonly seen in Thai home gardens this time of the year is the ‘green antelope orchid’ (Dendrobium antennatum, Orchidaceae). Being native to Queensland in Australia and New Guinea it demands even moisture throughout the year. From the orchid trader’s point of view this is a good orchid, because home gardeners here in the much drier Chiang Mai usually kill it due to poor moisture, and then people keep buying new mass-produced clones.
At present, Dokmai Garden has only had 27 mm of precipitation in July, while the average precipitation for July is almost five times more, 125 mm. This is bad news for any western settler currently abroad, hoping nature would care for your garden back here. When I returned to Dokmai Garden after a month in Sweden, the drought had already caused plenty of damage, because the workers are incapable of reading the health status of a plant, and they believe a couple of drops is a sufficient rain for a recently planted sapling. They measured the rain meter as I instructed, but they could not interpret what the low measurements implied. Through telephone they kept telling me we had rain, but that was lazy man’s wishful talk.
The greatest challenge to monsoon gardening is supervision; how do you teach anything to somebody who belongs to a culture too proud to accept learning is a lifelong process, who can not or just barely read, has four years in school and has never travelled further away than 4 km from home?
The green antelope orchid is characterized by slightly twisted green petals and red markings on the lip. A number of related species and hybrids occur within this Dendrobium section called ‘Spatulata’.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell