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Report findings of the Baloo orchid!

January 7, 2013

The Orchid Ark is blessed with a new orchid species: the native wild orchid Acampe papillosa (Orchidaceae) just opened its fragrant flowers here at Dokmai Garden.

Acampe papillosa.January7.2013.72Although the literature claims it thrives in tropical monsoon forests, i.e. seasonally dry and wet forests (jungles), especially here in northern and northeastern Thailand, I have never seen it in the wild. When the rains begin in April-May I intend to transfer one cutting to Dokmai Garden’s dry deciduous monsoon woodland. For optimal growth any field reports by any of our Dokmai Dogma readers would be highly appreciated. Pay attention to altitude, forest type, tree species, height within the tree, direction towards the sun, the position at branch ends or near the trunk and visiting insects.

Thailand seems to be this orchid’s eastern border. In the past it has also been reported from Burma, Yunnan, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. In most of this region the lowland forests (below 400 meters altitude) are essentially gone, we have only fragments or individual trees left. Teak plantations are not the return of the jungles, they are just two steps better than a corn field, and one step better than a plantation of South American rubber. An annually burnt teak plantation is an unnatural monoculture of a crop-plant, while a monsoon forest is composed of hundreds of tree species covered by epiphytic orchids, a thriving forest floor with litter, logs and amazing mushrooms, colourful birds, glistering amphibians, quick reptiles, terrestrial orchids, wild gingers, handsome lianas, howling gibbons, sniffling pangolins, grazing sambar deer and clouds of butterflies. That is a monsoon forest!

In a futile attempt to help postponing the extermination of the last original jungle gems I shall do my best to germinate the seeds from one of this orchid specimen’s numerous fruits (see picture above). As I have discussed previously, cloned orchids are not useful for restoration due to lack of genetic diversity, making such a clone vulnerable to any environmental change or disease or pest.

Recently Canadian visitors have explained that their current government is ‘un-protecting’ numerous Canadian sanctuaries to transform them into toilet paper. Disastrous news reminding us that private initiatives are indeed important to back-up the occasional take-over by ignorant regimes. However, I do remember a previous Swedish financial minister threaten to use satellites to discover and force Swedish forest owners who kept private forest sanctuaries to log. Booming economical figures would increase the chances of being re-elected, making him and his family prosperous and powerful. Luckily his party is no longer in power, a result of an educated and democratic population.

Although not yet enforced, Thailand’s legislation makes it likely the Southeast Asian deciduous jungles may only have a chance for recovery in Thailand, while being rapidly lost in Burma, Laos and southern China. However, the Canadian reports remind us never to relax but keep educating and protecting. Without money, that is quite a hard task. In fact, there is overwhelmingly more money to exterminate species, considering the recent purchase of one specimen of the over-fished Pacific bluefin tuna fish for 53 million Baht. Instead of causing alarm for such an act, the buyer receives admiration and fame. In my darkest moments I feel like Khun Seub Nakhasatien, concluding I live on the lonliest philosophical branch in the universe.

Vernacular names are needed to make people aware of the existence of native wild orchids, although a plant’s real international name is its scientific Latin name. Being a relative of the Shere Khan orchid (Acampe rigida) and a true jungle inhabitant, I thought we could go on using English names from Kipling’s jungle book for this orchid and other members of the genus Acampe.  Due to the compact flowering panicle, as opposed to the elongated and branched flowering panicle of the somewhat similar Acampe ochracea, we can nickname Acampe papillosa ‘Baloo orchid’ after Kipling’s bear.

A Central Thai name is ‘chang sarapi noi’. Most Thai orchid names are constructed by the Thai scientists. Wild orchids are considered useless by the vast majority of Thai farmers and so they are traditionally nameless.

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2013 11:48 AM

    The last sentence nicely demolishes the absurd notion of “Local Wisdom”.

  2. zakjack permalink
    January 7, 2013 11:56 AM

    Trenchant piece of writing Eric……almost poetic

    To millions of baloo orchid and the like

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