The pigeon orchid in blossom
There is a native Thai orchid with flowers resembling white pigeons in flight; the pigeon orchid (Dendrobium crumenatum, Orchidaceae).
This is yesterday’s picture of the flower seen from above, and it is indeed pigeon-like. The orchid was described by the Swedish pioneer orchidologist Olof Peter Swartz in 1799. ‘Crumenatum’ means ‘equipped with a purse’ alluding to the purse-like mentum.
The fragrance is fantastic! While taking the pictures I was surrounded by its heavy floral perfume. This is a treat only for a day. Next pulse of flowers would emerge as a result of another sudden drop in temperature. This behaviour has rendered it the alternative English name ‘thunderstorm orchid’. Indeed the previous nights were cold, sometimes down to 15°C.
The pseudobulbs are peculiar, stalked at first, then fleshy but with elongated almost grass-like tips. I failed to take decent pictures; they look quite messy with numerous keikis forming all over. This orchid grows in the lowlands of India and Southeast Asia. Some literature claim it is native to deciduous forests while other literature claim it is native to evergreen forests. Our experience here at Dokmai Garden is that you should not leave it dry for too long. Like with so many other Dendrobium species it seems this species can not self-pollinate. At the onset of the rainy season we shall transplant many keikis to various evergreen spots in the garden but the Orchid Ark is in need of another individual to successfully produce seedlings.
The many reports of its use against cholera, acne and ear ache in Malaysia and Java implies there could be compounds with interesting antibiotic activity.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell