Lady Susan's Orchid
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Lady Susan's Orchid
ative Photo: Sean Noronha
Common name: Lady Susan's Orchid, Giant Pecteilis, Butterfly Orchid • Marathi: वाघचोरा Waghchora
Botanical name: Pecteilis gigantea    Family: Orchidaceae (Orchid family)
Synonyms: Habenaria susannae, Habenaria gigantea, Orchis gigantea, Platanthera gigantea

A tall growing orchid native to India and SE Asia - it can grow 3 ft high. Placed in various genera: Pecteilis, Habenaria, Orchis, Platanthera. The Butterfly Orchid is so named because of its wing-like sepals and fringed lip lobes. The butterfly orchid is a ground orchid of swamp and grassland with very large white terminal flowers and elongated nectarines. The flowers have a pleasing fragrance. During the monsoon, the twin underground tubers, dormant till then, shoot out a robust green stem of flat leaves, bearing up to six flowers. The outstanding part is the wide spreading lip, which is tri-cleft. While the mid-lobe is simple and tongue-like, the side lobes are widely expanded with ends split up into numerous long comb-like segments. The lip has a long, tubular greenish spur near the base. The petals are narrow and hidden by the wide white sepals. The dorsal sepal is the widest. The stumpy white column has a single anther, flat at the tip, pollinia being two. This flower also has a peculiar spur which is described as "a long and somewhat crooked tail at the back, hanging down for some 6 inches, as thick as an oaten pipe, round, hollow inside, on the outside green and white..." by the discoverer Rumphius himself. The home of this orchid is humus-rich marshy grasslands, margins of bamboo clump shelters and the muddy fringes of swamps in hilly areas throughout the country. Tubers are uprooted and eaten by wild boar. The orchid can be easily cultivated in pots filled with rich with leaf mould. While collecting the tubers from the wild, take plenty of soil from home. When the flowering season is over, the stem withers. The pots should not be disturbed as the tubers hibernate. The pots should be kept always moist and under the shade. The tuber sprouts and flowers in the next rains. Flowering: September-November.

Identification credit: Pankaj Kumar Photographed in Shreevardhan, Western Ghats.

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