Pankaj Kumar: ‘Best Flora Photograph’ Contest to celebrate 15 years of completion of efloraofindia:
In 2011, while going through the proof of one of the books, “The wild orchids of Hong Kong”, I realised there was a mistake. There was a species, Crepidium acuminatum included in the book and it had two figures plus one plate. To my surprise neither of those two plants on the figures and the plate (of one plant) matched with the species I knew from Western Himalaya and Nepal. However, one of the figures and the colour picture matched with another species Crepidium purpureum, which I also knew from Himalaya. Having seen the wild plants I was sure that one plant was Crepidium purpureum, but then what was the other. Anyways, the book was published as it was. Few years later I found an old plant collected in the wild in our living collection, this was labelled as Malaxis allanii. I was surprised because this was surely very distinct but in the same book it was merged under Crepidium acuminatum. However, there was an issue. Many of these old living plants were also brought from outside Hong Kong to study and compare with local species. How to resolve this? The only way out was to find this plant which was described as Malaxis allanii in 1976 based on a specimen collected in the 1950s from a part of Hong Kong. So the search began and it started with looking at old literature. In old notes from the 1970s I found an old map. This map belonged to an old hiking trip in the 1990s which indicated roughly the site of the species but also indicated that the person who undertook the survey was unable to find the plants of Malaxis allanii at the original site but found at another site. I had already looked into the area and hence, started to think of visiting this particular stream. In 2020, finally after doing a lot of map reading and consultation of old literature, visited Kew to study the original specimens, I was able to find this particular subpopulation along with 2 more subpopulations of the species in the same stream, that too in flowering. I was able to confirm that this plant was indeed the same as the plants in our living collection. However, in my head I wanted to find out the type locality of this species. Hence, I continued my search and in 2021 I found another subpopulation of the species, but in the same stream. My search went on and after a difficult hike in April 2022, I finally found the species in its type locality. How can I say it is the type locality? Because in the 1950s the area was not well developed and hence, if someone wants to hike, he will start with the main stream in the centre. My mistake was, I never went into the main stream, maybe because this was very difficult and risky. At two points, I almost lost my balance and slipped on loose gravel on the slopes and also missed a snake bite which was sitting on the branches. But it was a non-venomous indochinese rat snake.This plant was also in flower and it matched with the plant at all other sites and with the plants in our living collection. Even during my first trip in 2020, I carried ropes and carabineers because it was steep slope and it was raining. Infact I had to use the ropes to pull a few of my friends who accompanied me on this difficult trip. Bottom line is, this was indeed a distinct species seen only after 1950s at its type locality, and hence it needed to be resurrected. The article was finally published in 2022 and we call this plant as , Crepidium allanii (S.Y.Hu & Barretto) Kumar & S.W.Gale. Please find a photograph attached.
FOR FURTHER READING: Kumar, P., J. Li & S.W.Gale. 2022. Integrative analyses of Crepidium (Orchidaceae, Epidendroideae, Malaxideae) shed more light on its relationships with Dienia, Liparis and Malaxis and justify reinstatement of narrow endemic C. allanii. Botanical Journal of Linnean Society 198 (3): 285–305; https://doi.org/10.1093/botlinnean/boab048
Thanks, Pankaj ji, for the gripping write up.
Superb, dear Pankaj. Liked the adventure of meeting your goal. Such determined efforts satisfies the mind thoroughly, knowing that the loose ends are tied up. Thanks for sharing the charming orchid.
Thanks for showing cute orchid
Posted it in the efloraofindia Facebook page.
Pl. give it wide publicity in Social media, by posting it in your profile/ groups/ Instagram etc.
Really great Pankaj Ji….it shows your determination and the love for concealing tough secrets of plant taxonomy, howsoever hard the required field work may be..
Needless to say that your pics are excellent..!!
You always inspire others…!!👍👍
I wanted to add more pics here but I am unable to do so somehow.
The best part was to be able to find a pair of potential pollinators on the flowers. How I decided that this could be pollinator? For a simple reason, the members of same genus were seen pollinating Crepidium acuminatum in western Himalaya. And this pair was having a good time on the flower 🙂
So i had to prepare ropes and carabineer, unfortunately no pics to show how I used them with my friends.
It started raining while we were still in the middle of the hike, and finally when we reached the top it was around 6:30pm with sky getting dark. We walked down the mountain in dark with our mobile lights. It was great fun, successful hike and not even a single scratch. Special thanks to my friends Den, Bowie, Ruby, Mariah and Kate.
That is great, Pankaj ji
Great pictures dear Pankaj
Beautifully captured and superb clarity as always.
Photo from Pankaj Kumar ji along with its story came 3rd, to celebrate 15th anniversary of eFloraofIndia on 17.6.22. Congrats, Pankaj ji, for your great skills and efforts.
Stunning image and beautiful story.
Congratulations dear Pankaj ji,