Himalayan Orchid

A while ago, I happened to be reading an article on “Atacama Desert in Chile” by Sarah Gibbens in National Geographic Magazine and what I found so fascinating is how the lifeless desert comes to bloom, not just bloom but how a colourful carpet seems to cover the arid landscape in response to the overwhelming urge of nature after a shower of rain that falls once in a few years.

My thoughts raced half a century back to the Himalayas where I had the pleasure of witnessing a distinct phenomenon not quite unlike what Miss Sarah writes about. At an altitude above 11,000 feet where the treeline gives way to scrubs and moss, the entire landscape remains under thick layer of snow through the winter, one thick white carpet, lifeless and quiet, the Land of Yeti.

With the arrival of Spring however, the snow carpet slowly melts away revealing the mossy surface but not for long. Myriads of plants emerge, not taller than two to three inches and suddenly burst out in vivid colours, a picturesque carpet. Strangely enough, most of these flowers are Alpine in nature but covering the vivid acres and most abundant are pink polygonum, a first cousin of buckwheat, and taller plants like Lady’s Lace, blue Himalayan poppy and the deadly poisonous Monkshood.

One day, I was tempted to observe a little more closely as one of the flowers appeared rather distinct;  the plant is barely two inches tall, growing erect in a single stalk whose spatulate green leaves are mottled with slightly violet patches. But, its most attractive little flowers are what that attracted me in the first place, three to four pure white waxy flowers, roughly half an inch across all bearing very distinct purple spots over all the petals, sepal and the lip; it is an orchid.

I examined one of the plants to discover how cleverly the plant had adapted itself, its rhizome growing parallel to and a few inches below the surface shoots off its annual growth to show the world its beautiful flower. I tried to recall if I had read anything like this before and convinced there are none recorded, christened it “Rhyzobium Hangkhimii”, as its life is in its rhizome and adding to it my ancestral family name.

I took a few photographs, well I had an agfa 35 mm camera handy with a spool of 36 films, which I needed to take back to a shop to get printed. Alas, during my three days return journey home somewhere enroute my camera was stolen with the spool of film still inside undeveloped.

That is the story of “Rhyzobium Hangkhimii”, I know how to tell it but have no photographic evidence to support my claim.

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