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Passion for pink?

The Aerides orchid is found in the Western Ghats and is a botanist's delight


AERIDES MEANS air plants. It also implies that they are epiphytic in habits. Aerides ringens is a common orchid found naturally in the evergreen and moist deciduous forests of the Western Ghats.

They are small stout plants with short stems. The leaves are channelled coriacious, thick and flat. The leaves enclose the stem at the base like a sheath. These orchids, perching on tree trunks and in clefts of branches, may go unnoticed, except during the months of May and June, when they bloom brilliant pink.

The densely showy inflorescence arises at the axil and assertively stands erect. The flowers are pleasantly fragrant and their colour and smell compel attention.

There are some eight odd species of Aerides genus namely - A. cylindricum hindl (Western Ghats - round leaves), A. maculosum lindle (Western Ghats - short stem 1"- 3", 3,000 ft altitude, deciduous forests), A. crispum ( 3,000 ft-6,000 ft, fragrant, axil inflorescence), A. ringens (800 ft-8,000 ft, 6 inches stem), A. odoratum (Circar and Vizag), A. multiflorum (Himalayas and Meghalaya), A. uandarum ( North-East region, cylindrical leaves) and A. longicornu (eastern Himalayas and North-East region, 4,000 ft).

Despite their high altitude homes, Aerides adapt to hotter climes. The seeds may be collected from the wild. Mature seeds also get dispersed by the wind. Orchids take three to eight years to grow from seed to become flowering adult plants.

Broad shade is a must. A double-layered roof of wet gunny bags, over a bamboo frame helps.

Ants must be kept away. It takes time, a season or two, for Aerides to get naturalised. But it does, and then the sight of the pretty pink is delightful.

J. MANGALARAJ JOHNSON

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