Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Corybas: Jewels in the Moss

These are some of the world's smallest orchids and one of my favorite genera. So far, I have had the opportunity to photograph only three different species in their natural habitats.

Corybas crenulatus
Corybas are also known as Helmet Orchids.

The first one is Corybas crenulatus. They are often found growing in limestone areas in elevations of about 60 meters asl and above.

This is a common species around Kuching and goes through a dormant period where the plants shed all their leaves during the dry season. All that's left are tiny round tubers buried in the moss. When the rains begin to fall again, they will sprout anew and begin to flower few months after the leaf attains maturity. This is from what I have observed after several trips to their habitat. In some places, they grow like mushrooms after the rain by the hundreds and one has to be very careful where he treads so as not to squash them.

Corybas crenulatus
Like graceful dancers.

Corybas on cliff
Sometimes, they can be found on steep rock walls growing on debris trapped in crevices.

Corybas crenulatus
This is my favorite species of the three I have come across in the wild so far. The flower of this species very much resembles a helmet, hence, Helmet Orchids.

Corybas crenulatus
Tiny but beautiful.

The second species which I have had the opportunity to see in situ is Corybas carinatus (an ID suggested to me from an old flower photo taken by a friend).

Natural habitat, wet mossy area with lots of forest debris.

Unlike C. crenulatus, this particular one is found in mountains in elevations far above sea level. I came across a very small and fragile colony nested in a dark shady area with forest debris and moss, there was only one with an underdeveloped flower.

Small colony, one with developing flower.

The leaves on this species do not display striking veins like in C. crenulatus. They are a more uniform green and rather dull without any flowers. I am also told that the flowers are borne on a much longer stalk or pedicel than C. crenulatus. Unfortunately, I have never seen a fully developed flower on these before.

The third species is Corybas pictus, found in high elevation mossy forests.

Pretty leaves but no flowers.

They do seem to like near-vertical or slanting surfaces.

Corybas pictus are easily mistaken for Corybas crenulatus because of their similar leaves. However, I do find that C. pictus leaves attain a slightly larger size than any C. crenulatus I have come across.

Corybas are difficult orchids with very lofty demands when it comes to growing conditions. Some people have success growing them from tubers in plastic cups to maintain a high humidity. However, I think they are best enjoyed in their natural habitat. If you can't get to their natural habitat, enjoy them in pictures! :D


Edna said...

Unique orchids. Tiny and beautiful. Not surprising they are difficult to cultivate given that they naturally grow in high altitude.

Anonymous said...



sarawaklens said...

yes, very unique indeed, the flower is almost as big as the leaf itself!

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