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Common Name : Habenaria roxberghii     -       Scientific Name : Habenaria roxberghii       -       Other Name : Roxburgh’s Habenaria
Kattarambu Villu to Kok Mottai
12/08/2013
Kattarambu Villu to Kok Mottai
12/08/2013
Kattarambu Villu to Kok Mottai
12/08/2013
Kattarambu Villu to Kok Mottai
12/08/2013
Kattarambu Villu to Kok Mottai
12/08/2013
Kattarambu Villu to Kok Mottai
12/08/2013
Kattarambu Villu to Kok Mottai
12/08/2013

Until its recent discovery in Sri Lanka this beautiful orchid was regarded as a species endemic to India. In the year 1995 Dr. Samantha Suranjan came across this orchid, for the first time, growing in the savannah grasslands between Koslanda and Wellawaya. Thereafter he conducted a comprehensive study with another orchid expert Samantha Gunasekera. During the study they found this species distributed in the South-eastern intermediate zone in open grasslands with loamy soil and high intensity of sunlight. Pursuant to this study their paper was published in the Journal of the National Science Foundation in 2005 where upon it was formally accepted as a new addition to the list of flora in the country.

Until the above discovery 10 species of ground orchids, which belong to this genus, had been recognized in the country. The genus Habenaria is one of the largest orchid genera in the world with approximately 600 species found so far in the world.

The conservation status of the species under reference is regarded as “Endangered” (National Red List 2012). Habenaria roxberghii is a species protected under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance as amended by Act No. 22 of 2009.

On 8th of December 2013 I came across this orchid in bloom in Wilpattu between Kattarambu Villu and Kok Mottai. Even though I was certain that this belong to the genus Habenaria it was different to all the recorded species found in the field guides. Thus I consulted Dr. Suranjan who identified it as the above species and kindly forwarded me the paper that was published as well. I counted approximately 27 plants growing on the forest edges of open glades and by the side of the road. All most all the plants observed had only two circular leaves, which were spread on the ground as, depicted on the photos. The flower spike is about 4-5 inches from the ground. Both Dr. Suranjan and Mr. Samantha Gunasekera were quite pleased that this species was found within the park as the few restricted localities where this species has been found in the Eastern and Uva provinces are disturbed due to human activity such as anthropogenic fires, Chena cultivation and new settlements.

As in the case with Geodorum densiflorum that was found by the author in Wilpattu it would appear that this beautiful orchid also blooms with the rains.