Winston Churchill Fellowship to travel to the Solomon Islands to collect orchids for Kew Gardens

Sue was awarded a Winston Churchill Trust Travelling Fellowship to travel to the Solomon Islands to collect orchids for Kew. There she photographed, drew and painted plants in the wild, recording pertinent botanical and geographical details. Walking into remote areas with guides or travelling by helicopter into inaccessible locations with prospecing geologists, Sue was able to find plants new to science.

"Reaching areas where few people have been before has been one of the highlights of my life, and the excitement of finding orchids in full bloom in such inaccessible places is an incredible experience never to be forgotten".

Sue discovered several new species of orchid and was honoured to have one, Coelogyne susanae, named after her.

A desire to see the living plants in their natural environment was fulfilled when I was awarded the Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship in 1986, which took me to the Solomon Islands to collect Orchids for Kew.

There I photographed, drew and painted plants in the wild, recording pertinent botanical and geographical details, pressing specimens and collecting live material for Kew.

I found the plant of ''Coelogyne susanae'' that was to become the holotype for the species while staying with the Levers logging company at Barora on New Georgia Island.

Working in an area that was being logged was a mixture of horror and excitement. Horror as the huge trees in the virgin rain forest were felled with horrific splintering noise as hundreds of years of growth came crashing to earth.

Excitement as the epiphytic orchids became so accessible on horizontal tees, though I would have preferred the trees to have remained as they were.

Hover over the photo and click an arrow to view photos Orchids of the Solomon Islands

Article from the Kew Bulletin late 1990 when Coelogyne Susanae was first described.

''Coelogyne susanae'', a new species of Orchidaceae from the Solomon Islands and Bougainville'''

By B.A. Lewis and P.J. Cribb


A new species of Coelogyne from the Solomon Islands and Bougainville is described here for the first time.

In the course of preparing an account of the orchid flora of Bougainville and the Solomon Islands a new species of Coelogyne has been discovered and is described here for the first time. The complete account of the 'Orchids of Bougainville and the Solomon Islands' by the authors of this article will be published shortly by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Coelogyne Susanae Cribb & B. Lewis sp. nov. affinis C. macdonaldii F. Muell. & Kraenzl. sed floribus grandioribus, labello ad basin trilobato callo rubro- vel aurantiaco-brunneo verrucoso distincte 5-lineato inter callum et margines loborum lateralium 1-2 carinis brevibus verrucosis in quoque latere munito distinguenda. Typus: Solomon Islands, New Georgia. Wickison 40 (holotypus K).

An epiphytic herb often forming large clumps. Pseudobulbs elongate, ovate, 7.5 x 2.5 cm, 4-5 angled, bifoliate, covered by sheaths when young. Leaves plicate, lanceolate, acute, up to 45 x 4.8-5.2 cm, prominently 5 veined. Inflorescence produced with the new leaves, erect, up to 28 cm long, several flowered, the flowers produced successively; rachis zig-zag; bracts deciduous, lanceolate, 3-4 x 1-1.5 cm. Flowers pale yellow-green with an orange- or red-brown lip and a white apex; fragrant; ovary 6-angled, 2 cm long. Dorsal sepal elliptic lanceolate, 4.5-5.3 x 1.7-2.1 cm, keeled at base on back; lateral sepals oblong-lanceolate, obtuse, keeled at back, 4.5-5.5 x 1.5-1.7 cm. Petals linear, 4.5-5.6 cm x 3.5-4.5 mm. Lip trilobed, 4-4.8 cm x 2.8-3 cm wide; lateral lobes erect, obliquely oblong, with subsidiary verrucose ridges; mid-lobe broadly clawed, subcircular, obtuse; callus of 4 main verrucose ridges and a central undulate callus extending almost to the apex. Column whitish, brown on ventral surface, winged towards apex, 2-2.1 cm long. (Fig 1).

Bougainville: Panguna Pass, 1200 , 19 Aug 1980, flowered Kew 29 July 1986, Cribb 1922 (K). Solomon Islands: Shortland Island, Hisiai River, 22 Oct 1936, Lever s.n. (K). Kolombangara, river valley, 280 m, 3 Sept 1965, Hunt 2510 (K). New Georgia, Barora logging camp, 360 m, 20 July 1986, Wickison 40 (K). Guadalcanal, Vuanimaho River, 500 m, 2 May 1987, Wickison 134B (K); Chipakalou River, 520 m, 3 April 1987, Wickison 104A (K); Tenaru Falls, 170 m Aug 1987, Dennis s.n. (K). San Christobal, ridge above Pegato River, 170 m, 27 July 1965, Hunt 2250 (K).

C. susanae is allied to C.macdonaldii F. Muell. & Kraenzl. but differs in having larger flowers and a lip which is 3-lobed nearer the base and has a red- or orange-brown callus of 5 distinct long verrucose ridges and several shorter ones on the outer sides towards the margins.

This species is similar to C. beccarii Reichb. f. from New Guinea, but that differs in having 2 raised, smooth, convex callus ridges. C. fragrans Schltr., from New Guinea, is also related, but that has unifoliate pseudobulbs and smaller, paler flowers with an obovate midlobe.

We have named this attractive species after Sue Wickison who collected the type specimen.

As well as collecting orchids from the Solomon Islands she is preparing the illustrations for the forthcoming account of 'Orchids of the Solomon Islands and Bougainville'.

Fig. 1 Coelogyne Susanae

A habit reduced
B habit
C flower
D lip
E lip
F another cap
G pollinia
H column
J dorsal sepal
K petal
L lateral sepal

Drawn by Sue Wickison.

The photograph is a poor representation of the species. Conditions were not always ideal, but it gives an indication of the beautiful orchid.

Plants of the Quran

Copyright © Sue Wickison, All Rights Reserved.