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Alpine Flower a Day: Pale White Fingers Orchid

Alpine Flower a Day: Day 7: Pale White Fingers (Caladenia Nothofageti)

(note I may not have the identification of this orchid right!)

– the flower is maybe one centimetre across - delicate little plant in the moss

– Dec 2019 Arthurs Pass National Park

They is Gender Diverse

Orchid (Caladenia Nothofageti)

This is what they knows: They can be confused with Lily, who lives in the vicinity. They is prized for their elegance, but they is uncomfortable with the praise. They has distinct features and cultural needs that sets them apart in their development. They belongs to a vast family, one of the largest groups on Earth, only, they doesn’t feel it.


They is from one of several kinds. They is the kind that hides in high places on the edge of a beech forest. Still, they is on shaky ground.

They is different from their family. Look at Spider. Look at Epi. Epiphyte clasps onto much larger orders, like Tree. Spider is slender and burgeons from their tips.

Not Caladenia Nothofageti. Not they. They grows from Underground. Their slim white fingers enquire upwards, outwards.

Sometimes they is found out. Ground trembles under the feet of Homo Sapiens. Homo Sapiens stares because they does not have long stamens like Lily – Lily, who has been Lionel all along. What sets they apart from Lionel is their labellum, or lip, which is uniquely shaped. Homo Sapiens admires their cup – it is an exquisite cup. They feels uncomfortable at the staring. Though they does not regret their cup. Homo Sapiens ignores their male column in the centre of their flower, maybe because their parts are small, or maybe because Homo Sapiens is blind to some things. Homo Sapiens stares because they is different. Nothofageti has a cup and a column. They is highly evolved.

They needs soft air. They thrives out of the spotlight, out of reach. After Homo Sapiens, they most needs protection from Sun. Sun’s glare hurts. They puts down roots in loose media. They writes their own story.

Gail reading at CPC - photo credit, John Allison

This poem was first published in 2020 Rewilding Magazine (Crested Tit Collective, UK), and I have performed it a couple of times – once at Canterbury Poets Collective for the Open Mic Winners – so you may have heard it already!

I wrote it because I was trying to understand the language behind gender identity through this occurrence in the natural world, the orchid with both its female and male organs.

If you're interested in the inspiration behind this month-long series of 'An Alpine Flower A Day' about NZ alpine flowers and poems, you can find more in my first post: An Alpine Flower A Day Enjoy!


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