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Orchids of North Eastern India

Orchids of North Eastern India


A plethora of varieties of orchids dotting the entire North eastern region of India can yield significant earnings, if properly grown. Their diverse nature and abundant growth at places are actually a visual pleasure.

Nature has a wonderful gallery of exuberant gifts and one of its magnificent creations are the orchids.

The orchids are epiphytic in nature, but different from parasites. They exhibit a wide range of diversity in form, size and colour, texture and fragrance.

Sparkling in charm and elegance, the orchidaceae is one of the largest families flowering plants, encompassing 600-800 genre and 25,000 species in the humid parts of the world. Almost 925 species and 144 genres are estimated to occur in India.

The entire Northeastern region including Assam in general abounds with rich flora where orchids are a major component of vegetation.

A little over 660 species of orchids have so far been traced in the region. Botanical Survey of India (BSI) and National Research Centre for Orchids, Sikkim, in their respective reports have mentioned that more than 150 species of orchids are currently present in the bio-diverse sphere of Assam.

Barak Valley in South Assam resembles more or less the same climatic composition as the remaining parts of Assam which are often lashed by moderate to heavy rains..

The region is equally humid and hot. It is surrounded by North Cachar Hills, Bhuban Hills and Lusai Hills. The climatic condition in Southern parts of Assam provides ample scope for the growth of a wide variety of orchids to grow on the host plants like mango, jack fruit, siris etc.

orchids 2

The forested parts of Assam, it is common knowledge, are being continuously plundered by various hunters of its valuable resources due to the ever-increasing demand for timber and fuel wood.

In Assam, more than 200 ethnic groups of people traditionally live close to the nature, dependent on forests and utilizing the wild plants for varied purposes, such as food, vegetables, medicines and dyes etc.

A single tree species can take away with it 10 to 30 dependent species. In the first ever state environment report published in Assam, it has been noted that at least 22 plants besides several varieties of orchids have seriously been affected by bio-piracy.

“Many of the plant species are being collected every year from the region, although no data is being maintained on the extent of collection… handed over to the agents of companies situated outside the region… the entire family of orchid species is being pirated for ornamental uses,” the report has said.

Thus, the orchid flora which has been so rich in the number of species and individual, are getting depleted; the orchid resources are dwindling very fast due to over exploitation and habitat destruction.

As a result of this, most of the attractive and fascinating ones are now under the threatened and endangered status.

According to a survey carried out by the department of Ecology and Environment Science, Assam University, it has been observed that most of the orchid species, found in the reserve forests of the state including Barak Valley, have been seriously threatened due to jhum cultivation and large scale felling of trees.

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According to a research-based study carried out by the Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Assam University on the 16 Reserve Forests in Barak Valley, Katakhal Reserve Forest under Cachar and Hailankandi districts has been found to be very rich in orchid diversity compared to the other reserve forests of Assam.

variety of orchids

While the Bhuban range under the Sonai Reserve Forest and Borail Reserve Forest of Cachar districts seem to have some rare and endangered species, the tea estates situated on the foot hills of North Cachar Hill district are also found to be having very rich orchid bio diversity.

In the study, 54 orchid species have so far been identified; née out of these, some of them are rare and endangered. For instance  – Arundina graminifolia, acanthephippium spicerianum, bulbophyllum caryeanum,  coelogyne suaveolens, D.densiflorium… etc.

There are some other species that are widely distributed in Assam and neighouring areas; for instance acampe papillose, cymbidium aloifolium, aerides multiform, aerides odorata etc.

It is high time ,therefore, to draw the attention and public awareness to preserve the rich biodiversity for the sustainable growth of plant species in the region.

(To be continued)

Photographs by Chayanchit Das

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  • Thanks for a nice read on orchids from the northeast. There is a certain taxonomist and retired professor and head of the deptt often Botany, GAUHATI university, who has discovered and named quite a few. Being the son of Sudhangshu Chowdhury, I enjoyed it thoroughly..

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