forests yield new orchids
A dozen new varieties of orchid, eight of them new species, have been discovered
by British botanists working in Bhutan, in the remote Himalayas. The eight
new species they unearthed bring to 82 the number that are unique to the
mountain kingdom. There are about 17,500 species of orchid, and between
100 and 400 new ones are discovered every year, generally in remote jungle
areas of the tropics. With more than 500 species Bhutan has one of
the richest stocks of orchids in the world. Much of the Himalayas has been
deforested now, but hidden right in the middle is Bhutan, a tiny country
the size of Switzerland, which is a jewel with forests unchanged from how
they were 150 years ago.
described a dozen of orchids which were found from sea level to the
alpine grasslands just below the glaciers in the high Himalayas. They found
also two species - Vanda griffithi and Vanda bicolour - which were
considered almost mythical because they had not been seen by anyone for
rich orchid diversity largely intact
has 369 species of orchids, recorded and described in the Flora of Bhutan,
a three-volume publication of the ministry of agriculture. Sixteen
species are listed as threatened out of which nine are endemic. Presenting
a paper at the third symposium of the Indian Subcontinent Regional Orchid
Specialist Group (ISROSG) held in Thimphu, the NRTI lecturer, D.B. Gurung,
said that Bhutan has an "amazing richness of orchid diversity some of which
are highly prized in the international orchid trade".
paper stated that there are no stochastic events (existing or foreseen)
that might endanger the existing orchid population in Bhutan. It also said
that in the absence of any major stochastic events even those endemic are
the species fairly common in Bhutan having traditional usage are vulnerable,
with conservation accorded high priority and in the absence of any established
orchid trade, the orchids in the kingdom are well preserved, D.B. Gurung
said. The minister of agriculture, Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji, said that
conservation in the wild is a rare opportunity particularly of species
like orchids that face heavy exploitation due to their demand in market.
"For this reason we are proud to take initiative before the onset of commercial
exploitation," the minister added.
three-day symposium which was participated by orchid experts from Bangladesh,
Nepal and India. Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck said
that the priority attached to the conservation and protection of the environment
has contributed to the outstanding orchid flora in the kingdom. "I am sure
that given the huge diversity of orchid flora in our country, many species
can be commercially cultured and propagated, and such species will one
day generate substantial consumer interest," Her Majesty said. "But we
have to ensure that the consumer needs do not endanger the species occurring
in the wild."
to Mr. Udai C. Pradhan, the chairman of the Orchid Specialist Group, Bhutan's
nearly 600 species (unrecorded) of orchids can play a significant role
in generating employment to the Bhutanese youth. He said that the modern
methods of producing orchid plantlets by seed and tissue culture can be
mass propagated in the laboratory and the seedlings given to the youth
to grow them for commercial purposes. "By doing this you are not only conserving
this beautiful species which is also the mother of many hybrids, but also
popularizing your culinary speciality and making it available to tourism
industry all year round," he added.
represents the largest flowering plant family in the world with over 25,000
species. In Bhutan the pioneering endeavour towards conserving wild orchids
was the establishment of Tse-rim Orchid Sanctuary at Rimchu in Punakha.
A species, Cymbidium hookerianum (locally called Ola Choto), is considered
a delicacy in Bhutanese cuisine.
painting on orchid (one of about 30 paintings on orchids by the students
of Voluntary Artists Studio of Thimphu displayed at the symposium) read:
"Preserve it before it becomes an art." By hosting the symposium, for the
first time in Bhutan, the orchids of the kingdom, although not gravely
threatened at the moment, could well receive the attention they deserve.
article was contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2004