ORCHID RESERVE IN KASHMIR HIMALAYA

Gowhar Ahmad Shapoo

Dr. Zahoor Ahmad Kaloo

Dr. Aijaz Hassan Ganie

Department of Botany University of Kashmir, Hazratbal Srinagar.

Kashmir Himalaya is bestowed with bewitchingly beautiful orchids. Some orchid species have such economic implications that the livelihood of unemployed youth can be successfully achieved. For sustainable development, these economically important plants need conservation and mass propagation in their natural habitats because of threats (illegal trade, grazing) in coniferous forests, alpine meadows, swamps, etc. Orchid Reserve can play an important role in this regard in this part of world as some Orchid Reserves in the rest of the world have proved.

 The El Pahuma Orchid Reserve (World’s largest Orchid Reserve  is a 650 hectare (approx. 1,500 acre) cloud forest reserve located only one hour from Quito. The lush vegetation is fed by abundant moisture from the mist-laden air and provides home to a multitude of epiphytes (“air plants”) including bromeliads, orchids, mosses and ferns. The astonishing diversity of species that make up the reserve provides limitless enjoyment for visitors interested in orchids. Systematic field surveys have begun to document the high biological diversity of the reserve.  Ceiba’s intern, Philip Myers, spent over four months conducting an inventory of the orchids found in the reserve and recorded over 170 species; further identifications by experts visiting the reserve has increased this number to over 200 species.

 In a remote area in the south of Yunnan in China, between the borders of Myanmar and Laos, lies a plot of rainforest that is being sustained as a farm and unique research centre. On this 600ha of land, at an altitude of 1,600m, 3,000 young orchids are planted each year. This is the TianZi Biodiversity Nature Reserve where orchids flourish in their natural environment, without pesticides or fertilizers. Here, the Vanda Coerulea Griff. ex Lindl.  the Gold orchid, the latest find and a key ingredient in French beauty brand Guerlain’s newest anti-ageing skincare, are protected and cultivated. Founded by the late Dr Joseph Margraf, a renowned German biologist, and his wife, Minguo Li-Margraf, the centre began research on orchids in collaboration with Guerlain 12 years ago.

An orchid species Vrydagzynea lancifolia Ridl. thought to be extinct in Singapore has been rediscovered in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve after more than 80 years. Researchers from Singapore and the Netherlands found a single specimen of this orchid species – named for its lance- like leaves – growing on a rock in the reserve.

In India, Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have been able to identify and conserve and mass propagate these prized plants from the core zones i.e. from rich Orchid diversity zones by establishment of Orchid Reserves. But unfortunately Kashmir Himalaya has been ignored. From the perusal of Literature and the present studies by the researchers in Department of Botany University of Kashmir, regarding diversity and distribution of these prized plants, some protected areas can be selected for this purpose, if the Department of Botany University of Kashmir, State Forest Department, Wildlife department, and BSI can jointly work for the establishment of an Orchid Reserve for the economic development of this region, which is known as “Paradise on Earth”. If Kalimpong in North East India is known as “Heaven of Orchids in India” why Kashmir Himalaya will be far behind.

Authors can be mailed at gowharashapoo057@gmail.com,zakallu@yahoo.com and aijazku@gmail.com