Orchids in India

Dr. Jyostna Devi is an Associate Professor at the Department of Agricultural Biotechnology in the Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat, India. She has written 4 chapters in books on orchids and has 30 research publications. She presented a lecture at the 12th EOC held at Copenhagen. Presently she is carrying out a Research Project on development of post harvest technology in orchids and other flowers.

ON: Which is your academic formation?
JD: I studied M.Sc (Agri) in the subject Plant Breeding and Genetics and did Ph. D. in tissue culture of orchids. Now I work as Associate Professor in the Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat, India.

ON: Could you tell a little about your country?
JD: India is a land of the mighty Himalayas, the mystic rivers, the sunny beaches, the unique flora and fauna, the golden sunrise and sunset. From breathtaking hill stations to ancient monuments, sacred pilgrimages to the Tajmahal, India has it all. There is unity among diversity along with diverse cultural heritage, myriad languages, customs and attires. It is a vast country measuring 3214 km from north to south and 2933 km from east to west with a total land area of 3287263 sq km.

ON: And what about the geographical regions and climate of India?
JD: India is blessed with diverse ecogeographical region and varied climatic conditions, which are condusive for the growth of orchids. The mainland comprises of 7 physiographic regions i.e. i) Mountain ranges including Himalayas, ii) Indogangetic plain, iii) the desert, iv) Central Peninsular plateau, v) east coast, vi) west coast and vii) bordering seas and islands.
Due to vastness, climatic conditions are varied. India has mainly 3 seasons a year – rainy (June-November), summer (April-July) and winter (mid October-February).
Majority of the orchids are confined to mountains where they are distributed from base to an elevation of 4300m in climates ranging from tropical to temperate. Orchids contribute 9 % of the flowering plants in India.

ON: Which are the genera growing in India?
JD: About 1200 orchid species belonging to 165 genera have been reported from India. Genera like Acampe, Acanthephippium, Aerides, Agrostophyllum, Arundina, Bulbophyllum, Calanthe, Cleisostoma, Cypripedium, Coelogyne, Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Eria, Goodyera, Liparis, Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum, Renanthera, Rhynchostylis, Vanda, Habenaria, Pleione, Phaius, Pholidota are growing in India.

ON: Most of them are terrestrial or epiphyte?
JD: Majority of Indian orchids are epiphytes found perched on tree trunks.

ON: Which are the most important genera? Which are the endemic species?
JD: The most important genera are Dendrobium, Rhynchostylis, Cymbidium, Coelogyne, Vanda, Aerides, Paphiopedilum, Arundina, Renanthera etc.
More than 150 species are in danger of becoming extinct while some others like Calanthe pachystalix, C. whiteana, Coelogyne abolutea, C. assamica and Phaphiopedilum charlesworthii have already become so. Some of the rare species are Anocetochilus crispus, Bulbophyllum leopardinum, B. lobbii, Calanthe alpina, Dendrobium crystallinum, Paphiopedilum fairrieanum, Vanda coerulea etc.

ON: In your lecture you talked about Dendrobium. How many species do you have?
JD: I have 16 species of Dendrobium.

ON: What type of species (cold region or hot region) is found in India?
JD: Both tropical and subtropical orchids are found in India.

ON: Which is the biggest danger for the orchids in India?
JD: Unscrupulous collection from the forest is one reason for depletion of orchids. Shifting cultivation, forest fires, random clearance of forests are responsible for disappearance of orchid habitats.

ON: Do you have a kind of government help for the conservation?
JD: Awareness has been created for preserving our native species. Deforestation is being checked. Government has emphasized in situ conservation by creating National Parks, Sanctuaries, Biosphere reserves etc. Ex situ conservation has been taken up for the rare and endangered species

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