Orchids of Meghalaya By Dheeman Kumar Bhuyan Photo: R.N.

Bhuyan Driving through the forest a loud cry burst out “ Look! An orchid!” Is the flower so rare? In a way it is “Yes” and in one “No”. The flower has many varieties, which range from the equator to the Himalayas and beyond to the north and to the south. It thrives in a moist climate with humus and a shade with filtered morning light. Though, not fastidious, the orchid has become scarce because its natural regeneration has been exploited and more by collectors. Its greatest enemy is the so-called development. The feeling of trees to make roads and big buildings has been the cause of the loss of large trees hosting hundreds of orchids. The greedy exporters have also to blame for he exports whole plants and chops down whole trees for a good profit. One of the culprits is the collector who displays the orchids in front of the house leading to high mortality. Coming back to the orchid it is the largest of flowering plant families and the most complex having about 17000 species in the world and 1000 in India. Of these 650 are found in north East India of which 325 are found in Meghalaya. The peculiar floral structure of the flower has aroused the interest in many which cumulatively has the led to near depletion and extinction of many attractive varieties from their natural habitat. The orchids of Meghalaya have wide distribution range extending up to Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal and China on one hand and Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia on the other. A few species are only to confine to Meghalaya. The Mawsmai and Mawmluh forest of Cherrapunjee are very rich in orchids species containing the maximum number of species in the region. The well-known lady’s slipper orchids, which were once commomn, are dwindling now due to constant uprooting. The Sohra Rim forest on the way to Cherrapunjee is also rich in orchids. The Jowai area being semi dry supports only few ground orchid species, which are very common among the grassy plains. In the Garo hills the Tura peak contains many species of which the Dendrobium densiflorum and Dendrobium chrysanthum are most common. The Baghmara and Balphakram area in the Garo hills was rich I low land orchids but many of them destroyed by gradual deforestation. Saprophytic orchids are now rarely seen on the forest floor largely because their habitat has been destroyed. The large scale collecting has led to the disappearance to many ornamental species from the natural habitat. The less attractive ground orchids have also become scarce not because of indiscriminate picking but because of extensive disturbances to the land.

The epiphytic orchids from the wild are generally tied to cut branches or rough barked trees of the Budjrat variety as they locally known (In Khasi it called “Dieng Badjrat”). IV) Rhyncostylis retusa: Known as the “Kopou phool” in Assam. Nepal. this species has greenish purple stems which sometimes reach 2 to 3 m in height. II) Dendrobium Chrysanthum: It has sessile. III) Paphiopedium insigne: Also known as the lady’s slipper. They bear pink flowers with deep pink spots and bloom between April and May. Nepal. which are 10 – 15 cm long with yellow flowers. Java and Indonesia. Thailand. The local pine has a rough bark but it is not used because of its resin. The inflorescence of this species has yellow flowers which crowd the inflorescence and is found in Cherrapunjee. Bhutan. oblong and with a curved spine. Nongstoin in Meghalaya and Bhutan. with distinct midribs.5 cm broad. Myanmar and Thailand. V) Dendrobium mostachum: distributed through the north-east. Out side India this are found in Bhutan. Myanmar. Its stem is stout and curved. The flowering season for this species is between July and October. Nepal and Thailand. The Paphiopedium insigne produces only one large flower. lanceolate leaves. A few common orchids of this region are: I) Dendrobium densiflorum: Having broad leaves 15 to 20 cm long. Myanmar and Thailand. It is found in Cherrapunjee and Shillong and flowers during the winter months between November and February. leaves are sessile. which is 7 to 9 cm across. They are 1 to 3 in inflorescences that drooped and are almost as long as the leaves. this orchid has wide distribution range through out India. Nepal. Tharia. sessile leaves which are 8 to 15 cm long and 2 to 4 cm broad. The flowering season of this species is between April and June. they are 25 to 30 cm long. But a few orchids like the Dendrobium transparens grow wild on these pines. and inflorescences which is 10 to 20 cm . acutely bifid. In Meghalaya this are found in Cherrapunjee Pynursla and Sohra Rim.Orchids occur as Epiphytic or terrestrial. Tura. its leaves are 6 to 12 in number. about 12 to 20 cm long and 2.

Dendrobium fibrantum 7. Cymbidium ieredodaes 3. Cymbidium longifolium 4. these beautiful flowers may be gone forever. . but all are highly regarded for their ornamental value. Vanda coerultea Orchids have no medicinal properties. Dendrobium wardianum 8. Phaius flavus 10. Areids multiflorum 6. Arachnate clarkei 5. Unless people are more careful. Cymbidium elegans 2. A few species apart from this are 1. Eira coroneria 9.long bearing purplish yellow or pinkish purple flowers between June and July.

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