ORCHIDS IN THE CHHATTISGARH STATE Dr. Gaurav Sharma Department of Horticulture Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Raipur, ChhattisgarhIntroduction: • Chhattisgarh state endowed with phenomenal range of biological diversity in flora and fauna and widely varying climate is situated in central eastern part of India. This state is bestowed with vast forest resources accounting for about 44% of the total geographical area and also home to tribal population (45% population of the state) which utilizes a wide variety of forest resources for sustenance and livelihood. • The forests of the state fall under two major forest types, i.e., tropical moist deciduous forest and the tropical dry deciduous forest. The state is divided into three distinct agro-climatic zones viz., Northern Hill Zone, Bastar Plateau and Chhattisgarh Plains. Each of these zones is suited to varying species of flora and fauna. • It is this variability of climate coupled with large forest cover that makes the state very potential area for orchids. • Though the forests of this region provide shelter to various flora species yet surprisingly no detail study seems to have been conducted to explore the orchid species native to this region. .Orchid flora of Chhattisgarh: • The importance of high value orchids growing naturally on trees for possible commercial floriculture has only been emphasized recently. Predominantly monopodial orchid with large showy flowers, Vanda tessellate is found in abundance growing naturally on trees like Mangifera indica, Madhuca indica, Syzygium cumini, Butea monosperma, Shorea robusta etc either in the forests or even on the roadside particularly in Ambikapur, Jagdalpur, Bilaspur, Kanker districts of Chhattisgarh. It is an epiphytic orchid with a climbing stem having linear, narrow thickly coriaceous, recurved, tridentate apically arranged leaves with an erect to sub-erect raceme carrying 5 to 10 long-lived flowers. • Flowers are observed to be primarily in three different colours/patterns. Most commonly occurring flowers are yellow tessellated with brown lines and dotted purple lips. The other flower colours noted are pink with yellow spots and plain yellow with apparently no spots. The roots are velamenous whitish grey, used by local inhabitants as antidote against scorpion sting and remedy for bronchitis as well as rheumatism.
Fig. Naturally growing Orchids in the forests of ChhattisgarhPotential of orchids in Chhattisgarh: • The strategic location of the state which has forests, hills and plateau in itself is suggestive of diverse flora of native orchids. In addition, migration of orchid flora from Eastern Ghats and north-eastern parts might have contributed significantly in making Chhattisgarh as a repository of orchids. • In this context, Mooney in an article in early nineteen forties on plant geography of the Bailadila range of Bastar (which reaches a height of over 3000 feet for much of its length) in Chhattisgarh had put forth an important view point. According to him, though Bailadila lies some hundred miles in the west of the main chain of Eastern Ghats, intermediate hill ranges running upto 3000 feet high, provide an avenue for the exchange of plant life. Mooney though does not mention orchids specifically, presents clear evidence of the south to north migration of species of South Indian plants in the Bailadila range of Bastar. • On the other hand, Hora in an article in late nineteen forties explains the occurrence of the north-east Indian plants in Bailadila range. Hora has recourse to his Satpura hypothesis whereby he postulates a southward migration from the north-east. • Thus, it can be inferred from these hypotheses that there is probability of finding some economically important orchid species in repository of Chhattisgarh which might have migrated from Eastern Ghats, a host to many valuable orchid flora viz., Liparia, Liparis, Luisia, Malaxis, Peristylus, Nervilia, Aerides, Eria, Oberonia etc., as well as from north-east India. • Apart from this, one of the premium biosphere reserves of India, the Achanakmar- Amarkantak biosphere is located in Chhattisgarh and M.P. About 68.1% out of the total area of this biosphere lies in the Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh. The forest area of the reserve represents the tropical deciduous vegetation and it can also be classified into Northern Tropical Moist Deciduous and Southern Dry Mixed Deciduous forests.
• The reserve is quite rich in plant diversity having a combination of different climatic and edaphic conditions at various altitudes thereby increasing the chances of finding some important orchid species like Platanthera, Geodorum, Goodyera etc. • Experiments at different places in India having similar agro-climatic conditions as Chhattisgarh have shown that orchid genera like Arandas, Cattleyas, Mokara, Oncidiums, Phalaenopsis, Renanthenda etc. have the potential to be grown in tropical warm-humid climatic conditions of this state.Present scenario: • Though orchids rank among top ten traded flowers in the international market and have added significantly to the growth of economies of some states like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and the north-east, in Chhattisgarh orchids are yet to gain the attraction, attention and popularity they deserve in spite of their commercial value as cut flower. • As of now, they are only being used by local tribals for a variety of folk medicines and cures and are associated with their tradition from the past using orchids like Vanda, Rhynchostylis, Dendrobium, Eulophia etc. in their cultural festival and religion. • Orchid based floriculture is yet to make its presence felt in the State. The domestic demand of cut flower orchids is presently being met largely by importing flowers from states like West Bengal, Maharashtra and Karnataka.Concerns: • Although Chhattisgarh has the background of traditional floricultural activities, the state is yet to make any dent in the development of orchid trade. • Flower trade in Chhattisgarh takes place in an unorganized sector. Flowers are traded in the domestic market mainly through commission agents. The same is being done in case of orchids but for their medicinal importance. Orchid dealers mainly depend on collection of plant parts from the forest to meet a large part of their demand. • The major concern is the threat to the rare wild indigenous orchids owing to their indiscriminate exploitation and collection from forest for trade and habitat even before their being noticed and documented by proper authority which could initiate plans to conserve the priceless species. The road ahead: • Adequate and appropriate measures need to be initiated both for insitu and exsitu conservation. • Impetus needs to be given to the research on orchids with a support from extension personnel. • Well planned research studies need be conducted on agro-techniques and post harvest technology for cut flower production as well as extraction of essential oils of various epiphytic and terrestrial orchids.
• Studies on biotic and abiotic stress also need to be initiated. Anthracnose disease is found to heavily attack the plants, especially leaves, under controlled environment. • Orchid hybrids of commercial value can be derived from the species of this region by contributing the useful germplasm available. • It is also important to prepare a database of all the orchids indigenous to the agro- climatic zones of Chhattisgarh. • Such information is likely to help in the conservation of biodiversity and providing important lead for development.Conclusion: • In order to harness the potential of vast resources of the orchid repository in Chhattisgarh it is highly desirable to evolve appropriate strategies, R&D support, trained manpower and infrastructure for sustainable development of the available orchid genetic diversity in the state. • There is need to identify areas heavily inhabited by orchids and these areas/pockets should be declared as orchid preserve areas to prevent habitat destruction and over exploitation by commission agents. • There are opportunities for detailed survey and studies for identification, cataloguing, conservation, cultivation, breeding and trading of orchid flowers on large scale. • Orchid growing for flowers could be promoted as a cottage industry in the forest. Promoting orchid farming could provide an alternative source of income to the local tribals, unemployed youths and entrepreneurs both in rural and urban areas resulting in the socio-economic upliftment of large number of people in the state.