Monday, March 21, 2016

Orchids of Bhutan

The final volume of the Flora of Bhutan on Orchids of Bhutan, published in 2002, was authored by N. Pearce and P.J. Cribb.  The authors recorded 579 species, which included records from the neighbouring Indian states, West Bengal and Sikkim in particular, and recorded 369 species of orchids known to occur in Bhutan. However, this publication was just the beginning of the orchid diversity study in Bhutan. Fourteen species of these orchids were recorded as endemic to Bhutan.

In 2006, D.B. Gurung published ‘An Illustrated Guide to the Orchids of Bhutan.’ The guide book added 54 new records for Bhutan, raising the confirmed species number to 423 species. As the orchid study continues to attract researchers both from within and outside the country, the number of orchids found in Bhutan continues to change, and the number is growing. The current figure of confirmed orchids found in Bhutan is 430 plus. A couple of these species like the Vandagriffithi, V, alpinia, and V. chlorosantha have been revised.  With the current research being carried out by the researchers of the National Biodiversity Centre, Serbithang, the number of endemic orchid species has also come down from the original list of 14 species mentioned by Pearce and Cribb. However, there are some species that require recognition, which will increase the total orchid species number.

Significance of orchid diversity in Bhutan is commendable. Orchids like Dactylorhizahatagirea are used in traditional Bhutanese medicine formulation. Some orchids like Cymbidium group are eaten as vegetables. While the orchid floriculture in Bhutan has not yet started, considering the orchid trades in the neighbouring Indian States of West Bengal and Sikkim, potential for orchid trade in Bhutan is very high. However, this requires policy support and long term investment.

Bhutan has beautiful orchids like Paphipedilum fairrieanum and P. venustum, which can attract orchid tourists to observe them in the wild. This would require niche ecotourism product development that would benefit local rural communities.

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