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New species of Orchids discovered from Chamoli district of Uttarakhand


DEHRADUN: Researchers at Uttarakhand state forest department have identified an entirely new species of Orchids from Chamoli district of the hill state. Cephalanthera erecta, also known as 'Silver Orchid' is reported for the first time from India based on speciments collected from Uttarakhand in north western Himalaya. 

Manoj Sinha, one of the researchers said that these terrestrial orchids were found growing on the humus-rich soil of Quercus-Rhododendron Boreal forest at 1870 meters elevation. "We submitted a brief description, pictures along with information on phnology, habitat and distribution to facilitate its identification. The experts at the Botanical Survey of India ave confirmed our findings."

The researchers also went through relevant literature which revealed that this taxon was not recorded from India earlier and is entirely a new discovery. The flowering time of the species is in May-June while fruiting season is yet to be observed and recorded. 

The researchers found 20–30 plants of the species growing on the humus-rich forest floor in Gharsari Mandal area of Chamoli district. 

Harish Negi, another researcher said, "The habitat is under direct threat to anthropogenic activities for tourism and pilgrimage. The aerial life-span of these plants is very short and they remain underground for most part of the year. The plants are vulnerable to livestock grazing and trampling."

Last month, Uttarakhand’s first ever exclusive Orchid Centre was inaugurated in Mandal in Chamoli District. Spread over an area of around 6 acres, it has four parts – conservation and demonstration area, 1.25km long orchid trail, interpretation centre and an orchid nursery. 

Uttarakhand has around 250 recorded orchid species which represent terrestrial as well as epiphyte species.

Mandal valley in Chamoli district is particularly rich in orchid species, in view of high rainfall and very rich vegetation cover. It has around more than 50 recorded orchid species. 

However, orchids are very sensitive to ecological changes and thereby they are considered to be good indicators of health of any ecosystem. Activities like rapid construction work, deforestation and smuggling of orchids has threatened their existence.