Rare species of orchid found for first time in western Himalayas

Updated on Sep 10, 2020 07:54 PM IST

The specialist from Botanical Survey of India, Pune, identified the species after it was found by two officials of Uttarakhand forest department’s research wing during their Suptkund trek in Chamoli district at an altitude of 3800 metres in June this year.

After a gap of 124 years, a small and very rare species of orchid Liparis pygmaea has been again found in India, in alpine meadows of Uttarakhand Himalayas. (HT Photo)
After a gap of 124 years, a small and very rare species of orchid Liparis pygmaea has been again found in India, in alpine meadows of Uttarakhand Himalayas. (HT Photo)
Hindustan Times, Dehradun | By

After nearly 124 years, a small and very rare species of orchid Liparis pygmaea has been found again in India, in alpine meadows of Uttarakhand Himalayas, said orchid specialist Jeewan Singh Jalal from Botanical Survey of India, Pune.

The specialist from Botanical Survey identified the species after it was found by two officials of Uttarakhand forest department’s research wing during their Suptkund trek in Chamoli district at an altitude of 3800 metres in June this year.

Jalal said this very species, which grows up to five centimetres and flowers in June, has been reported for the first time from Western Himalayas.

“Earlier this species had been reported from Sikkim (1892, 1877) and West Bengal (1896). So, this is a very interesting and exciting finding for us as this species has been found after over a century, which indicates its rarity and stresses upon the need to make efforts for the protection of Himalayan meadows which are still throwing surprises at us with these rare finds,” he said.

Around 1250 species of orchids are found in India, of which nearly 250 Orchid species are found in Uttarakhand alpine zone between 3100 to 3900 metres elevation.

Three individual samples of this rare orchid species Liparis pygmaea (Malaxideae, Orchidaceae) were analysed by Jalal and another botanist from BSI, who then jointly with two others who found the species, published a research paper on the find in the French scientific journal ‘Richardiana’ on July 30 this year.

The research paper titled ‘Liparis pygmaea (Malaxideae, Orchidaceae), a new distributional record from Western Himalaya’ was jointly authored by Jeewan Singh Jalal (from Botanical Survey of India, Western Regional Centre, Pune), Dinesh Kumar (Botanical Survey of India, Sikkim Himalayan Regional Centre, Gangtok) and Manoj Singh, junior research fellow at Forest Research Wing and Harish Negi, Forest Range Officer Uttarakhand.

According to the research paper, Liparis is a large genus of the orchid family (Orchidaceae), which includes about 320 species, with 48 species representing the genus in India. Of these 48, so far 10 species have been reported from Western Himalaya.

Manoj Singh said during their floristic exploration in the Saptkund area in Chamoli alpine meadows, they spotted these rare orchids and took their samples for identification. “We photographed and preserved the samples, one in ethanol and two pressed and then sent them to BSI experts on orchids. Jeewan Singh Jalal from Botanical Survey of India, Western Regional Centre, Pune, dissected it for detailed study and after critical examination identified it as Liparis pygmaea, a very rare Orchid species”, he said

Jeevan Lal said scrutiny of available literature on the orchids of this region revealed that “it is the first record of this species from the Western Himalaya. Accordingly, an herbarium specimen was prepared and deposited at BSI. This discovery widens the range of distribution of this species in Himalaya and shows that meadows are in good health and need to be protected to ensure the survival of such rare species”

“From Sikkim and West Bengal, it has been observed only once in the last 100 years which indicates its rarity. Present report from Western Himalaya involves less than 10 mature individuals at a single location. Although the species is not known under any commercial exploitation, its habitats are vulnerable to several natural and anthropogenic threats. Unsustainable tourism and developmental activities are in full pace at all the Indian localities. The species has pollination and germination constraints and is also subjected to livestock grazing and trampling,” the paper said.

Chief conservator of forests (research wing) Sanjiv Chaturvedi said finding of the rare species by the officials of the forest research wing and publication of the research on the same in the noted French journal is a moment of pride for the Uttarakhand forest department. “Generally, you find academics from various research institutions authoring research papers. But this time, two of our employees have co-authored a paper with experts from BSI helping in identifying the rare orchid species,” he said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    He is principal correspondent based at Bhopal. He covers environment and wildlife, state administration, BJP and other saffron organisations. He has special interest in social issues based stories.

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