|Arunachal Pradesh is considered to be the "nature's treasure trove" and home to orchids, known for their exquisitely beautiful blooms, from one of the dominant taxa with more than six hundred species, occurring in varying elevations and climatic conditions throughout the state. This particular gift of nature offers great opportunity to promote "nature tourism" in Arunachal Pradesh .|
|The state has a wonderful world of orchids that have adorned the forests making the state an "Orchid Paradise" of our country. Arunachal Pradesh, which is considered to be the "nature's treasure trove" has a great potential in promoting nature tourism and orchids have a greater role to play as far as Arunachal Pradesh is concerned.|
Orchids A nature's gift
Arunachal Pradesh situated in the extreme North East corner of India is indeed an enchanting land with rich, varied and colorful flora and fauna. The lush green forests spread over numerous hills rising from about 100m MSL to a height of about 7000 m encamped with eternal snow and criss - crossed by numerous rivers, provide congenial environment to myriads of life - forms that coexist harmoniously. A striking feature of the enormous vegetation that one finds here are lovely orchids, which bloom in profusion with myriads of colours and forms, a truly wonderful gift of mother nature.
|Orchids are highly evolved group of plants occupying a top position in the plant kingdom as the human beings do in animal kingdom. They have a diverse habit, bizarre and curious flower structure with brilliant colours adding beauty to the land and the landscape. The very fact that there are about 20, 000 species distributed all over the world speaks of their diversity and varied nature having a realm of their own.|
In India, there are about 1, 150 species distributed in various states. However, Arunachal Pradesh alone accounts for 601 species almost 52% of the total species known in India, thus making Arunachal an "Orchid Paradise" of our country. Many of these species are rare, endangered, and ornamental. Because of their curious shape, brilliant colour and long-lasting quality of flowers, orchids are considered as "gems" in the field of floriculture. Orchids are infact proud possessions of the hobbyists, sought after by the nurserymen and are a symbol of royalty in many countries. The tourists with special crave for orchids would love to visit the natural habitat of the orchids, which could be commercially exploited.
In Arunachal Pradesh, orchids are a part and parcel of tribal life and culture. The orchids like Dendrobium hookerianum (Lishang Momdang), D.nobile (Bomzang momdang) and D. gibsonii are normally cultivated in Gompas symbolizing the sanctity of the place and their use for holy worship. Similarly Vanda coerulea (Blue Vanda), popularly known as "Rangpu" by Wanchu tribals of Tirap district is invariably associated with their festival dances for decoration, similar to that of Rhynchostylis Retusa "Kopu-phul" used in Assam. A few of them are also used in traditional system of medicine, e.g. tubers of Satyrium nepalense as aphrodisiac and tonic, leaves and stems of Cleisostoma Williamsonii for bone fractures, seeds of Dendrobium Nobile for stopping bleeding from freshly cutwounds, etc. Interestingly, the fibrous pseudostem of Dendrobium moschatum is also used in basketry.
Habit and Habitat :
Orchids have diverse habit with variously modified vegetative and floral structures, forms and colour with varying requirements of light, shade, temperature and nutrition within a particular environment. They may be either saprophytes (leafless orchids, growing on decaying organic matter), leafy terrestrials (growing on ground), ephiphytes (growing on t ree trunks) or lithophytes (growing on rocks). However, these are essentially herbaceous either single stemmed (monopodial) or many stemmed cluster (sympodial). All of them need humidity in atmosphere in varying percentage and mycorrhiza as their associate. They occur in various forest types ; from tropical valleys in the foothills to sub-tropical, temperate and alpine areas in varying concentrations. However, maximum number of species of orchids occurs in sub-tropical humid forests and with only a few in temperate and alpine forests.
One who treks through the jungles of Arunachal with watchful eyes, would unmistakably discover the "World of Paradise" of orchids.
Orchid Diversity At a glance :
In the orchid family, there are members with primitive in character and fashion on the one hand and with tremendous specialization, modification, adaptation, fanciful and catching the eyes with brilliant colours and shapes, on the other. Hence, the entire orchid family with about 601 species in Arunachal Pradesgh has been classified into six-sub families, 17 tribes, 24 sub-tribes and 111 genera. Of these 148 species in 52 genera are terrestrials including saprophytes and 377 species in 61 genera are epiphytes including lithophytes. Almost them Apostasias are considered as most primitive with least specialization, while Vandaceous orchids are highly evolved and advanced in nature.
There are about a hundered species of orchids, which are ornamental and commercially important; while nearly 175 orchid species are rare and endangered. Some of them are botanical curiosities. Interestingly as many as 30 species are endemic in Arunachal Pradesh and some of them have been recently discovered and are new to botanical science.
Some orchids grow on decaying organic matters on the forest floor having no leaves and without chlorophyll, but produce variously colored flowers. While passing through the thickets of these forests, one may find strikingly white coloured mushroom like bodies about 11/2 tall group of plants the Epipogium and Stereosandra species, dull-brown coloured Gastrodia species and Eulophia-zollingeri, the giant 1 2 m tall golden yellow flowering spikes of Galeola species, etc. that thrill the onlooker. However these enigmatic plants cannot thrive under cultivation. There are 16 such saprophytic species recorded so far in Arunachal Pradesh.
The leafy orchids that grown on the ground in humus rich soil are terrestrials. There are about 132 species of leafy terrestrials known in Arunachal Pradesh. Some of the ornamental genera are Acanthephippium, Arunachal ,Anoectochilus, Calanthe, Phaius, Paphiopedilum etc. Amongst them, Arundina graminifolia, the "bamboo orchid" is normally seen grown in the open sunny areas amongst grassy patches in the foothills. These plants look like reeds and produce attractive flowers in light pink with deep purple lip.
In the thickets of the forest floor occur Anoectochilus and Geodorum, popularly referred to as the " Jewel orchids" group having beautifully designed velvety leaves. They are rare in occurrence however. Acanthephiplum species on the other hand, grow under heavy shades of trees on the ground or rocks and have curiously saccate yellow tinged purple flowers found in tropical and sub-tropical wethumid forests. Similarly, the species of Phaius with comparatively larger and attractive flowers in yellow, pink and brown shades are found in these forests. There are about 14 species of Calanthe found in various forest types. They are one of the best known orchids under cultivation too. One of the species i.e. Calanthe masuca has the distinction of having been used in the first ever hybrid orchid produced in the year 1856 in London and is also found in tropical and sub-tropical forests of Arunachal Pradesh.
One of the rare, endangered, curious and sought after ground orchidsd found in Arunachal is the Paphiopedilum species (the Venus or Lady's slipper orchids). There are three species of the genus found in arunachal, viz;I)P. fairrieanum popularly referred to as "Lost Lady's Slipper orchids". (2) P. venustum and (3) P.spicerianum. The first one occurs only in some patches in high hills above 1500 m MSL in sub-tropical to tempareate mixed pine oak forests; while as the other two species are found in tropical to sub- tropical forests only. All these species fall under the schedule VI, of the Wildlife(Protection) Act of India because of their rare occsurrence and endangered status.
Majority of the orchids grows on tree trunks and are called epiphytes. The are either pendulous, erect growing ,sympodial or monopodial, but always having aerial roots. In Arunachal Pradesh, there are 377 species in 61 genera recorded so far. Major genera amongst them are Aerides. Arachnis, Bulbophyllum, Coelogyne, Dendrobium, Cymbidium, Eria, Cleisostoma, Rhynchostylist, Vanda etc. Most of the epiphytic orchids are ornamentals.
In the tropical valleys of Arunachal Pradesh, one finds cascades of colorful flower-spikes of Rhynchostylis retusa. Aerides odorata, A. williamsii, A. rosea, Cymbidium pendulum, C. aloifolium, Dendrobium aphylla, D. nobile, D . moschatum, D. fimbriatum etc. loaded on tree trunks during spring time which add beauty to the surrounding wood. Some orchids like; Cymbidium ensifolium, Aerides odoratum etc. fill the air with pleasant aroma during the season. As one travels through the sub-tropical hill forests, bunches of "pineapple-orchids" the Dendrobium, densiflorum, giganteum, grandiflorum, eburnium, mastersii, Vanda coerulea, Renanthera imschootiana (red Vanda), Coelogyne etc. greet the on lookers. The pink flowers of Anthogonium gracile on the cut ends of rocks and edges carpet the exposed areas adding beauty to the lanscape. I
It is however, significant to note that most of the epiphytic orchids are endangered in the wild as their very existence depends upon the trees, which are being exploited for various needs of man. Two epiphytic species viz. Vanda coerulea and Renanthera imschootiana fall under the Schedule VI of Wild Life Conservation Act of Government of India and rare and ornamental orchids.
Orchid Research Centre Tipi :
Realising the importance of orchids, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh has established Orchid Research Centre at Tipi on way to Bomdila in West Kameng District to promote orchid conservation,research and development. Over the past 27 years, the center has been development as a center of excellence and a place of tourist attraction with central orchidarium containing number of exotic species and hybrids of the state, by the center. There are number of orchid bouses, natural orchidarium and botanic garden with curious and rare orchids like Paphiopedilum venustum, P. spicerianum, Vanda coerulea, Coelogyne, Renanthera imschootiana etc. The idyllic location surrounded by lush green forests with rising hills transversed by the River Kameng makes the center a paradise and tourist spot worth visiting for educational and tourism purposes. The center also has a unique herbarium and museum depicting the various orchids of Arunachal Pradesh and neighbouring states. In addition, large number of orchid hybrids produced by the center are on display and for sale. Indeed, any tourist would have a thrilling and satisfying visit to this center. The Pakhui Wild Life Santurary across the river Kameng is an added attraction.
Sessa Orchid Sanctuary :
In an effort to conserve the natural habitat of large number of orchid species, an area of 100 sq.km has been declared as "Sessa Orchid Sanctuary " at Sessa, West Kameng district, about 20 km away from Tipi. This is a wonderful location i.e. situated between 900 to 3100m MSL encompassing tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate climatic conditions and vegetation. Such a diverse physiography favors the occurrence of more than 200 orchid species with 5 new and endemic species, with in this area. The department of Environment & Forests has developed trekking routes for going through the sanctuary for visitors to enjoy the marvelous habitat of orchids in their pristine glory. There are deep gorges and valleys, high peaks and rugged terrain that make the trip of adventure tourists, as well of the nature lover, exciting.
Similarly, there are other orchid centers at Dirrang, Itanagar, Jengging and Roing which cover wide ranging habitat and diverse species of orchids. The development of farmer's orchid nurseries at Bomdila, Dirang, Hapoli and Yazali areas have further widened the scope of floriculture related tourism activities in the state. Holding of "Festival of Flowers' in various seasons at different elevation in Arunachal Pradesh would be an added attraction to the visiting tourists in different seasons.
Promotion of orchid related tourism activities :
Orchid flowers have attracted the people world over for their curious shape, colour and texture. To make use of these qualities, there is a vast scope for developing allied and subsidiary industries in addition to floriculture. No doubt, cut flower production in the farm is t he first and foremost economic activity that can be developed in Arunachal Pradesh. However from tourism point of view, there is a potent ial for developing jewelry imitating orchid flowers, carpets with t he picture of orchids, bamboo and cane articles depicting the ornamental orchid flowers, moulding of paper weight, glasses etc. with orchid flowers which could be used by the traders for sale as momentos to the tourists. Further, there are orchid flowers that give scent (e.g. Satyrium nepalense, Aerides odoratum, and Cymbidium munronianum) which could be extracted and sold. In order to make various tourist spots in Arunachal Pradesh attractive, botanic gardens should be developed with special emphasis on orchid, which happens to be the " State Flower" in Arunachal Pradesh.
Hence, in order to develop tourism with special emphasis on orchids, such infrastructure is needed to be created without causing damage to our wild grown species and their habitat. It is of paramount importance that the tour operators are advised suitably to develop eco friendly packages for orchid tourists and trekkers so that they don't damage the habitat during the course of t heir visit. In fact, in USA alone, there are more than 500 Orchid Societies and large number of enthusiasts who would like to visit the world's orchid rich habitats and "biodiversity hot spot". Such as Arunachal Pradesh. It is worthy to mention here that the modern day orchid hybrids of commerce have been derived from the species of this region by contributing the useful germplasm, especially of Cymbidium, Paphiopedilum and Vanda. Therefore, it is obvious that the advance countries would like to have our unique germplasm. Thus while venturing upon specialized orchid tourism it must be ensured that we don't lose our wild and unique germplasm, through illegal collection and trade, but this unique germplasm is conserved and used only as tourist attraction, in its natural form and habitat.