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Thursday, September 5

Rare orchid spotted from Kullu after 119 years

Flowers of Calanthe davidii, rare orchid, orchids western ghats
Flowers of Calanthe davidii (Image Credit:Ashutosh Sharma/JOTT)

A rare orchid, Calanthe davidii, has been reported from Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh after a gap of 119 years. According to researchers, the last available record of the plant from India dates back to 1899, from Mussoorie in Uttarakhand. 

As per a report published in the latest issue of Journal of Threatened Taxa, Ashuthosh Sharma, a researcher associated with DR YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, happened to come across an unknown orchid in August 2018 while carrying out a survey in Kullu. A detailed study from the available specimens of the plant in the herbarium later helped in identifying it as Calanthe davidii.

Several studies in the past failed to find this rare orchid from the Western Himalayas. “Since 1899, after various attempts, it has never been collected from this region,” says the study. Pankaj Kumar, a researcher associated with the present discovery, along with another researcher, surveyed the area for over eight years till 2011. But they failed to find the plant.

The orchid looks like grass and has pale yellow or green flowers. The researchers attribute these factors for its elusive nature and for the absence of its reports in the past. “Due to leaves resembling grasses and due to green-coloured flowers, this species would have been easily overlooked”, they said. Since several attempts in the past have failed to record the plant, some studies considered this plant as locally extinct in the Western Himalayas. However, Calanthe davidii is present in other countries like China, Japan, Nepal, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The orchid is found in evergreen coniferous forests at altitudes 1600 to 1800 meters from the sea level. It usually grows in clusters, often in the shady part of rocks in the mountains. The nearest known population of the plant is in Nepal. The present study asses the plant as regionally endangered.

The authors of the study claim that the initial population of the plant which was recorded from Mussorie must have been wiped out due to developmental activities. However, the present location also falls under areas of tourist activity.

The present spotting has almost 50 mature plants which can bear fruits, especially since the pollinators are also present. “This population is known to set fruits, hence the pollinator is present and there is a chance of new recruitment and so there is also a chance of finding more populations in adjacent areas”, the study said.

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