ORCHIDS, the most beautiful flowers in god’s creation, comprise a unique group of plants. Taxonomically, they represent the most highly evolved family among monocotyledons with 600-800 genera and 25,000-35,000 species . Orchids exhibit an incredible range of diversity in size, shape and colour of their flowers. They are most pampered of the plants and occupy top position among all the flowering plants valued for cut flower production and as potted plants.
They are known for their longer lasting and bewitchingly beautiful flowers which fetch a very high price in the international market. The evolution of orchid culture from hobbyist to commercial grower was very slow as most of the orchids collected from different regions did not adapt to local conditions and died. The methods of propagation were not known and most of the orchids which flowered under utmost care were found to be self sterile. Further, it was difficult to germinate the seeds, which lacks any functional endosperm.
The seeds sown in the nursery beds required long period of germination and any disturbance to the soil or physical environment destroyed the whole population. Orchids from 9% of our flora and are the largest botanical family of higher plants in India. It is estimated that about 1,300 species (140 genera) of orchids are found in our country with Himalayas as their main home and others scattered in Eastern and western Ghats. The following is the distribution of orchids species in different regions of India.
North-Western Himalayas ca 200 species North-Eastern India ca 800 species Western Ghats ca 300 species North-Eastern India owing to its peculiar gradient and varied climatic conditions contains largest group of temperate, sub-tropical orchids. India has a very large variety of orchids and hilly regions have one or the other orchid flowering almost throughout the year. The diversity is so large that there are large-flowered, terrestrial, epiphytic and also saprophytic orchids.
In general terrestrial orchids are more common in North-Western India, epiphytic orchids in North-Eastern India and small flowered orchids in Western Ghats. The largest terrestrial genus is habenaria (ca 100 spp. ) and the largest epiphytic genus is dendrobium( ca 70 spp. ). Most of the Paphiopedilum (lady’s slipper) species are restricted to N. E Himalayas except for P. druryi which has been reported from kerala but now is almost extinct from its original habitat. Some orchids are endemic to Indian Species are so ornamental and in demand that their natural populations have been over exploited.
Some species in the genera like Arundina , Cymbidium, Coelogyne, Dendrobium, Paphiopedilum, Renanthera, and Vanda are almost extinct. The provisional list of 150 endangered plants of India includes many orchids like Acanthephippium sylhetense, Anoectochilus sikkimensis, Aphyllorchis montana, Arachnanthe clarkei, Arundina graminifolio, Cymbidium macrorhizon, Dendrobium densiforum, Didiciea cunninghamii, Eria crassicaulis, Galeola lindleyana, Gastrodia Exilis, Paphiopedilum fairanum, P. druryi, Pleione humilis, Renanthera imschootiana, Vanda coerulea, V. pumila and V. roxburghi.