Rajendra Yonzone*, D. Lam, R. B. Bhujel, Samuel Rai
Department of Botany, St. Joseph’s College, P.O. North Point, District Darjeeling, W. B., India
Orchids are considered to be the most highly evolved among the monocotyledons (Hajra and De, 2011). They exhibit incredible diversity in shape, size, structure, colour and fragrance of flowers (Kalita, 2006) and three different life forms viz. epiphytic, terrestrial and saprophytic and are pretty admired among the professional and amateur Orchid lovers of the world (Arora, 1985). Orchids are characterized by distinct floral morphology, pollination mechanism, association with unique fungal partners and miniscule seeds. In India, Orchids form 10% of the world Orchid flora with Himalayas as their natural home (Medhi and Chakrabarti, 2009) and the largest and commercially important flowering plants (Mulgaonkar and Dabhade, 2010). It is estimated that over 22,500 species with 779 genera are distributed throughout the world (Mabberly, 2008). Sir J. D. Hooker (1888-1890), described 1600 species from British India. Pradhan (1976, 1979) described a total of 810 species from the present India. Bose and Bhattacharjee (1980) listed 996 species under 162 genera from India. Subsequently, Jain and Mehrotra (1984) listed about 925 species under 144 genera; Kumar and Manilal (1994) reported 166 genera and 1141 species; Karthikeyan (2000) listed 1229 species under 184 genera. Singh et al. (2001) and Misra (2007) reported 1195 species and 1331 species respectively from the present India. According to (Sathish Kumar and Manilal, 1994), there are about 1141 species of Orchids in India. In India, Orchids are found from the sea level to Alpine regions but their abundance varies in different regions according to prevailing climatic conditions. There are 1331 species belonging to 186 genera widely distributed throughout the country (Chowdhery, 2009). Of about 1,229 species of Orchids, distributed in tropical to Alpine regions of India (Chowdhery, 1999), 960 species are reported from Indian Himalayan region (Samant and Pant, 2006). As many as 545 Orchid species are reported from the Eastern Himalayan and 244 from the Trans, North West, and West Himalayan regions (Pangtey et al. 1991; Samant, 2002). Around 1,300 Orchid species have been estimated to occur in India; the Eastern Himalayas, the Western, and South Indian hills are the Orchid rich areas in the country (Bose et al. 1999). The East Himalayas and North-Eastern India; North-West Himalayas; Peninsular India; and Andaman and Nicobar Islands are the major Orchid rich regions in India (Vij, 1995).
Darjeeling Himalayan region is a rich repository of Orchid species. There are 109 genera with 392 Orchid species reported from Darjeeling district by many earlier workers viz., There are 90 genera with 283 species (Pearce and Cribb, 2002); 25 genera with 35 species (Hara Hiroshi, 1966); 13 genera with 20 species from (Hara Hiroshi, 1971), 16 genera with 26 species (Ohashi, Hiroyoshi, 1975), 29 genera with 62 species (Bruhl, 1926); 11 genera with 29 species (Pradhan, 1976), 56 genera with 212 species, (Pradhan, 1979), 44 genera with 87 species (Pradhan and Pradhan, 1997), 6 genera with 7 species (Hooker, 1888-1890); recently 85 genera with 311 species reported from Darjeeling Himalaya of India (Yonzone et al. 2012a). Among them, 42 species are reported as medicinal orchids from the region. Of them 27 are epiphytic (Yonzone et al. 2011a) and the rest 15 are terrestrial (Yonzone et al. 2012b )
The medicinal importance of Orchids is known as early as 250-300 BC by Susruta and Vagbhata in ancient Sanskrit literature. Orchids in Sanskrit as ‘Vanda’ a name adopted for one of attractive and monopodial Orchids (Deb and Imchen, 2008). Orchids are used in the ancient Chinese medicines during 2800 BC. The term orchid was coined by Theophrastus and in Greek orchid literally means testicles. Tubers of various species of Orchis resemble the human testicles and was believed to be useful in treating human virility. Then Orchis gained widespread fame for its unique properties as aphrodisiac.
Some Orchid species reported to contain alkaloids, triterpenoids, flavonoids and stilbenoids. Ashtavarga is a group of 8 drugs in Ayurvedic formulation which are used for the preparation of tonics, such as ‘Chyavanprash’, which consists of 4 Orchid species, viz. Habenaria intermedia D. Don, (Riddhi), Habenaria edgeworthi Hook. f. (Vriddhi), Malaxis muscifera (Lindl.) Kuntze, (Jivaka) and Malaxis acuminata D. Don, (Rishbhaka). Besides these species, many orchid species are widely used as traditional medicines by people and used in pharmaceutical industries to isolate anthocyanins, stilebnoids and triterpenoids. Some of the phytochemicals like alkaloid, anthocyanins, arundinan, bibenzyl, cypripedin, dendrobine, gigantol, glucoside, glycoside, gymopusin, hircinol, jibantine, kinsenoside, loroglossin, nidemin, orchinol, phenanthrene, phenanthropyran, rotundatin, moscatin, stilbenoid, triterpenoid are reported from Orchids (Singh and Duggal, 2009). In India and other parts of the world use many Orchid species in their traditional system of herbal medicines. Present survey deals with 48 medicinally important Orchid species with their local distribution throughout the region with present availability status in details.
Key Words: Medicinal Orchid species, Present Status, Diversity, Distribution, Darjeeling Himalaya, India