Nepali Orchids

Orchids on the Other Side of the World

The following orchid care expert guest post is an interview with Kamal Prasad Acharya, a PhD researcher and expert working with orchids. Although he now resides in Norway, his website is dedicated to orchids that grow in beautiful Nepal, where he grew up. His website is chock-full of great information and can be seen at Nepali Orchids.

It All Started with…

Ryan: So Kamal, how did you first get into growing/documenting orchids?

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Kamal: I grew up in the country side of one of the most beautiful cities of Nepal, Pokhara. This is in one of the highest rainfall regions of Nepal and very rich in orchid diversity. As a child, I would go to the forest and collect fodder, firewood, wild fruits, and beautiful orchids hanging from trees. Sometimes we would collect the bulbs of the Coelogyne orchid species and use them as glue.

After higher secondary education, I moved to the capital city, Kathmandu, for university at the Amrit Science college. During my studies, I met Devendra M. Bajracharya who was studying towards a PhD on orchids and Dr. Lokesh R. Shakya who had received his PhD on orchids. When they realized that I was originally from Pokhara valley, Dr. Bajracharya asked me to collect some Eria orchid species from the Pokhara valley region. I spent my summer vacation collecting orchids for Dr. Bajracharya’s research. During that time I got the chance to learn more about orchids, their habitat degradation and haphazard collection (unknowingly) by some local people. This motivated me to study orchids.

And Your Favorite Orchid Is?…

Ryan: What’s your favorite orchid and why?

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Kamal: Almost all orchids are my favorite but if I had to choose just one, it would have to be the Eria species. This epiphytic genus has the smallest flowers and is found mostly around the Pokhara valley area. One species of Eria, Eria pokharensis is endemic to Nepal and is found only in Pokhara valley.

Ryan: How many orchids do you have currently? Where do you grow them?

Kamal: Unfortunately, I don’t grow orchids myself. I am a researcher working on orchids. During my Master’s degree from the University of Bergen, Norway, I did my research on orchid diversity along the altitudinal gradient in the Himalayas which included orchid diversity from Nepal and Bhutan (article based on this research is published the Journal of Bio-geography). Also, I published an article with some co-authors where we reported on the Spiranthes spiralis from Nepal (for the very first time).

Threats to Orchids Growing in Nepal…

Ryan: What are major threats to orchids in Nepal?

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Kamal: One of the major threats to orchids in Nepal is illegal poaching. Although the species is listed in CITES Appendix, there are many incidents of illegal poaching and raid by police. The Forest Act (1993) and Forest Regulations (1995) and its amendment (2001) listed all orchids as protected species. Contradicting to these Acts and regulations, the Government of Nepal published a notification in 2008 which permitted collection of wild orchids for trade (however, a resource inventory approved from the District Forest Office is needed). Weak enforcement of policies and lack of clear guidelines on sustainable harvesting are some of the reasons of illegal trade of orchids. Also, habitat destruction due to deforestation is a major threat to orchids.

Your Orchid Site…

Ryan: Tell us about your website. What made you decide to start your website/page about orchids?

Kamal: When I was writing my Master’s thesis in 2007, I found that it was really difficult to access to some of the published literature on orchids from Nepal. I didn’t even know about some of the works that were already published. I tried to reach out to some of these authors but I didn’t get very many responses back.

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This made it very difficult for me to cite good articles/reports. Then I realized I should start blogging on orchids from Nepal with all available information/literature. So, I created this blog Nepali Orchids where you will find an updated list of a number of orchids found in Nepal, published literature, and much more. This blog is very useful to the orchid researchers in Nepal and all around the world. I often get emails from people from all around the world asking for information on orchids. If I can’t share the particular publication with them, I try to forward their correspondence to other contacts that might hold those permissions. The success of this blog is truly because of the cooperation form many researchers.

My postings on the blog are mostly abstract from articles published in national and international journals / published books or news published in national/regional new papers from Nepal. It is really encouraging to hear from researchers that they regularly visit my blog and found useful information on orchids from Nepal and I would like to thank them for their support and kind words.

Any Last Words?

Ryan: Anything else you want to share?

Kamal: Orchids are facing a major threat due to habitat destruction and illegal poaching.

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We need to educate local people about the importance of this species and cost for natural regeneration of orchids. Orchid seeds require a symbiotic relationship with a specific fungus for germination and depending on the species and habitat, it can take about 4 to 10 years from germination to flowering!

Kamal Prasad Acharya is from Pokhara, Nepal and is a researcher working with orchids. He’s published numerous articles on orchids in national and international journals. To follow his research and learn more about the fascinating world of orchids from Nepal, check out his blog at: Nepali Orchids.

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