ROXBURGH’S HABENARIA OR GROUND ORCHID
This is a small, rarely seen small (25 – 35cm tall) orchid – over all my excursions in the region I have seen it only once at the lip of a ravine in Kurumpuram Reserve forest – and at that time I did not know it was an orchid until a friend pointed out its salient features. Its IUCN status is not known, but it finds mention in Appendix II of CITES. Interestingly of the 1,295 species of orchids in the country all are included in Appendix II of CITES, except for the ten species of Paphiopedilum and Renanthera imschootiana, which find prominent mention in Appendix 1. Some may not realise the ramifications of this document: it simply means that if anyone is accused of collecting wild orchids of any species in the wild and possessing them privately and / or without proper documentation they are liable for arrest and prosecution.
It is quite a rare orchid and it would be an interesting exercise to find out its IUCN conservation status, but until date its official status remains DD (Data Deficient) which is the most dangerous category of all as it may disappear simply because its threatened status if any remains unknown and hence cannot be part of any policy which can push for its protection – a sad fate faced by many species of living beings.
Its rarity can be simply fathomed by its range not being clear. Wikipedia mentions that it is “Endemic to the South Deccan” . Way back in 2004 it is said to be recorded in Orissa. In 2006 it was recorded in the Eastern Ghats, Vishakapatnam, Dharmapuri Disrict and Salem and was interestingly used for snake bite – as the authors put it:
“10 – 15 tubers are crushed with 2 – 3 g each pepper and garlic. The extract is given orally in snake bite by Konda Reddies of Khammam District”.
Whether the guy given the extract lived or died is not mentioned.
There are beautiful images of this orchid at Talakona Forest in Andhra Pradesh (a wet deciduous forest visited by Bubesh and me, and where our associate S.R. Ganesh of Madras Snake Park has discovered a new species of frog with Bubesh’s help, Tharalu in Karnataka in 2014 and even in nearby Tiruvanamalai in 2015 .
All this goes to show how far back we are in addressing conservation concerns, in particular about a little studied taxon and how far we yet have to go in conserving nature and ourselves.
Misra, S. (2004). Orchids of Orissa. BSMPS, Dehra Dun.
Reddy, Ch.S., K.N. Reddy, C. Pattanaik & V.s. Raju (2006). Ethnobotanical Observations on some Endemic Plants of Eastern Ghats, India. Ethnobotanical Leaflets 10: 82 – 91.