Joydeep Narayan Deb, Soumyadeep Das
Assam is famous for Kaziranga among many other tourist spots that attract both national and international visitors. While Kaziranga has become synonymous with the famous one-horned rhinoceros, the state animal of Assam, somewhat hiding in plain sight is another marvel.
The brainchild of Sivasagar MLA Akhil Gogoi-led Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), the Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park houses over 600 varieties of orchids from all over the world, and that is just the beginning. Spread across six acres of land in the Durgapur village around 12 kilometers from Kohora Chariali in Kaziranga, the park boasts of a medicinal herbal outlet, a fish pond, nature walk, a rock garden, a museum, a showcase of traditional musical instruments, a rice museum and a podium where the folk dances of all tribes are displayed, an experience for visitors to take back with them.
Here in today’s edition, we shall take you through the orchid park and other marvels that left us dumbstruck on our visit of Kaziranga.
Our trip on the day began with a journey from Guwahati to Kaziranga. After a four-and-a-half hour car ride, we reached the orchid park and were greeted by Sumitra Rabha, an orchid expert and guide who showed us around the orchid park. Two days before our visit, Akhil Gogoi had taken to social media to share pictures of the new orchid species, which were yet to be named. While our plans were to gather information about this entirely new species of orchids brought into the Kaziranga Orchid Park, we were surprised by everything that the park had to offer.
It may be noted that there are over 35,000 varieties of orchids found around the world out of which 1,314 varieties are found in India and 840 are found in the Northeast. Innumerable species of exquisitely beautiful orchids of all types, collected from all over the Northeast and other parts of the country and the world and carefully preserved in a greenhouse caught our attention. Explaining to us, Sumitra Rabha said that the orchids have different blooming time. Some bloom and are at their prettiest around the month of March, while others bloom in the months of August and September.
Though commonly thought of as parasites, it is a misconception, clarified Sumitra Rabha, saying that orchids are mainly epiphytes, or in other words, they grow on another plant merely for physical support. Orchids do not rely on host plants and instead prepare their own food. The basic characteristic that distinguishes an orchid from other flowering plants is that orchids usually have six petals, five of which are similar and one is different. Stealing the spectacle was Assam’s state flower, the foxtail orchid (Rhynchostylis retusa), commonly known as ‘Kopou phool’.
The species of orchid that had been shared by Akhil Gogoi on social media apparently is found in Costa Rica and Panama. It is named Trichocentrum (trichocentrum pfavii), as experts informed. According to them, the climatic conditions in those countries are suitable for the growth of this orchid. Moreover, this orchid has a special characteristic in that all of the flowers bloom together in one night and also wither away in the same night. Unfortunately, we were unable to witness it in all its beauty as we were uninformed beforehand.
The orchid park houses several kinds of wild orchid species including some of the smallest to largest orchids. The smallest orchid in the world named Campylocentrum insulare was also on display. It grows to only about 0.5 millimeters and is found predominantly in the hilly regions of Guatemala, we were told.
We were also introduced to the second most costly flavor in the world after saffron, that is, vanilla. Vanilla, which is sold for around Rs 20,000 per kilogram is extracted from an orchid that we found in the Kaziranga orchid park. In addition, we also found venus flytrap, which grows in North Carolina in the United States of America in the garden.
While finding our way inside the garden, we came across some species of orchid having very unique names, one of which was named ‘Baagor Daari’ or tiger’s beard (scientific name: Tacca chantrieri) or devil flower.
Inside the same sprawling campus, were other plantations including a vegetable garden that housed 101 different types of vegetables, a medicinal plant garden, a bamboo park and a cactus garden.
At one corner inside the cactus garden were several different kinds of cactus in all shapes and sizes including round, rectangular, tall and short. A small walk outside the park presented us with the bamboo garden where many different types of bamboo plantations were undertaken.
What amazed us the most was that the orchid park has created and strengthened the village economy through the green revolution. Apart from employing numerous people to run the place, the Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park has also provided hope and opportunity to the locals to make a living out of tourism.
That in addition to the fact that it continues to preserve and maintain so many different varieties of flora, while also creating an atmosphere of learning for anyone who visits Kaziranga and the park, makes it stand out.