Screening and cultivation of commercially important medicinal and horticultural orchids of Nepal for integrated rural development

Dr. Bijaya Pant, Director
Central Department of Botany Tibhuvan University

Dr. Bijaya Pant, Professor at the Central Department of Botany Tibhuvan University Kathmandu, Nepal, and Academician of Nepal Academyof Science and Technology (NAST). She is an author of the books “Medicinal Orchids of Nepal” and “Treasure trovers of orchids in Central Nepal. She is passionately involved in research and development of the wild orchids of Nepal, through various in vitro technologies. Prof. Pant has completed many orchid conservation projects as a principle investigator funded by various national and international organizations. She has supervised more than six dozens of MSc and PhD dissertation based on biotechnology and orchid research, and authored more than nine dozen research papers. She has highlighted the value of medicinal orchids and their need for conservation through local media and national and international conferences, symposia. Prof. Pant is a member of various professional organization, including global seed-banking Orchid Seed Science and Sustainable Use (OSSSU), and vice chairman of IUCN, SSC, Nepal.

Project Overview

Orchids exhibit an incredible range of diversity in size, shape and color of their flowers. Though a large population of orchids is still confined in their natural habitat, several orchid species are cultivated for their various economic uses in floriculture, medicine and food, globally. A total of 450 species belonging to 107 genera have been reported from Nepal, including 18 endemic species. Due to inaccessibility of modern health care facilities, about 80% of the population of the country still depends on a wide range of locally available medicinal plants for their basic primary health care. Most of these studies lack detailed knowledge on uses of Nepalese orchids or describe very few cases only. In contrast to many other plant families, a comprehensive and detailed study of medicinal orchids in Nepal is still lacking. Wild orchids in Nepal have been used extensively as traditional medicines to treat a wide range of ailments of the central nervous system, endocrine system, gastrointestinal tract, reproductive system, respiratory system and infectious disorders. Medicinal orchids belonging to these genera: Anoctochilus, Bletilla, Calanthe, Coelogyne, Cymbidium, Cypipedium, Dendrobium, Ephemerantha, Eria, Galeola, Gastrodia, Gastrochilous, Vanda, Pholidota, Gymnadenia, Habenaria, Ludisia, Luisia, NeviliaandThunia are used from ancient time to treat various health disorders. Dendrobium nobile, Bletillastriata and Gastrodiaelata are routinely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), such as a stomach, night sweats, tuberculosis, hemoptysis, gastritis, duodenal ulcers, as well as bleeding, and cracked skin on the feet and hands, to fortify a person’s body, to strengthen the kidneys and to cure impotence and as tonic. To bring together traditional knowledge and medicinal use of wild orchids of Nepal, identify the status of illegal trade associated with wild orchid species and suggest a more sustainable approach to improve orchid conservation and cultivation in Nepal.

This project describes a novel innovative multidisciplinary approach how to pursue in an optimized way the discovery of initial drug candidates obtained from Nepalese medicinal orchids and in parallel to ensure the supply of the necessary plant material through an ex situ conservation technology (tissue culture) which could result in a decrease to exploit and remove endangered precious plants from the wild. We have also proposed to identify the commercially important species for the floriculture industry for mass propagation.

Large quantities of in vitro plants can be produced annually through tissue culture, which will contribute not only in their conservation but also for their commercial cultivation. Thereby, scaling up orchid production and contributing to the income generation for the local community people and strengthening their livelihood. To establish a viable income generating activity (industry in future) this research project aims to collect, screen and propagate to develop techniques for commercial cultivation of identified species with medicinal/horticultural importance. So in the present study we screened and selected 4 important orchids species viz; Dendrobium densiflorum, Coelogyne stricta, Cymbidium aloifolium, Phaius tankervillae. D. densiflorum, C. stricta, C. aloifolium, P. tankervillae were subjected for mass production by developing standard protocols. Mass propagated selected species were used for the acclimatization process, out of which acclimatization of Cymbidium aloifolium, Phaius tankervillae has been standardized and remaining two are being tested for the suitable acclimatization protocol. Phytochemical analysis and isolation of bioactive compounds of selected species with its wild counterpart is an ongoing process.

Research Team

Prof. Dr. Bijaya Pant (PI)

  • Mr. Anil Kumar Sah (Research Officer)
  • Mr. Pusp Raj Joshi (Researcher Officer)
  • Ms. Laxmi Sen (Research Assistant)
  • Mrs. Sabari Rajbahak (Research Assistant)
  • Ms. Manju Kanu Baniya (Research Assistant)
Central Department of Botany
  • Asst. Prof. Dr. Mukti Ram Paudel (Co- PI)
  • Mr. Bir Bahadur Thapa (Research Assistant)
  • Mrs. Krishna Chand (Research Assistant)
Chungbuk National University Korea
  • Prof. Dr. So Young Park (Co- PI)
Kathmandu University
  • Asst. Prof. Dr. Sony Shakya (Co-PI)