Myanmar Orchids

Native Orchids of Hkakaborazi National Park

World Orchidologists and orchid hunters have been interested in and recording Myanmar’s orchid species since the nineteenth century. Among these researchers, Reverend Parish, Dr.Helfer, Dr.Griffith, Sir William Hooker and Professor H.B. Reichenbach have carried out much research and written about their findings. In 1895, Captain Bartle Grant compiled all the papers about Myanmar orchids written by various writers and published a book called “Orchids of Burma”. Starting in 1914, the well known botanist and naturalist F. Kingdon Ward conducted several floristic surveys in Kachin State. He discovered many new orchid species in the northernmost part of Myanmar. In 1920, he discovered a new species of terrestrial orchid in the Nomung area. Later, that orchid was botanically named Paphiopedilum wardii in honoured of him. Local native called this orchid, ‘the Black orchid’ because o the dark maroon colour of its flowers. The Nomung area is the only place in the world where the black orchid is found.

During the expeditions, the botanists climbed up to about 1,219 m in the mountain that provide the habitat for the black orchid; they took photographs and collected some sample plants as well. The black orchid grows well in the leaf humus on the rock ridges as well as under the small bushes in low light conditions and it was learned from the local people that it blooms from December to February. Most of the black orchids collected were nurtured successfully in the PyinOoLwin Research Nursery, which is located 914 m above sea level. Here the weather is cool and mild and very similar to that which occurs where the black orchid grows naturally. Nearly all the plants flowered in Januert-February 1998.
Other interesting Myanmar orchid species were also collected and nurtured in Pyin-Oo-Lwin. Terrestrial orchids were also observed growing about 2, 133m; at this height large trees are rarely seen.
On the first expedition, due to heavy rain, time restriction and period in which the expedition took place (off season), not as many orchid species as expected were collected. However the habitat of Paphiopedilum wardii was studied extensively and recorded, and Cymbidium eburnean, native to Myanmar, was recorded for this time. Seventeen orchid species were recorded in this expedition. (Shown in Appendix III)
On the Nomung expedition, the botanists collected and studied some 39 orchid species. (Shown in Appendix IV)
The growing and propagation conditions of the endemic Paphiopedilum wardii were studied in detail.
Although the orchids listed below had previously been recorded as growing in Myanmar, this was the first time they had been recorded as true natives.
- Bulbophyllum odoratissimuim
- Dendrobium brymerianum
- dendrobium linguella
- phalaenopsis parishii
- dendrobium transparens
The following orchids were recorded for the first time (they are native to Myanmar).
- Epipogium roseum
- Micropera rostrata
- Pholidota chinensis
On the Hkakaborazi National Park expedition 2000, 14 orchid species were collected.
(Shown in Appendix V)
The following orchids were recorded for the first time for Myanmar:
- Cymbidium iridioides
- Dendrobium moliniforme

Many orchid fruits containing seed were also collected and grown in the laboratory for further propagation. Some rare and endangered orchid species that had been collected were propagated in the laboratory using tissue culture technique. Promising result was obtained.

Discussion for Future Research
- On the Hkakaborazi expedition, as a result of collective endeavour, the blue sheep, the black
  barking deer and the little leaf Munjac were discovered. In addition, the team took the opportunity
  to observe the rapid development of a national park from protected area.
- On the second expedition, the little leaf Munjac, rare orchids and birds were observed. In addition
  to examining the existing condition of Hkakaborazi National Park, and assessment was made of the
  conservation measures required for the park.
- Some Myanmar orchid species, including Dendrobium cruentum, Renanthera inschootiana, and all
  Paphiopedilum sp. are listed in Appendix I of ‘The Convention on International Trade in
  Endangered Species of the Wild Flora and Fauna as World Endangered Orchid Species’ (CITES).
- It was learned that five years previously some traders from China came and purchased
  Cymbidium orchid in the Hkakaborazi area. However the expedition found no evidence of the
  collection and sale of orchids on large scale. It was noticed that small numbers of black orchid,
  having been collected by local people, were being sold in the Nomung Market place and being
  given to visitors as mementoes. Considering the long-term interests of this rare orchid, the local
  people should be given and educational talk on orchids asking for their cooperation in this
- The season in which the expeditions took place was not the flowering season. If it had been, more
  orchid species would have been collected.
- The expeditions established that there is an abundance of naturally occur-ring orchid species in
  the Hkakaborazi area. It is necessary to monitor the growth, propagation and estimated numbers
  of these species. Orchid expedition(s) could take place separately or with other expeditions.
  Through the joint endeavours of internal and external scientists, we could exchange practical
  experiences and the internal scientists could acquire knowledge on orchids of an international
- Hkakaborazi National Park has great potential to be upgraded from a National Park to a World
  Heritage site.
- An education centre should be established in Hkakaborazi National Park, with an exhibition for the
  public providing information about orchid of the area. A model orchid garden with the orchid
  species of Hkakaborazi area could also be made.
- Because there are evergreen rainforests, mountains over 3,048m and subtropical forests in
  Hkakaborazi, there is wide variety of orchids to be studied. As well as botanical and orchid
  expeditions, educational tours could also be organized in the area.
- There might be new and unrecorded orchid species still waiting to be discovered in Hkakaborazi
   National Park. It is recommended that cooperative expedition and research programme, involving
   local scientists and knowledgeable scientists from abroad, be organized in the area to search for
   any rare, undiscovered Myanmar orchids.

Agricultural Regulatory Division (1997) Manual for Identification of Thai Orchids. Bangkok: Department of Agriculture
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Ward, F.K. (1939) “Hkakabo-razi, Burma’s Highest Peak”. In Himalayan Journal, 9:74-88
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Reich, B.F. (1873) Enumeration of the Orchids Collected by Revenrend E.C. Parish in the Neighbourhood of Moulmein. Place and Publish not given.
Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew (1995) CITES Orchid Checklist, Vol. 1 and 2
Siedenfaden, G.; Wood, J.J. (1992) The orchids of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. Fredensborg, Denmark: Olsen and Olsen

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