Over collection leads to decline of Cymbidium erythraeum (Olatse)

Over collection leads to decline of Cymbidium erythraeum (Olatse)

Over collection and over-harvesting of Cymbidium erythraeum by people from the wild for consumption, trade and floriculture has led to a decline of its growth. The species are found to be abundance in wild. Crymbidium erythraeum locally known as Olatse. It is an orchid species which grows in the wild.

Choki Gyeltshen, Deputy Chief Biodiversity officer of Biodiversity Information Management Division said that the loss of species in the wild are mainly due to human activities and habitant fragmentation.

Olatse is highly sensitive to climate condition and it prefer moderate to cool climate. It requires moderate to high light for the growth. He said that changes in climate and sunlight received can also lead to loss of the species.  

This loss will lead to loss of biodiversity and habitat degradation which can reduce habitat quality of wild animal and pollination disruption, reducing reproduction,  food for wildlife and un-stabilization of soil.

He said, “Loss and fragmentation of Olatse in the forests will lead to the loss of biodiversity and also disrupt the food chain and food web, thereby creating imbalance in the ecosystem.”

The National Biodiversity Centre (NBC) has successfully micro-propagated Cymbidium erythraeum and other rare orchid species in recent years. This will reduce pressure on the collection from the wild. 

Farmers in Samtengang with support from NBC started successfully cultivating and trading of Cymbidium erythraeum benefiting the local community.

He also said that there are several threats, like climate change to anthropogenic interventions.  However, major threats are over exploitation or over harvesting of Olatse, global warming and developmental activities such as road and hydro-power constructions.

Through reduction of pressure on the wild population of Olatse through cultivation and propagation, the genetic diversity and uniqueness will increase in the wild. “We need to develop a strategy to maintain the genetic uniqueness among the farmers,” he said

When asked what are the ecological and economic values of Cymbidium erythraeum and how can they be enhanced and sustained the deputy biodiversity officer, said that Cymbidium erythraeum can be sustainably utilized through micro-propagation and mass cultivation without putting pressure on the wild populations.

He said that it is important to create awareness to the general public to reduce pressure on the wild collection of Olatse and overall conservation of biodiversity. “We need to encourage farmers or those interested in farming to cultivate Cymbidium erythraeum through laboratory propagation and also through mass cultivation.”

Cymbidium erythraeum is one of the most imports medicinal herbs used in both traditional and conventional medicines. It is also edible and used as an active ingredient in a skin care product developed by a Swiss company. It is a triennial orchid species which grows up to 25-75 centimeters. It has fragrant flowers with red markings. The flowering stems are collected for use before the flowers fully open.

The first payment from sales of Cymbidium flowers was used to establish the Bhutan Access and Benefit Sharing Fund. This fund has supported community projects for orchid propagation to promote community income generation, and help build capacity in orchid propagation by farmers in order to discourage collection from the wild.

Cymbidium species can also be cultivated on vertical tree trunks and Cymbidium plants can grow on under shade netting. Olatse is used to produce anti-aging cream called REDEEM in collaboration with the Quantum pharmaceuticals, Switzerland.

Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu