In a house in Rajajinagar, a garden of earthly delights

In a house in Rajajinagar, a garden of earthly delights

Submitted by alvin on Sat, 2016-10-08 10:32 Bengaluru: KS Shashidhar’s house in Rajajinagar in Bengaluru might appear like any other house, with coconut trees planted within its premises, but it’s not.A variety of orchids, collected from various parts of the country, thrill the senses as one enters the house of the former forest officer. Shashidar has been growing orchids for over three decades on the terrace of his house, and the efforts are there to see. Of the1331 species and 186 genera of orchid species available in the country, majority are epiphytes and several are ground orchids. Our own Western Ghats have plenty of ground orchids.Shashidar’s collection has over 200 species, including ground orchids as well as epiphytic orchids, which are grown in controlled conditions atop his house. Several of the orchids were gathered and nurtured during his long service of over 30 years as a forest officer in Nagaland.“My interest in orchids developed when I joined the forest department in Nagaland in 1983,” says the former Additional Principal Chief Conservator of forests, who spends at least three hours every day with his orchids. “I was fascinated by the wild orchids found in the forests over there. Being an important component of the ecosystem, the species merits much attention and focused conservation efforts.”Orchids being primary indicators of the health of the ecosystem, several studies show that the ecosystem is vibrant wherever the orchids are aplenty.The Indian subcontinent has eight growing habitats: The Himalayas, Northeastern region, Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, including Odisha, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh. Though the country is considered an important orchid growing region, not much has been done to protect and identify the habitats of these rare species.Shashidhar was posted in Bengaluru during 1988-92. During this period, he began growing orchids. “I started growing orchids here until I went back to Nagaland in 1992. I began taking more interest when I was posted in Kohima. In mid 2000s, I was again on deputation in Bengaluru. During this period, I travelled a lot in most parts of Southern India and observed the status of species,” says Shashidar. Shashidar says he left his collection with his cousin in Bengaluru when he returned to Nagaland in 2007.“I thought many orchids would not survive in Bengaluru conditions. But most of them have survived and are blooming regularly,” he says proudly.When questioned whether different species can be grown in a city like Bengaluru, where temperatures are soaring every year, he says, "Why not? You have to create humidity and reduce the temperature in the green house by misting and providing shade."Shashidhar believes orchids have an important role to play in the ecosystem. “There is an urgent need to identify orchid habitats and launch a campaign to save them,” says the former forest officer.