The Orchid park near Kaziranga National Park, Assam, is a treat for the eyes and a paradise for flower lovers
As children, one of the most exciting things about making a roadtrip to our maternal grandparents’ home, was the drive through Kaziranga National Park on the National Highway. As the Burapahar mountain range becomes visible, we would sit up from our sluggish postures in the backseat.
At the sight of the signboard reading ‘animal corridor’, I was always hopeful of spotting a wild animal other than the grazing rhinos or elephants that crossed the road. Another favourite activity was to squint attentively at the treetops at the wild orchids.
This year, when I drove the 350- odd kilometres on that familiar route, my focus was on the road rather than thinking of playing ‘spot the orchid’ with my cousin and niece. Instead I made a surprise stop at the Kaziranga National Orchid Park, a couple of kilometres from the Kaziranga National Park. This was my first visit there.
Established in 2015, it is designed as a mini-themed village, and encompasses a natural history museum, rice museum, a cultural centre, a handful of handicraft shops and a restaurant. The main attraction however is the Orchid display museum.
I wasn’t expecting much from the Orchid museum, but once inside, I was pleasantly surprised. I noticed the visitors being stunned the moment they enter the enclosed area. The museum, roughly the size of a hall that can accommodate about 1,000 people, is designed to suit the growth of the orchid, the State flower of Assam and Meghalaya. The air inside the greenhouse is muggy, as orchids need humidity but the scent of the nearly 700 species of orchids growing in coconut husk, tree barks, bamboo hollows and pots makes up for it.
A guide explains, “There are 35,000 species of orchids in the world, of which approximately 1,314 are found in India. Interestingly, about 850 of them can be found in the Northeast. Arund 402 species are found only in Assam.”
The wild orchids here are collected from all across Northeast India. It is a riot of colour — yellow, orange, purple, pink, white and red. “The main characteristic of an orchid is that it has six petals — five identical and one modular,” explains our guide and adds that along with the orchids there are other plants growing, to support the atmosphere and to maintain the moisture balance. All these wild plants are collected from all over the Northeast. There are also a few cultured hybrid orchids growing in the park.
Treat with respect
As we proceeded, still in awe at the variety, some of the flowers with their fascinating colours look unreal and we are encouraged to touch gently. The team inside explains the orchid species to everyone, especially children. “Owing to its wild nature, it is difficult to grow orchids at home. Only a few common varieties like the ground orchid/pineapple orchid, the garland orchid can be grown with proper care.”
Orchids named Joker face and Dancing Lady appear to be the highlight until the guide points out the tiniest species, blooming silently in one corner. This orchid needs a magnifying glass and the flower measures 1.2 millimetres. “The scientific name for it being Taeniophyllum glandulosum. The world’s tiniest orchid, it is a leafless epiphyte (a plant that requires another object or plant for physical support),” he informs.
While at the park, don’t miss the butterfly orchid, pineapple orchid, rabbit orchid, starfish orchid, the joker face and dancing lady orchid.
The best time to visit Kaziranga Orchid National Park is between March and November. Entry ticket is priced at ₹250