Dactylorhiza hatagirea (D.Don) Soó , Nom. Nov. Gen. Dactylorhiza 4 1962. (Syn: Orchis hatagirea D.Don; Orchis hatagirea var. doniana Soó; Orchis hatagirea var. schlaginweitii Soó; Orchis latifolia var. indica Lindl.);
Nar mada, Salap, Panch aunle, Himalayan Marsh Orchid, Marsh Orchids • Kumaon: Hatajari • Kashmiri: Salem Panja • Urdu: Salap • Nepali: पाँच आँवले Panch aonle;
A well known medicinal herb “Hatajari”.
It is being exploited from nature in large quantities and we have no agro technique to cultivate it. Have become rare in unprotected areas; 
… yes, Dactylorhiza hatagirea is reported as critically endangered;
Distribution: Mongolia to Himalaya 


Orchid from Pangi al180911:  An orchid from Pangi valley,

Location Pangi valley
Altitude 3000mts
Habit herb
Habitat wild
Height 20 inches
Season August

Yes this is Dactylorhiza hatagirea. A priced medicinal plant. Commonly known as hattajadi. Even the etymology of the plant is unique as both ‘dactylorhiza’  and ‘hatagirea’  literally means looking like a palm (body part.

Here is mine from Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand at around 3600m asl.

And again the same from Rohtang Pass, Himachal Pradesh.


VoF Week: Orchidaceae – Dactylorhiza hatagirea (D.Don) Soó:

Dactylorhiza hatagirea (D.Don) Soó, Nom. Nov. Gen. Dactylorhiza: 4 (1962).
Orchis hatagirea D.Don, Prodr. Fl. Nepal.: 23 (1825).
Orchis latifolia var. indica Lindl., Gen. Sp. Orchid. Pl.: 260 (1835).
Orchis hatagirea var. doniana Soó, J. Bot. 66: 19 (1928).
Orchis hatagirea var. schlaginweitii Soó, J. Bot. 66: 19 (1928).
Dactylorhiza hatagirea var. doniana (Soó) Soó, Nom. Nov. Gen. Dactylorhiza: 4 (1962).
Dactylorhiza hatagirea var. schlaginweitii (Soó) Soó, Nom. Nov. Gen. Dactylorhiza: 4 (1962).
Distribution: China, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, India.

Current pic taken in the main valley.

Wow! what a beauty!!


VoF Week :: DV :: 02 AUG 12 – 1129 :: ¿ Dactylorhiza hatagirea ? at Valley of Flowers: 2 AUG 12
Valley of Flowersabout 11000 – 12000 ft

Habitat: sloping meadow
Habit: erect herb about 40 – 60 cm high

As per VoF book it appears to be so, let the experts to validate. Thanks for upload.

Yes this is Dactylorrhiza hatagirea.

Please check my comment on one of the pic in this plate. That is different.

Yes sir that particular pic shows Gymnadenia orchidis.

In the last picture, I assume we have both: Dactylorhiza hatagirea and Gymnadenia orchidis.

Yes you are absolutely right…

VOF Week: Dactylorhiza hatagirea at VOF: Another Orchid from VOF.
Bot. name: Dactylorhiza hatagirea
Family: Orchidaceae



VoF Week: Gymnadenia orchidis from the Valley: Gymnadenia orchidis from the Valley

No sir this is Dactylorhiza hatagirea

I am agree with … its Dactylorhiza hatagirea


ORCHIDACEAE FORTNIGHT:: Dactylorhiza hatagirea from Valley of Flowers- NS 17 : Attachments (3). 6 posts by 5 authors.

This beautiful terrestrial orchid was shot during tour to Valley of Flowers, Uttrakhand..

Dactylorhiza hartagirea

Yes Dactylorhiza hatageria

A well known medicinal herb “Hatajari”.

It is being exploited from nature in large quantities and we have no agro technique to cultivate it. Have become rare in unprotected areas.

… yes, Dactylorhiza hatagirea is reported as critically endangered.


Orchidaceae fortnight :: Dactylorhiza hatagirea :: DV08 : 3 images. 5 posts by 4 authors.

Dactylorhiza hatagirea (D. Don) Soó

at Valley of Flowers on 02 AUG 12

Beautiful, a highly medicinal plant.

Yes … Perhaps due to which vanishing from naturally occurring area rapidly

Beautiful Himalayan ground orchid.

It seems that many of thes ground orchid bulbs have a medicinal value???

Yes as they have lot of alkaloids in these tuberoids.

Dactylorhiza hatagirea from Valley of Flowers

Yes sir all are Dactylorhiza hatagirea. Gymnadenia is found close to this, but may be you all missed it thinking to be same as Dactylorhiza.

Yes … Hope next time we will be able to find both. Thanks for Information

A very popular medicinal herb. Roots are tuberous making a structure similar to human palm with fingers, thus the specific epithet hatgirea (hath jaisi jadi).

These roots are believed to be very nutritious, mixed with wheat flour and made into laddoo, which are consumed later for vitality.

Unfortunately there is no agro technique for its cultivation and all the material used is collected from wild, illegally.

Amazing to see so many flowers in an inflorescence of this ground orchid.


ORCHIDACEAE Juss. Fortnight: Dactylorhiza hatagirea (D.Don) Soó from VoF, PKS-30 : Attachments (3). 4 posts by 3 authors.

Dactylorhiza hatagirea (D.Don) Soó, Nom. Nov. Gen. Dactylorhiza: 4 (1962).
Orchis hatagirea D.Don, Prodr. Fl. Nepal.: 23 (1825).
Orchis latifolia var. indica Lindl., Gen. Sp. Orchid. Pl.: 260 (1835).
Orchis hatagirea var. doniana Soó, J. Bot. 66: 19 (1928).
Orchis hatagirea var. schlaginweitii Soó, J. Bot. 66: 19 (1928).
Dactylorhiza hatagirea var. doniana (Soó) Soó, Nom. Nov. Gen. Dactylorhiza: 4 (1962).
Dactylorhiza hatagirea var. schlaginweitii (Soó) Soó, Nom. Nov. Gen. Dactylorhiza: 4 (1962).
Distribution: Mongolia to Himalaya
Present pic taken in Valley of Flowers

Thanks for Sharing … It is always nice to see Salem Panja. 4 years back when I was suffering from problem of excess Uric Acid in Blood, an ayurvedic preparation was prepared by a Ayurvedic Physician Friend using this orchid and results were very very good….

Yes this plant is supposed to be highly medicinal. In fact in Hong Kong also once we saw the tubers on sale.
Most of the orchids are medicinal, just that we need to study them comprehensively to come to conclusions. Spiritually thinking, IF GOD CREATED A DISEASE, HE CREATED A CURE TOO, WE JUST NEED TO SEARCH !!


Orchidaceae fortnight :: Dactylorhiza hatagirea at VOF :: PKA35::: : Attachments (6). 4 posts by 4 authors.

Another Orchid from VOF.
Bot. name: Dactylorhiza hatagirea
Family: Orchidaceae

Magnificent upload from a heavenly place.. perhaps this was one of the very few survivors

Yes Dactylorhiza hatagirea

Dactylorhiza hatagirea etymology : Dactylorhiza hatagirea is one unique name too.

But genus and species epithet means the same thing, PALM SHAPED.
Dactylorhiza – Dactyl or palm like root; hatagirea – from sanskrit palm like root….

Very few of such unique names exist in botany….

Himalayan flower for Id : 8 posts by 4 authors. Attachments (2)
Please find attached pics of a flower sighted in the Gangotri National Park (Uttrakhand) on 17th June 2016, at an altitude of 3740 meters.

Kindly help in its identification.

Dactylorhiza hatageria

Do you have pictures of the leaves ?

Yes …, I should be having a pic of the flower with leaves. You want me to send it to you?

Pl. send to the group, … Leaves are very important for correct Identification.

Dactylorhiza hatageria : 3 posts by 3 authors. Attachments (1)

Dactylorhiza hatageria, dt. 17th June 2016 at 3740 meters asl, Gangotri National Park, Western Himalaya Uttrakhand.  

Yes looks like Dactylorhiza hatagirea.



I first came across this orchid whilst leading the botanical survey of the Suru Valley during the University of Southampton Ladakh Expedition in 1980 – my first experience of the ‘Himalaya’.
My team found it @ 3300m at the settlement of Pancihar on the grassy verge between Chalang Nullah (which leads to the Kashmir Valley) and an irrigation channel in wet sandy loam – a marshy area growing amongst Euphrasia, Trifolium and grasses. Deep mauve flowers with purple markings on lower petals, occasional white variants; ht: to 35cm.
Pressed specimens were collected in triplicate for herbaria at University of Kashmir, Kew and University of Southampton.
Stewart knew Dactylorhiza hatagirea (D.Don) Soo (syn. Orchis latifolia auct. plur., non L) as the ‘Broad-leaved March Orchid’ which he found to be COMMON in wet marshy places above 2100m incl. Ladakh and Kashmir, where it was abundant @ 2400-3300m.
He observed, “After going through the rich material of this taxon at Kew with Mr Peter Hunt we came to the conclusion that it was a variable complex and that Soo’s segregates could not be maintained.
He listed Dactylorhiza umbrosa from Chitral but thought this was probably not distinct but part of the D.hatagirea complex.
Dickore and Klimes (2005) list D.hatagirea and D.kafiriana Renz in Rech. f.
Flowers of the Himalaya describes and illustrates this orchid found to be common in shrubberies, open slopes and marshes; flowers spotted rosy-purple, flowering stems 30-90cm.
My Report of the Kashmir Botanical Expedition 1983 records this from Dras (Ladakh), Gadsar and Vishensar.
Plants of Gulmarg (1984) has a single record from Gulmarg.
What do members think as to the identity of the images attached which have been scanned in from slides – NOT good quality but the only ones I have available. Are they of D.kafiriana or D.hatagirea?
I shall cover D.hatagirea and related taxa in Himachal Pradesh & Uttarakhand in a separate post.
I shall cover D.hatagirea and related taxa in Bhutan & E.Himalaya in a separate post.
I shall cover Dactylorhiza in UK in a separate post.
I would welcome the CURRENT thinking as to the Dactylorhiza hatagirea COMPLEX in the Himalaya including the status of D.kafiriana.   Presumably things have moved on from the thinking of Peter Hunt at Kew some half a century ago?
I note that the area where D.kafiriana was ‘rediscovered’ is the same as that covered by herbal treks led by a Ladakhi amchi in the 1990s. I inspected a set of duplicate pressed specimens.
The Dactylorhiza found was, I ASSUMED, D.hatagirea but might it not have actually been D.kafiriana, which I was NOT aware of at the time?
What about the specimens collected in the MAIN Suru Valley by my team in 1980?  Have the specimens (SULE 16) in the University of Kashmir (KASH) and Kew (K) herbaria been examined to check?
If they prove to be D.kafiriana then 1980 pre-dates the 2008 specimens of Adhikari, Angmo Rawat….
But the problem is their article does NOT tell us HOW D.kafiriana is distinguished from D.hatagirea? THIS IS A FUNDAMENTAL OMISSION.
If I cannot distinguish between the two species, then how can anyone else be expected to?  Unless they can be readily distinguished, how can the TRUE distribution RARITY or otherwise of each species be determined? 
There is also no mention of how D.umbrosa (Kar. & KIr.) Nevski, also found in Chitral is separated from D.kafiriana.
Are the authors suggesting D.kafiriana is ONLY found close to the Suru Valley in Ladakh and Chitral plus the Kashmir collection by Renz in 1961 (which Stewart does not mention)?
DACTYLORHIZA IS A VERY DIFFICULT GENUS owing to reading hybridisation. There is no mention of hybrids in the article above by Adhikari et al.

What is the good of publishing such articles if VITAL information is missing……

My first visit further East along the Himalaya came in 1990 when I went to Nepal for the first time.
I do not remember seeing any terrestrial orchids but did notice a number of epiphytic ones at lower elevation.  The first epiphytic orchids I had seen were when I travelled from Srinagar, Kashmir to Jammu then took the train to Pathankot and noticed some in trees in Kangra district en route to Manali.
No Dactylorhiza nor Gymnadenia are mentioned in ‘Flora of Mustang’ but I do not consider this to be complete by any means as I personally know quite a number of species omitted.
Enumeration of the Flowering plants of Nepal gives:
D.hatagirea a distribution of Pakistan to Bhutan & SE Tibet @ 2800-3960m
G.orchidis a distribution of Kashmir to Bhutan & SE Tibet @ 3000-4700m.
Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of Orchidaceae for Flora of Bhutan (which also covers Sikkim).
In the mid-1990s I was a consultant to ‘The Royal Government of Bhutan’ on ‘The Cultivation of Medicinal Plants for Traditional Medicine Project’.
Prior to my first visit to Bhutan I was sent a partial list of Himalayan species utilised in Bhutanese Medicine with their equivalent Tibetan name. I immediately noticed some errors within the Latin names, as several of the species on the list were restricted to the ‘Western’ Himalaya and not known in Bhutan.
As I regularly comment, the geographic distribution of species is seldom checked. I must ENCOURAGE all those attempting to identify plants in the Himalaya to check along with checking if the elevation where a specimen has been recorded TALLIES with its known altitudinal range.  IF it is at a significantly higher or lower elevation, then open must investigate further.
In the list, as expected, there was an entry for ‘dbang-lag’ which had been named as Dactylorhiza hatagirea, however, I wondered if other orchids were collected as well – indeed there was evidence to suggest D.hatagirea was not found much in Bhutan.
In another list the ‘botanical name’ for dbang-lag was given as Gymnadenia crassinervis. This species is, as far as I know, restricted to China (Yunnan & Sichuan), so is likely to be a misidentification. The most likely explanation is that someone looked up the Latin name for dbang-lag in a Chinese reference book.
Assuming ALL Dactylorhiza and Gymnadenia have hand-shaped roots then it is likely that ANY from these two genera are collected by doctors of Tibetan Medicine.  The actual species will vary from region to region.
Gymnadenia orchidis is recorded for Nepal and Bhutan.
I see that the group’s orchid specialist expresses uncertainty in distinguishing between D.hatagirea and G.orchidis, when specimens are not in flower. If someone with specialist knowledge struggles, it means other botanists will have done so in the past. Thus either species may have previously been over or under-recorded.
There is also the issue of whether Dactylorhiza hatagirea is a variable complex or a number of taxa can be separated, as Soo suggested in the past.
Has any member got a copy of Orchidaceae for Bhutan (or can check a copy in a major botanical library) and see what was said about these two ‘species’ and closely-related ones?

Dactylorhiza hatagirea and Gymnadenia orchidis are very widespread above a particular elevation. I am sure it should be there in Pakistan if it is there in Indian Kashmir. But please remember the aspect of Himalaya changes if you go westwards from uttarakhand. So uttarakhand has rich diversity and then species number goes down westwards till the end of Himalayas around Afghanistan.

You cant treat a species based on their traditional name. As I said Dactylorhiza hatagirea is widespread and some variations are normal. Infact at one point I think Dactylorhiza umbrosa should be merged under hatagirea.
Gymnadenia is very different for sure but without flower just on the basis of leaves you cant differentiate, infact there are many Habenaria found in same habitat which cant be differentiated either. NOT A BIG DEAL.

In China all Dendrobiums are used in chinese medicine as Shih Hu. But there are many species of Dendrobiums in China. They are very distinct from each other.

I am in agreement that conditions in the NW Himalaya (which I consider to be Kashmir & H.P. but not Uttarakhand) are different to Uttarakhand. The State of Uttarakhand represents the north-westerly limit of the range of quite a number of Himalayan species belonging to many genera.
I consider dividing the main Himalaya into just “Western” and “Eastern” is too simplistic. Perfect divisions seldom exist but better to have “North-West” (see above), “Central” (covering Uttarakhand plus West & Central Nepal), then “Eastern” (covering East Nepal, Sikkim & Bhutan).   I am not familiar enough with the vegetation/floristics of A.P. to comment as to whether it fits into ‘East’ Himalaya well or has greater affinities with the flora of the mountains of SW China (which I do not count as part of the Himalaya proper – just as the Karakoram and Hindu Kush are not part of the Himalaya proper).
I remain interested in the identify (according to Western Science) of plants collected under ‘Tibetan Names’ especially the CORRECT geographic range, altitudinal range and habitats for Dactylorhiza hatagirea (sensu lato) and Gymnadenia orchidis.
As you know, orchids are few and far between in the Indian Trans-Himalaya. Dickore & Klimes (2005) list the following species from Ladakh:
Dactylorhiza hatagirea
Epipactis helleborine
Epipactis persica
Herminium monorchis
I have not come across any Epipactis in Ladakh myself (though have seen E.helleborine in Kashmir).
The typical habitat for the Dactylorhizas and Herminium in Ladakh (and Lahoul) is in ‘marshy’ conditions around the irrigation channels of fields.  See attached images taken from some 800m above the Matayan in Ladakh (the first settlement after one crosses the Zoji La from Kashmir).
Gymnadenia orchidis is NOT known from Ladakh. I am curious as to the CORRECT ranges and conditions under which this and Dactylorhiza hatagirea grow in Nepal, Sikkim & Bhutan. Does any member have a copy of Orchidaceae of Bhutan, so can check the details?
The Gymnadenia is not recorded in ‘Flora of Lahaul-Spiti’ which IF correct, suggests it is NOT a Trans-Himalayan species and so would not be expected in Nepalese, Sikkimese or Bhutanese territory bordering Tibet, yet the Dactylorhiza would be.
In addition to records from Kashmir territory, Stewart recoded the Gymnadenia from Hazara.
The original MEDIEVAL texts which Tibetan Medicine is based upon, mostly describes species from close to Lhasa/SE Tibet and Bhutan (which was known as ‘Southern Valley of Medicinal Herbs’). Doctors of traditional medicine operating in Ladakh would located the NEAREST equivalent plant, which in some cases is NOT the same ‘species’ according to Western Science.
4 images attached (photographed as slides in mind-1980s) then scanned in:
All show the settlement of Matayan, Ladakh at some 3000m with irrigated fields of barley (probably also peas and some fodder crops) photographed in September after harvest. The irrigation channels are home to Dactylorhiza hatagirea and sometimes Herminium monorchis.
Attachments (4)

Nice pics.
You may contact my PhD mentor Prof G.S.Rawat about the occurrence of these species in the Himalayas as he has conducted extensive surveys in this area.
Here are few details I am quoting from Orchids of Bhutan, Orchids of Northwest Himalaya and Orchids of Arunachal Pradesh.
Dactylorhiza hatagirea
INDIA: Jammu and Kashmir (Kashmir, Kishan Ganga Valley, Sonmarg, Gulmarg, Gilgit, Poonch, Ladakh), Himachal Pradesh (Shimla, Chamba, Lahaul, Kullu, Ksokar), Uttarakhand (Garhwal – Mussorie, Tehri, Uttarkashi, Chamoli; Kumaun – Pithoragarh), Arunachal Pradesh (Kameng, Subhanshri); PAKISTAN NEPAL & SOUTH WEST TIBET (CHINA).
Gymnadenia orchidis
INDIA: Jammu & Kashmir (Liddar Valley), Himachal Pradesh (Pangi Chamba, Shimla, Dhanchoo, Kinnor), Uttarakhand (Garhwal – Uttarkashi, Chamoli; Kumaun – Pithoragarh, Nainital), West Bengal (Darjeeling), Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh (Kameng, Lohit, Siang); PAKISTAN; NEPAL; BHUTAN.
Note: I cant find a reference saying this from Ladakh area but with such distribution from Pakistan till Bhutan, I imagine WHY NOT?

Hope this helps.

Thanks for the information, though I am also interested in the habitats these species grow in.
As for Gymnadenia orchidis, this species may well need moister conditions than found in Ladakh or even Lahaul.
Yes, it has been recorded from Pakistan (according to Stewart and the author of Orchidaceae for Flora of Pakistan – the latter says “alpine pastures”.  Stewart only lists Hazara, Upper Kishengaga & Kashmir Valley NOT the drier districts like Baltistan or Ladakh.
So it seems no surprise to me that it is NOT known from Ladakh.
I remain curious about the habitat and altitudinal range of Dactylorhiza hatagirea sensu lato (or agg. if one prefers) in Bhutan.  IS, I wonder G.orchidis more commonly collected as ‘dbang-lag’ there rather than D.hatagirea?
As I said, I do not have a copy of Orchidaceae for Bhutan (and Sikkim). IF you do, could you check what this volume has to say about these two species.
Perhaps … has information about these species in Sikkim? Though this was a separate Kingdom (as Bhutan currently remains as) previously and access may have been difficult then.

I have just seen that you were quoting from Orchids of Bhutan – is this the same as the Orchidaceae of Bhutan published by Edinburgh Botanics?

Fwd: Datylorhiza hatagirea sensu lato in HP & Uttarakhand : 19 posts by 4 authors. Attachments (6)
Aswal & Mehrotra in ‘Flora of Lahaul-Spiti’ (1999) found D.hatagirea to be common in grassy meadows on slopes at Khoksar.
They observed that the tubers are an important ingredient of many Ayurvedic and Unani preparations and therefore collected by the local people for sale.
Bor’s specimen at Dehra Dun which had been identified as A.maculata is in fact D.hatagireaA.maculata being a European species which does not occur in India.  The plant reported by Aitchison in 1868 as A.maculata is probably A.hatagirea.
Koelz (1979) found an attractive rose-coloured orchid common in the meadows of Lahaul, known in Tibetan as ‘Wanglak’ (hand-shaped root) used by local doctors of Tibetan Medicine.  This was only partially identified as Habernaria sp.  Was this Gymnadenia orchidis or perhaps Dactylorhiza (and if so, D.hatagirea or D.kafiriana)?
Collet in ‘Flora Simlensis’ (1921) also got it wrong (presumably following FBI) finding what he thought was Orchis latifolia which he said was the ‘Marsh Orchis’ of Britain in wet ground at Huttoo.  Flower colour dull purple, the lip darker spotted.
‘The Valley of Flowers’ book lists Orchis latifolia (now Dactylorhiza hatagirea) and Orchis chusua (now Ponerorchis chusua).
I am attaching 6 images:
1.  A string of Dactylorhiza tubers having been illegally collected in H.P.; photographed on my behalf – I don’t expect the Indian collectors (they were not local men) gathered them in a responsible way (which I believe amchis – local doctors of traditional medicine do).
2-4.  Images taken by … at Koksar, Lahoul, H.P. of what he thought was D.hatagirea
5. Image of what he thought was Dactylorhiza viride – which Stewart listed as Coleloglossum viride (in the UK this plant is known as the ‘Frog Orchid’ – the flowers MOSTLY being green.  Just taking a quick look, … image does not fit but we have members with much greater familiarity with Orchidaceae, who can comment more authoritatively.
6.  Another image of what he thought was Dactylorhiza viride – which Stewart listed as Coeloglossum viride (in the UK this plant is known as the ‘Frog Orchid’ – the flowers MOSTLY being green.   This seems more promising.  Perhaps … made a labelling error (which he did from time-to-time).
Just supposing … photos from Gulaba were taken where both Dactylorhiza hatagirea and Coeloglossum viride grew together,

the POSSIBILITY of hybrids exists.  In the UK, C.viride is known to hybridise with a number of Dactylorhiza species…..

1. As I see all pink flowers in this thread belong to Dactylorhiza hatagirea. The tubers if collected from this plant then its ok they too are Dactylorhiza.

2.The greenish white flower pic at the end is not clear but does look like Dactylorhiza viridis (=Coeloglossum viride). If you have more pics I can check, because in this particular pic, I cant get any glimpse of the labellum. Just for your information … passed away recently. He was an engineer by profession and a keen collector. Most of his orchids were either identified by Jeewan and myself till 2008 (following which I had cut off my connections with him) or by BSI. D. viridis colour varies from pale green to green to even red. This is one species extremely widespread and hence such variations are obvious.

Just forgot to mention that yes, Amchis are around in himalayan region, some as a part of tibetan refugee and some illegal. But please remember that Dactylorhiza hatagirea atleast is also used in Indian traditional medicine.

Re: 1 – the photos of flowers had nothing to do with the image of the tubers drying.
2: Yes, I was aware that … had passed away.  I have no further images. Your comments illustrate that despite the image being quite a nice general shot it does not provide enough detail to be certain.  As I keep saying, more than just one or two images (no matter if they are good quality) NEED to be taken when photographing a plant.
I have recently posted images of Dactylorhizas growing in Wales, UK – taken mostly for their ‘beauty’.

Last year I photographed another Dactylorhiza, this time in England, taking some closer images.  I think it may be worth posting a selection of these images for your comments as to what other detail might be useful to have and checking with the advice from The Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland. These images would also illustrate variation within a species.

My understanding is that ‘Tibetan’ Medicine has been officially adopted/ sanctioned as a health-care system in India.
This means that it is legitimate for amchis (doctors of traditional Tibetan Medicine in Bhutan are known as dungtshos) long resident in Ladakh AND those based a MEN-TSEE-KHANG to collect material for herbal formulations  – provided it carried out in a responsible fashion.
This would include collection of Dactylorhiza hatagirea (and presumably D.kafiriana) in Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh and Gymnadenia orchidis (if it is present) which are likely to be collected as “dbang-lag”.
As this has been going on for CENTURIES and D.hatagirea was described in ‘Flowers of the Himalaya’ and by Stewart as “common” (and the number of amchis operating in Ladakh, much reduced in recent decades) THERE IS NOTHING to suggest that this species is SERIOUSLY Endangered in this part of the Himalaya at least. UNLESS THERE HAS BEEN A MASSIVE INCREASE IN CONSUMPTION WITHIN ‘INDIAN’ MEDICINE?
I assume that amchis in places like Ladakh have collected RESPONSIBLY by NOT remove colonies/ populations of this orchid in their entirety. Since the tubers (roots) are harvested, this involves digging up the whole plant.   IF collection takes place AFTER seed has been dispersed, this is less bad.
Flora of Lahaul-Spiti STATES that “THE large scale exploitation MAY lead to extinction from the natural habitat” but I ask, what is the ACTUAL EVIDENCE, that this orchid is being collected on a LARGE scale?  I do not know the answer to this nor does ANYONE.
The image taken for me showing what are likely to be Dactylorhiza hatagirea tubers being dried was in Lahoul.   The collectors (presumably operating illegally) were not local men.
Yes, it is right and proper to express concerns and one way would surely be to monitor QUANTITY of dried tubers being purchased.
But UNLESS there is evidence to INCREASED demand/usage cf. say the 1970s/1980s, when D.hatagirea was considered as “common” in suitable habitats (and thus collection of such quantities appeared  sustainable).   IF this is the case then CLAIMS of risk of extinction have been EXAGGERATED.
I KNOW from personal experience “in the Himalaya” that some species which are CLAIMED to be ‘rare and endangered’ are NO SUCH THING.
Surely, FINITE, resources for a CONSERVATION should be directed towards those species GENUINELY rare.
Just because a plant is used for medicinal purposes does NOT automatically mean it is CRITICALLY ENDANGERED (which means it is about to become extinct).
CRYING WOLF too often, will, in time cause GREAT harm.

“This means that it is legitimate for amchis (doctors of traditional Tibetan Medicine in Bhutan are known as dungtshos) long resident in Ladakh AND those based a MEN-TSEE-KHANG to collect material for herbal formulations  – provided it carried out in a responsible fashion.”
No that doesn’t make it legitimate for amchis to collect. According to Indian laws, they (indian tribals) have the right to collect from their area. Not all Amchis are native indian tribes. Many of them are refugees from Tibet who have limited rights. Please also remember that many of these amchis dont collect plants by themselves, but they hire locals or even outsiders to supply plants to them. How much they collect depends on how much money they want to earn.
In fact when the red data book of Indian plants was published in 1986, Dactylorhiza hatagirea was assessed to be Critically Endangered but many disagreed to it including myself. No doubt there has been immense collection of it but as I said above a particular elevation it is common as per my personal observation, but may be it was more common decades ago.
Yes Amchis are accepted in Indian Traditional Medicine but I believe many plants are being sold out of India legally or illegally. For example plants like Cordyceps are collected in India but used mainly in Chinese Traditional medicine. Never heard of it being used in India. So you can see the violation of Indian law here. Recently we examined tubers from Hong Kong market and through barcoding we found out that they were Gymnadenia orchidis although the bag was labelled as Dactylorhiza. You will be shocked that in the name of deer femur, we have seen dog femur being sold in Chinese traditional medicine shop.

I just feel that they adulterate to make more and easy money or just that they dont know how to differentiate as the tubers are very similar.

May I join you all in this very interesting and meaningful debate on Dactylorhiza hatageria and Gymnadenia orchisdis.

During the course of our field visits to the Great Himalayan National Park in Himachal Pradesh, we have seen both these species growing together at altitude of about 3500 m asl. Had we not stopped for savouring the beauty of these spikes with many hues of pink emerging from the alpine grass mat and for clicking their pictures, we would have passed these as Dactylorhiza hatageria only. It was only close interaction with these that we could notice occurrence of Gymnadenia orchidis mixed with that of Dactylorhiza. None of the local people accompanying our group as porters and routinely making wild collection of medicinal herbs was able to differentiate between the two and were collecting both as ‘Salam Panja’. I have NOT noticed Gymnadenia orchidis from Lahaul valley yet, even as have seen Dactylorhiza hatageria in may grasslands, especially along small water channels criss crossing these grasslands.
I have been regularly interacting with local people in Himachal Pradesh about the expanse of occurrence of Dactylorhiza hatageria as part of our continuous efforts to understand the wild harvest of the species. I have recently completed a national study to assess demand of medicinal plants in India. An annual consumption of more than 10 metric ton of the entity traded as ‘salam panja’ (Dactylorhiza hatageria) has been estimated based on consumption data collected from the domestic herbal industry and traders. A part of this annual need (about 6 metric ton) is being met from ‘Salam Panja’ raw drug received as LoC trade. The remaining matching annual quantity is being collected from the wild in J&K, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand with some quantity in trade traced back to Arunachal Pradesh. Obviously what is being traded as ‘salam panja’ is a mix of species.
Coming back to the status in the wild, a severe depletion in the wild populations of Dactylorhiza hatageria has been reported in Himachal Pradesh with regeneration not matching with the annual removals of its tubers. At many places the habitat of the species – grass lands with good flow of water in mini channels – has severely dwindled. The species has been assessed as of ‘conservation concern’ and some efforts towards establishing its nursery and plantation techniques have been initiated, with no great success reported till now. Any idea about how to propagate the species?

I’ll locate photographs of both these species clicked during my GHNP visit and share with you in a day or two.

In continuation of my mail of yesterday, I attach below high resolution images of plants I think are of Dactylorhiza hatageria and Gymnadenia orchidis, clicked from the same location and same day in GHNP, Kullu in Himachal Pradesh. I also dug up tubers of these two orchids and noted that with careful examination it is possible to tell one from the other. I’ll share photographs of the tubers also as soon as I am able to locate these. Attachments (2)

Very informative input.
Surprising to find BOTH species growing together in the GHNP and interesting that the locals who collect medicinal plants could not distinguish between the two – mind you, they are not trained/skilled amchis and in Tibetan Medicine the means of identification/recognition is different
to that used by Western Science.
Your findings suggest that Gymnadenia orchidis may well have been over-looked in other areas.
The figures you quote of estimated harvested are ENORMOUS and raise CONSIDERABLE concerns.  Could you say whether this weight is FRESH or DRIED weight of tubers?  And do you know an c. mean weight of a tuber collected?  From which an estimate of actual numbers of plants removed could be arrived at.  Often weights only are given.  1kg of flowers or leaves is very different to 1kg of roots.
It certainly seems (at least for Himachal Pradesh) there are legitimate grounds for GRAVE concerns- the situation may not be anywhere near as
extreme for Ladakh or Kashmir (where access/movement has been an issue for decades due to being disputed territory with Pakistan).
Would you say that those currently undertaking collection in HP are doing so in a RESPONSIBLE way?  Those undertaking ILLEGAL collection are likely to REMOVE every available tuber they come across…..
Assuming your estimate of annual removal of tubers is accurate this sounds like it would NOT be sustainable no matter how good the natural regeneration of these orchids is.
Yes, the habitat you describe is dwindling in H.P.   I recollect observing such habitat part of the way up the Rohtang during botanical tours I led to Lahoul in 1985/1986 but it is long gone.  A few years back I undertook a short trek from above Nagar to a pass where an uncommon (for the area) Primula had been seen by Koelz in the 1930s.  The area was heavily over-grazed and seemed ‘drier’ than in the past.
From your evidence it is fully justify to classify Dactylorhiza hatagirea as of Conservation Concern in H.P. (indeed Grave Concern) but that does not automatically mean this applies in Kashmir or Ladakh or within Pakistan territory. Too often, I see a classification of ‘Rare’ or even ‘Critically Endanagered’ (which is a VERY serious status) which may or may not be accurate in one area/district EXTRAPOLATED to cover the WHOLE of its distribution. Such is not CORRECT.
Given that both Datlylorhiza and Gymnadenia seem to be collected as ‘dbang lag’ – I have a copy of ‘Clear Mirror of Paintings of Tibetan Medical Plants’ produced by Men-Tsee-Khang which has a painting of Dbang-lag which CLEARLY is NOT of Dactylorhiza but Gymnadenia, then should not BOTH species be included within the classification of ‘Conservation Concern’?
In Ladakh, IF we are correct that Gymnadenia is not found there (nor most other orchids) then Dactylorhiza hatagirea sensu lato (by which I include D.kafiriana) ONLY will be the plant collected as dbang-lag.
It would not be appropriate for me to quote actual figures of average consumption at the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Thimphu, Bhutan (this covers only part of that country) in the early 1990s (I worked as a consultant for The Royal Government of Bhutan for a short period) but for ‘dbang lag’ (bearing in mind whether the figures for HP and Bhutan refer to dried weight or not which may be a tenth or so) the amount currently being consumed in H.P. may well be 1000x…..
I know little about the actual formulations of Bhutanese or Tibetan Medicine as a whole or how often orchid tubers are used nor their usage in
Ayuvedic Medicine – which presumably is the main consumer of these vast quantities in India?
As for cultivation. I have never grown orchids (terrestrial or epiphytic) myself and have limited first-hand experience but expertise does exist in the West and I am in a position to offer some useful advice. Large showy Dactylorhiza are cultivated.  I am not aware if D.hatagirea has been grown much.   Although it quite attractive, it is relatively small and not especially showy compared to other species of the genus and the varieties most widely grown. Orchids often present a special challenge cultivation-wise.  When in Bhutan I was asked to recommend species for cultivation (and how that might be done).  It made sense, since there was NO tradition of cultivating plants used as medicines, to initially select ones which stood the MAXIMUM chance of being successfully grown.  Dactylorhiza hatagirea would have very much have been near the BOTTOM rather than at the TOP of a list of species recommended for cultivation.
Given that I am familiar with the typical nursery and presumably plantation techniques employed in India, it comes as no great surprise to hear little success has been achieved.
I am happy to offer some general pointers but consider IF the authorities in India  are serious about ex-situ conservation as well as nursery production of Himalayan plant species utilised in traditional medicine, they should engage my services as a consultant to visit the Himalaya and Himalayan foothills to provide DETAILED advice and plans/programmes.
In the mean-time, could you outline what methods have been tried to-date (and where including elevation). Accompanying photos would be most helpful.  It may or may not be appropriate that some of this information is supplied to me privately rather than to the whole group.
I will be interested in viewing these images.

I recollect seeing on a leaflet produced for a Tibetan Organisation in Ladakh which had a picture of a ‘field’ of Dactyloriza being cultivated.  Presumably these had also been dug-up from the wild.  I also visited the ‘garden’ of another organisation near Leh which was really struggling due to lack of water – in fact I spotted more species growing in waste ground outside the garden than inside…

Nice photos which clearly differentiate between the two orchids.
I would welcome viewing the images of the orchids.
Having spent quite a bit of time examining pressed specimens in herbaria and Himalayan plants at the fruiting stage in the wild, think I may well soon be able to differentiate between them at the non-flowering stage.

Being able to have good close-up images to compare, which digital cameras permit, also has the potential to transform things.

I shall let our orchid specialist formally confirm the IDs of these two orchids.

Thanks for your clarification of important points.
I think it is worth mentioning that Indian deserves greater recognition and credit for taking in large numbers of refugees from Tibet and being prepared to host H.H. The Dalai Lama at Dharamsala. The latter does not make them popular with a certain powerful neighbour.
CLEARLY, Dactylorhiza was NOT ‘Critically Endangered’ in 1986. I think it is important to spell out what this actually means i.e. in imminent danger of becoming EXTINCT.
THIRTY years later it is NOT Extinct, no matter what state populations are in the wild – and this INEVITABLY varies from district to district and region to region.
I can well believe that the species is NOT as common as it was decades ago.  IF typical habitat of any species is reduced then it will come as no surprise that population size has reduced – regardless of whether a species is collected or not for any use!
But Scientists MUST NOT get caught up with ‘tabloid-style’ sensationalist claims/head-lines – there MUST be actual evidence.
I am sure ADULTERATION has been an issue for NUMEROUS medicinal species for centuries, if not millennia.  The Romans brought with them plants of various sorts.   The Moghuls introduced various plants into Kashmir.
Plants will ALWAYS have been MISIDENTIFIED thus leading to UNINTENTIONAL adulteration and SOME medicinal species have ALWAYS been DELIBERATELY adulterated – just as happens with drug supplies in the West.   Coventry in his Series on WILD FLOWERS OF KASHMIR talks of medicinal species being adulterated and this was almost a century ago.  SMUGGLING has always taken place.
Certain plants were smuggled into Lahaul from Kashmir and are grown there now – just as, I understand, Moravian Missionaries first introduced potatoes, now a major crop.  And much as the potato is associated with Britain it was ‘taken’ from the Andes.   The Spanish spread many plants around the world (as did the Portugese though probably to a lesser extent).   Many plants grown in Indian cities originate from Central or
South America and Africa.  In terms of ornamental plants, the world over, people seem more interested in cultivated plants from other parts of the world.
I recollect when briefly at the Institute of Traditional Medicine in Thimphu, Bhutan in the 1990s that there was an issue about low-altitude plant material imported from India for use in formulations in Bhutanese Medicine (pretty much all the high-altitude plants were collected within Bhutan).  Some of the items supplied were clearly not the genuine article.   Though nothing new about this.
Doctors of Traditional Medicine in Bhutan are (or at least were) not paid as such, so it came as a shock to Bhutanese when people starting coming over the borders into Bhutan to collect Cordyceps – this happened when the price rose significantly.
Being ‘tricked’ is nothing knew all over the world.  I briefly took an interest in Pashmina and it soon became apparent that almost NONE of the supposedly 100% Pashmina sold in Kathmandu is genuine – almost all is synthetic….
At the height of the ‘Pashmina’ fashion peak, I KNOW that the top designers, who charged considerable sums for their clothes were frequently sold FAKE ‘pashmina’….   They could not tell the difference.
India tourists on Rohtang shoud be aware of India sellers of supposed Saffron – which at times is just strips of paper which has been died or ‘Musk’ which is assorted hair and glue boiled up.

The ART and ANTIQUES trade has plenty of ‘fakes’.   Few people can tell the genuine articles, whether plant or animal products or otherwise.   HIGH price is no guarantee that something is genuine.

Find attached four more photographs of Dactylorhiza hatageria and Gymnadenia orchidis showing (a) common habitat; (b) freshly dug tubers of Dactylorhiza hatageria; (c) freshly dug tubers of Gymnadenia orchidis; and (d) comparative image of tubers of both these species.
The estimated consumption of Dactylorhiza tubers I have shared with you in my previous mail is based on dry weight only. I don’t have dried samples of tubers of either of these species here with me. However, I’ll get the average weight of dried tubers soon.

Attachments (4)

Kindly see the trailing mail containing details of the photographs. I am resending slightly compressed photographs as the high resolution images did not get uploaded.

Do you mean that the tubers of the two species can be differentiated morphologically?

Interesting.  Thanks for sending these images.
Let me start with the common habitat – certainly rich and varied. I seem to be able to make out Anemone obtusiloba, Geum elatum (maybe), Potentilla atrosanguinea (probably), Iris (could probably work out which species) and could, also, probably decide upon some other plants there.
The average dry weight of the ‘tubers’ would be of interest, allowing an estimate of the numbers of individual plants dug up.
So your estimate was dry weight meaning that the harvested weight of orchids would have by say 10x as much.  Wow.
Certainly would be useful to the authorities if one can READILY separate the FRESH (and partially dried) tubers and even the dried tubers on morphological characteristics.
On the basis of your images, I would say, looking at the tubers that the orchid which had been dug-up between Khelanmarg & Gulmarg, images of which I posted recently, was Dactylorhiza hatagirea sensu lato rather than the Gymnadenia.
I will look at the immature fruits and surrounding parts and see, now I have some reference images of G. orchidis to check, which of the two species they seem to fit best.  HOPEFULLY this will agree.  But I am quite prepared to say if I think it does not or I cannot decide.
I have a copy of ‘Clear Mirror of Paintings of Tibetan Medicinal Plants’ by Dawa which includes dbang-lag – this, on the basis of its flowers and now your images of tubers fits with G.orchidis.  It had been named as G. sp.
According to an early medieval text 2 forms of dbang-lag are known – SUPERIOR and INFERIOR (such a separation occurs for many Tibetan plants).  According to this the tubers with 5 fingers are SUPERIOR – those with less than 5, INFERIOR.  My INITIAL thinking is that it may be that GYMNADENIA ORCHIDIS tubers represent the ‘superior’ type.
Assuming the distinction is VALID, then in Ladakh, where ONLY the Dactylorhiza is found, only the INFERIOR form is available.  In Tibetan Medicine I regularly come across references to it being known that the SUPERIOR forms come from particular parts of the Himalaya and not others.
IF e.g. you are an amchi in Ladakh and cannot assess raw material from E.Himalaya which has SOME of the SUPERIOR forms of plants used in Tibetan Medicine, then you must MAKE DO with what you can obtain.
I know little about Ayuvedic Medicine – do such distinctions occur?
Another aspect which I am especially curious about is the ALTITUDE a plant is gathered at for medicinal purposes. GENERALLY-SPEAKING, in Tibetan Medicine, the HIGHER the ELEVATION material is collected from, the more ‘potent’/ ‘better quality’ it is considered to be.   Indeed the original medieval texts can dictate that material can ONLY be gathered towards the upper altitudinal limit – in some cases.

Thanks to … for his insightful comments. The issue of ‘better’ or ‘inferior’ quality tubers would perhaps need more study. Dactylorhiza tubers with five fingers are also quite common. I’ll try to make another trip to the typical habitat of the species to get more info this year. Other members including …, who are actively exploring western-Himalayan flora may take up this issue as a challenge and come together to resolve this by the end of this year.

ORCHIDACEAE Fortnight: Dactylorhiza hatagirea from Uttarakhand DSR_33 : Attachments (1). 2 posts by 2 authors.
Dactylorhiza hatagirea is a common alpine ground orchid reaching up to an altitude of 4200m in Uttarakhand. Hand shaped tubers are medicinal and it is much exploited from nature.
Shot in fruiting stage in Valley of Flowers.

Not so easy to confirm in this condition, it can be Gymnadenia too.

Yes I would say Dactylorhiza hatagirea



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