Nuristan Marsh Orchid
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Nuristan Marsh Orchid
P Native Photo: Thingnam Girija
Common name: Nuristan Marsh Orchid
Botanical name: Dactylorhiza kafiriana    Family: Orchidaceae (Orchid family)

Nuristan Marsh Orchid is a terrestrial orchid, 20-50 cm tall. We found it in Ladakh in 2012, after a gap of 50 years since it was first found in India in Kashmir by Renz in 1961. It is named after an area Nuristan (formerly Kafiristan) in Afghanistan which is considered its type locality. Leaves are 3-6, almost parallel to the stem, unspotted, lanceshaped to broadly lanceshaped, generally 6-15 cm long, and up to 5 cm broad. Flowers are borne in broadly cylindric, rather short, 5-10 cm, densely many-flowered clusters. Bracts are lanceshaped, the lower exceeding the flowers. Flowers are purplish-lilac or rose, rarely white; dorsal sepal erect spreading, ovate-oblong to lanceshaped; lateral sepals somewhat reflexed, slightly longer than the dorsal. Petals are slightly shorter; tip of dorsal sepal and petals are hooded; lip obovate or rhomboidal, papillose and have clear darker purple markings. Lip is entire or faintly 3-lobed, mid-lobe somewhat elongated. Spur is cylindric, pointed, often slightly curved. Nuristan Marsh Orchid grows in alpine marshy meadows and along stream banks, between 2700-4500 m. It found in India from Kashmir to Ladakh and Lahaul, in Pakistan in Chitral, Hunza and Gangangir-Sind valley, and in Afghanistan. Flowering: June-July.
Medicinal uses: In Tibetan medicine, Amchi, the tubers of the plant are collected as an aphrodisiac and for use in the treatment of various aliments.

Identification credit: Tabish Photographed in Nubra Valley, Ladakh & Lahaul Valley, Himachal Pradesh.

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