It is a well known fact that plants having medicinal properties is both boon and bane for the Park’s floral biodiversity. The boon comes in the form of abundance and diversity of beautiful flowers in different hues, especially during the rainy season, when the alpine meadows are lush green. The bane is that many of the herbs and shrubs of the forests and meadows are much prized for their medicinal properties. In the past, they were collected in small quantities for local use and have always been a source of traditional health care practice. Now modern pharmacology with better communications and the demand for natural medicines have made the collection of medicinal plants a lucrative trade.
Panja is Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza hatagirea is a species of orchid generally found growing in the Himalayas, from Pakistan to SE Tibet, at altitudes of 2,800–4,000 metres (9,200–13,100 ft). It is locally called 'Salam Panja' or 'Hatta Haddi'. It is called 'Panchaule' (पाँचऔंले) in Nepali and Himalayan regions. The name 'Panchaule' (meaning 5 fingered hand) arises from its root resembling fingers of hand with around 3-5 fingers of Orchidaceae family. It is an erect perennial herb with long flowering stems. The plant is well known for its medicinal value. The root has sweet taste. The Juice extracted from tuber is used as tonic and also used for the treatment of pyorrhea (inflammation of the gum & teeth). Root paste is externally applied as poultice on cuts and wounds and extract is given in intestinal disorders. The term Hatta Haddi is probably coined because it is used for treating bone fractures. As it is highly traded in the name of 'Panchaule' or 'Salampanja' and found in wild, is being unscientifically collected for its commercial importance. Dactylorhiza hatagirea is native of the Himalaya. It is found throughout from west to east at temperate to subalpine biocliates within 2800 – 4000 m altitude. Flowers spotted rosy-purple in a terminal spike, borne on a robust leafy stem. It has palmately lobed root tubers, grows well in moist places, open areas, shrub land and open meadows.
Dactylorhiza hatagirea is endemic to the Hindu- Kush Himalaya. It is categorized as endangered in conservation list, and strictly banned for collection, utilization and sale. It costs around NRs. 10,000-15,000 per kilo as exisiting in local market.
However there is no way it can be stopped collecting though there are strict restrictions put forth by forest department.Extensive collection for commercial purpose may result in extinction of the species in future.
Text by : R. Vishwanath
Photos by : Srinivas Achar Who was member during our Borasu Pass Trek September 2016