Where the orchids bloom

Kaiga, located in the coastal district of Uttara Kannada is a small town that is home to NPCIL’s Kaiga Nuclear Power plant’s 1-4 unit named Kaiga Generating Station (KGS). The lush-green forest here is enough to mesmerise any visitor.

An orchid in all its glory at Kaiga. (Photo by the author)

The region is particularly known for its rich variety of orchids. Looking up at the termilania sp. tree, this writer spotted a  cluster of gorgeous pink flowers called foxtail orchids. Every species of termilania chibula, termilania belleric, termilania cattappa, and the crocodile bark tree had blooming foxtail orchids.

The foxtail orchid (rhynchostylis retusa) grows in moist forested areas like Kaiga in the Western Ghats, the Northeast and the Himalayas, and blooms during the monsoon. This writer has observed several of them in the Kaiga township and its surroundings. The foxtail orchid plant has clusters of up to a hundred flowers, which can be white or pink. Its inflorescence looks like the bushy tail of the fox, hence its common name. In dense tropical evergreen forests like the Kaiga, often sunlight does not penetrate the canopy of the forest. Hence plants like the orchids grow high up on trees. There are, of course, ground orchids which do not grow on trees, but in open spaces. Locally called sithale, orchids are also said to have curative properties. They are used for treating ear pain by locals. In Kaiga, the rainy season, between June and September, is just the time for many orchids to flower.

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