His passion for orchids spans a lifetime

His passion for orchids spans a lifetime


Orchids are one of most diversely occurring plants in nature. A common reason cited for this profusion is that newer hybrids of these delicate and beautiful flowering plants keep appearing due to cross-pollination. The Western Ghats with a vast amount of moisture and salubrious climate is said to offer the most ideal climate for the growth of these plants. The Western Ghats range in Karnataka alone has nearly 300 species of orchids. No wonder this region has produced one of the custodians of orchid diversity.

Sadananda Hegde, a biotechnologist hailing from Sirsi in Karnataka, has taken upon himself the task of propagating orchids. He now lives in Bengaluru and maintains an orchid garden around his house which has around 300 plants of nearly 50 varieties. A passionate lover of orchids, he has been a one-point reference to anything that could be happening in the field of growth, conservation and promotion of these incredibly diverse plants.

A former director of Forest Research Institute in Arunachal Pradesh, he is currently serving as the president of The Orchid Society of Karnataka (TOSKAR).

Amazing diversity

Sadananda has worked on orchids for over 50 years and has founded many scientific units that are researching, propagating and preserving these plants. According to him, the secret of this diversity lies in its amazing ability to adapt to a given environment. Orchids can grow on a well-lighted window sill, inside a spliced bamboo pot, in coco peat, over stones that have some moss, on tree branches with wet bark, in perlite base or moist air.

The substratum for ideal growth is the one from where water drains off quickly leaving the surface moist. In fact, they can survive better in a water-starved atmosphere than in a watered base. Interestingly these plants are light-hungry and covet longer tropical days found along the equator.

About 60% of the native varieties of orchids grow on trees while another 36% are terrestrial varieties that grow in soil. All orchids are protected plants under schedule VI of the Wildlife Protection Act and the trade is regulated under the Wildlife Conservation Act.

Sadananda secured his doctorate from Karnatak University, Dharwad, and set up the first orchidarium in the state under the Botany Department of the university. Unfortunately, it did not survive due to the shifting of the department. While his native state is yet to have a full-fledged orchidarium, Sadananda was instrumental in setting up orchidariums in Yercaud in Salem district of Tamil Nadu and in Tipi in the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. 

Back in Karnataka after retirement, Sadananda has been pursuing his passion by bringing together orchid growers. He founded TOSKAR in 2011 and the society has been organising orchid exhibitions in Bengaluru’s Lal Bagh thereafter. The show attracts between 30 to 40 enthusiasts who display over 700 varieties. For the last five years, the orchid society has been publishing a quarterly online newsletter called TOSKAR Newsletter. That apart, TOSKAR has been holding training and demo sessions once every two months. Currently, TOSKAR has 650 life members and around 3,000 general members. The members regularly participate in flower shows in Lal Bagh and once even participated in a flower show in Chandigarh. 

Nageshwar M, a member of TOSKAR, grows nearly 2,000 orchid plants in the garden around his house. He maintains a vertical garden of orchids as the ground space is very limited. “Sadananda has guided several generations of orchid-growers. He has in-depth knowledge of germination of each variety of orchid,” he says. 

Sriram Kumar, who maintains a small orchid garden, appreciates the support offered by Sadananda. He says, “Sadananda has been providing insights into the growing of orchids and he is very well aware of the challenges orchids and the growers face.”

Hegde strongly feels that the creation of an orchidarium in the State would give a boost to the production of flowers that have a high potential for export. Several of them have medicinal properties too. The demand for varieties like Dendrobium and Phalaenopsis is doubling every year in Bengaluru and they are now imported. This offers an opportunity for orchid enthusiasts to earn an income while pursuing their passion. Sadananda Hegde can be contacted at sadanandahegde@gmail.com or 81238-74120.