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Dokmai Garden celebrates 1000 species!

May 2, 2011

Dear friends,

Against all odds: the Lao dam project has been postponed! I play Shania Twain and sip a crispy dry Sauvignon Blanc, contemplating the surprising fact that right now there are many good forces in action. Marty Bergoffen’s good news is not my sole reason for celebration. This morning (1st of May) at 05.50 Ketsanee and I began a tour in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Twelve hours, five police controls and 650 km later we returned to Dokmai Garden with a pick-up PACKED with native orchids and books which generous people donated to the Orchid Ark. The concern, help and encouragement people show truly inspire us to develop the Orchid Ark. We kept carrying and unpacking precious gems from the original creation until after dark, and at this late hour I have no idea how many new species we have obtained. The coming week will be very busy, listing and mounting all the new orchid species. Just for fun I listed a couple of species tonight so that Dokmai Garden’s plant collection reached the magic 1000 species and varieties of vascular plants! It took us five years and four months to reach that point, which is not the end. Another positive piece of news was that the Dokmai Dogma blog passed 4000 monthly clicks for the first time (April).

To make space for the orchids in the nursery, and to avoid seemingly conflicting activities (sales versus conservation), we have decided to shut down the plant sales. This means that our VIP card holders who have seriously supported Dokmai Garden, can buy the remaining plants (no orchids) for 50% of the price. This offer will last until May 7, after which we plant surplus plants in the forest (if native) or in our own garden.

Luisia zollingeri (Orchidaceae), here guarded by a little Dokmai Garden troll of the Salticidae family (jumping spiders). This orchid is also found in Vietnam, Malaysia, Java and Sumatra, all much wetter areas than here in northern Thailand. The flowers are not broader than 5-7 mm and they are formed in clusters. Once widespread in Thailand in wet yet sunny areas, this orchid is now much reduced due to logging. You can help it survive by supporting the Orchid Ark.

The epiphytic Thai orchid Eria tomentosa, here budding, became species number 1000. When Dokmai Garden opened to the public in 2009 we had 650 species on display. This specimen is one of the orchids we received today. It is gigantic and old, exactly what the Orchid Ark needs to get started!

Text and Photo: Eric Danell

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2011 1:48 PM

    Did the police ask you about the orchids?

    The best news I have heard, from Chris Carpenter, is that the Siam Commercial Bank has withdrawn its funding from the Xayaboury dam in Laos. Without funding the project is a dead duck.

    • May 2, 2011 7:14 PM

      Dear Ricky,

      The police did not ask about the orchids. However, coming from gardens most orchid specimens were already well established in baskets with strings, some were even labeled, so the police knew they did not come straight from the forest. Accepting a donation of orchids growing in a garden is of course legal.

      Yes, I agree that Siam Commercial Bank played a very important role in the dam project. They made a clever and careful analysis of how to maintain a good name and how to give their share holders a better profit than participating in the dubious dam project.

      Cheers, Eric

  2. May 4, 2011 3:08 AM

    The Orchid Ark is an interesting idea but I think that you will find that only a limited range of species will thrive at the gardens – many of the orchids have a specific altitude at which they will grow and thrive. Species that are natural to higher altitudes will slowly regress and ultimately die. You can see this to a degree at the OSBG where many of the higher altitude species look very poor. These species become weakened and are then susceptible to a range of pests and diseases and will act as a source of infection for the other orchids present.
    Would it not be more productive to contemplate a lowland orchid species collection with the possibility of holding a highland collection at another location?

    • May 4, 2011 8:58 AM

      Dear Peter,

      Absolutely, your comment is correct. As Eric wrote in yesterday’s comment ‘Last Days of the Orchids’ Nantiya suggests one orchid Ark for each Thai region, and yes, there should be a high elevation Orchid Ark too. The reason this did not happen in say 1963 or 1975 or 1988 or 1992 or 2005 is that there is a lack of money, time and devoted people. Meanwhile, illegal logging and illegal orchid trade is a daily and popular phenomenon with a lot of support.

      At Dokmai Garden we do what we can with extremely limited resources, 100% private, hoping we stimulate other people to join the struggle. The number of orchid species below the pine belt here in northern Thailand, Laos and Burma should still be several hundred species, more than in all of Europe, and I am sure this fraction will keep us busy. You are most welcome to join efforts, we need every single hand and every single coin!

      Eric Danell & Ketsanee Seehamongkol

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