Threatened Myanmar orchids conserved in the Seed Vault

Seeds from the orchid Paphiopedilum charlesworthii, endemic to Shan State in Myanmar and neighbouring regions in Thailand and China are secured in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Photo: Max Hansson

The first deposit of 230 orchid seed samples took place in February 2017. A second batch consisting of seeds from 225 more species are underway and will be brought into the Vault in August.


Actions are strongly needed to prevent loss of unique diversity of Myanmar orchids. Comprehensive deforestation and illegal logging has been observed in large parts of the Myanmar rainforest, where a large number of orchid species have their habitats. The project team has travelled all over Myanmar searching for orchid species, and found large areas of previous forest destroyed with no forest left, and hence, no orchids.

Rain forests and orchids under threat

Orchid seeds are packed and made ready for the shipment to Svalbard in the nursery at Forestry Department Research Institute. Leader of the division Daw Than Than Oo in the middle together with assistants Daw Aye Nyein Thu on her left side and Daw Myint Myint Aye to the right. Photo: Max Hansson

In addition to reduced habitats for orchid plants, illegal trade of endemic endangered orchids for the medicine industry is another serious threat to the plants, change of weather patterns resulting in less flowering and less pollination of orchid plants is a third.


After collection of plant material in the rain forest, seeds of the more than 400 orchid species have been produced at nurseries in Forestry Department Research Institute in the capital Nay Pyi Taw and in nurseries at Inn Hteik Oo Village and in Yangon. Seeds are now conserved at their primary gene bank at Forestry Department’s Training Centre in Yangon. The first 230 species are already secured in the Seed Vault.

Owned by the Ministry

Harvesting of endangered orchids for sale at local markets is one of the threats that these plant species face.This lady at a local market in the mountain region North East of Taunggyi is offering plants of many species; Coelogyne, Dendrobium, Bulbophyllum etc. The orchid with flowers is of the species Vanda coerulea. Photo: Max Hansson

The formal owner of the genetic material and responsible depositor is the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation of Myanmar, who has established a primary gene bank collection for orchids in Yangon. The Norwegian based organisation Worldview International Foundation was the executive partner in the project in cooperation with Myanmar scientists and authorities. Collection of seeds in the field and production of seeds in Myanmar has been assisted by the Swedish orchid specialist Max Hansson at Karlstad University.

The orchid seeds in the Seed Vault, as other seed deposits, are the property of the Government of Myanmar and the Standard Depositor Agreement has been signed by authorities in Myanmar and Norway according to normal procedure.

Temporarily stored at NordGen

The second batch is temporary stored in the NordGen gene bank and will be deposited in the Seed Vault in August bringing the total number of orchid seed samples to more than 400 which was the initial aim of the project from the start.

The idea of conserving seeds from threatened orchids from Myanmar in Svalbard Global Seed Vault was launched when the Royal couple from Norway visited Myanmar in 2014. A Norwegian funded project was implemented for collecting seeds and for the establishment of a primary gene bank for the endangered species in Myanmar.