As people rushed to hunt anoectochilus setaceus in the forest, threatening its survival, a farmer in Dak Nong province was able to successfully grow the orchid species in his garden, the English language news website VietNamNet Bridge reported on July 30.

The wooden house of Le Minh Hoang and Le Thi Sang in Dak Som commune of Dak Nong province has been used as a family laboratory. There are many experimental tools and orchid vases with notes about plant growing.

Twenty years ago, Hoang was an orchid trader. He saw people going to the forest to look for anoectochilus setaceus to sell for 20,000 VND per kilo of fresh orchid and he decided to act as intermediary collecting orchids to resell to merchants.

His business was prosperous as the demand for the orchid plant was very high. Anoectochilus setaceus is a precious medicinal herb which can help treat many diseases.

However, the good days did not last forever. Anoectochilus setaceus has been exhausted as a result of overexploitation.

No one can exploit anoectochilus setaceus more to sell to Hoang now, even though the price has escalated to 1.5 million VND per kilo.

Hoang decided to grow anoectochilus setaceus himself, though he still had doubts if the orchids could help treat diseases.

But he was later convinced about the medicinal features of the orchid species. “I boiled the orchid leaves in water or soaked them in liquor. Once I was too tired after working hard in the rice field and my legs were flagging, I drank the orchid leaf broth and I had a full recovery immediately,” he said.

However, the first step was the hardest. The saplings he grafted all died. Then Hoang tried to grow the orchid plants in different environmental conditions.

“We tried every method we thought would help the plants grow and we tried different kinds of fertilization,” Hoang said. “We realized that anoectochilus setaceus can only grow in conditions similar to the natural environment.”

After coming to an important conclusion, Hoang and his wife started to improve the soil in the garden and grow orchids.

To date, they have successfully grown 250,000 vases of anoectochilus setaceus in their garden, covering an area of 2,000 square metres. It is estimated that the orchid garden is worth several billions of dong.

“My wife and I are both 65 years old, but we are still strong and can work in rice fields every day. This is because we usually drink anoectochilus setaceus extract and eat anoectochilus setaceus leaves as food,” he said.

“I wish to see the precious herb grown on a large scale in Vietnam, so that more and more patients can be treated,” he added.

Bui Dinh Thanh from the Ho Chi Minh City Tropical Biology Institute confirmed that anoectochilus setaceus has valuable active ingredients which can be used to make medicine.

Thanh said growing and preserving the plants is a goal of scientists. “We have contacted Hoang and asked him to discuss a project on developing herb growing areas to serve domestic and international demand,” Thanh said.-VNA