Journey of ‘a village boy’ to Director of BSI

Dr. Ashiho Asosü Mao, the first Director of Botanical Survey of India from the North East India.

Dr. Ashiho Asosü Mao, the first Director of Botanical Survey of India from the North East India.

Morung Express Feature
Dimapur | April 2

Dr. Ashiho Asosü Mao, the first Director of Botanical Survey of India (BSI) from the North East India and the first ever among the ST/SC/OBC category to hold the prestigious position in the history of BSI since its establishment in 1890, describes himself  as “a village boy.” 

Dr. Mao hails from Makhel village in Tahamzam (Senapati district). He took office in March and will continue till May 2025. 

Dr. Mao revealed that he has always been fascinated by plants and considers himself close to nature. 

“As a child, playing in the jungle, searching and savoring wild fruits was the best time.”   

Speaking to The Morung Express, the BSI Director said, “It is this affinity with nature that led me to study plants” and become a botanist. 

Born to cultivator parents, Dr. Mao admitted that his parents played no role in shaping his career but he did not face any opposition to pursue his dream. 

“They supported me by believing in me, that I would make the best decision,” Dr. Mao noted.

As the Director of the BSI, he is the advisor to the Government of India in plant resources of the country, a member of National Biodiversity Authority (NBA). 

He joined the Botanical Survey of India in 1990 as Scientist- B. He obtained his PhD specializing in plant tissue culture and allied techniques from the University of Reading (UK) in 1996. 

His research primarily focuses on micropropagation of rare and threatened plants, Orchids, Rhododendrons, Medicinal plants, ethnobotany & floristic study especially of North East India.

He has published extensively and has seven books and 145 journal articles. His books include Flora of Dzuko Valley, Rhododendrons of North-east India (a Pictorial Handbook), Flora of Nagaland Checklist and orchids of Manipur (a pictorial handbook), etc. At the moment, he and his team are working on a book, Flora of Nagaland. 

He has directed and produced four educational documentary films on plants. 

Talking about his journey from Makhel village to becoming the Director of BSI, Dr. Mao said it has not been easy but not impossible. “There is no dearth of opportunities for those who are committed and determined,” he asserted.

Dr. Mao was a recipient of the Indian Overseas Scholarship with which he pursued his PhD. He also received the Schlich Prize for Best Research Paper in Forestry (2009) from the Indian Forrester, Dr. SK Jain Award (2012) from Association of Plant Taxonomy, SP Vij Award (2018) by Orchid Society of India. 

All said and done, he said he is happiest in the company of plants. Dr. Ashiho Asosü Mao has climbed almost every hill and mountain in North East India and discovered, along with his team, as many as 15 plant species.