Himalayan flora

 

 

Rolwaling 2004
During the peak of the monsoon, this oak forest in the Rolwaling Valley, central Nepal, is incredibly lush, the great trees heavily laden with epiphytes such as mosses, ferns, and Begonia flowers. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Annapurna 2007
Contrasting sharply with the lushness in the picture above, this saxifrage, Saxifraga andersonii, grows on a barren rock in a high-altitude, alpine landscape around Annapurna Base Camp, central Nepal. As a means of protection against cold and evaporation, this plant forms compact cushions up to 10 cm across. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Rich vegetation on the Kongmaru La Pass (5274 m), Markha Valley, Ladakh, with green cushions of Thylacospermum caespitosum, the yellow-flowered Biebersteinia odora, a blue larkspur, Delphinium brunonianum, and an aster (Aster). In the background leaves of a rhubarb (Rheum). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Rocky landscape near the Bara Lacha La Pass (c. 3900 m), Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh, showing red and yellow autumn foliage of two species of pinkweed, Polygonum affine (red) and P. tortuosum (yellow). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Note. This page has not been completed and is continuously being updated.

 

 

 

The word Himalaya is from the Sanskrit hima (‘snow’) and alaya (‘abode’), thus ‘The Abode of Snow’. The Himalaya consists of a long arch of gigantic mountains, stretching from northern Pakistan southeast to the northern tip of Myanmar – a distance of more than 2,500 km. In these mountains are the Earth’s largest concentration of very high peaks, fourteen of which reach an altitude of more than 8,000 m, whereas hundreds are more than 7,000 m high. (For comparison, the highest mountain outside Central Asia, Aconcagua in Argentina, is a mere 6,962 m.)

The borders of the Himalaya are not well defined. To the northwest, the Karakoram Mountains (which some authorities consider a part of the Himalaya, others do not) merge into the Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains. To the north and northeast, several mountain chains in Ladakh, Tibet, and China are a continuation of the Himalaya proper.

As a result of the great span in altitude and precipitation – besides various other factors such as micro-climate and soil composition – flora and fauna of the Himalaya are indeed diverse. In these mountains, two bio-geographical regions meet. In most areas, flora and fauna from the Indo-Malayan Region, which includes the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, dominate, but in northern Pakistan, Kashmir, Ladakh, and in areas of far northern Nepal and Bhutan at altitudes above c. 3,500 m, there is a large element of species from the Palaearctic Region, which includes Central and West Asia.

The Himalaya is home to an overwhelming abundance of plant species. In Nepal alone, c. 6,500 species of seed plants have been found, and the number in the entire mountain range exceeds 10,000. To this number, add hundreds of species of ferns, clubmosses, mosses, and lichens.

When the monsoon has passed over the Himalaya from the south, almost all its humidity has already fallen as rain. Thus, the Tibetan Plateau north of the mountains receives very little rainfall. In many places, the annual mean precipitation is less than 100 mm, most of which falls as snow in the winter. For this reason, the major part of the landscape is dry and rather barren, with lush and green areas mainly found along rivers and around the numerous lakes of the region.

My encounters with the rich and varied plant life in a number of Himalayan locations are related on the page Plant hunting in the Himalaya.

On this page, the plants are arranged alphabetically according to family name, then genus name, and, finally, specific name. A glossary, showing the most frequently used ‘technical’ botanical terms, is found at the bottom of the page.

 

Acknowledgements
When describing the plants on this page, I have relied heavily on two excellent books, Flowers of the Himalaya (Oxford University Press, 1984), written by Oleg Polunin and Adam Stainton, and Flora Simlensis. A Handbook of the Flowering Plants of Simla and the Neighbourhood (Thacker, Spink & Co., 1921), written by Sir Henry Collett. The former book is still available on the market, but, unfortunately, only a limited number of species in it are illustrated in colour.

The websites Flora of China (efloras.org/flora_page.aspx?flora_id=2) and A Modern Herbal (botanical.com) have also been of great value.

The vast majority of the information on usage of plants has been borrowed from Narayan Manandhar’s delightful book Plants and People of Nepal (Timber Press, 2002). My sincerest thanks to Mr. Manandhar.

I am also indebted to my friend Ajai Saxena, who has provided about two dozen pictures on this page. Together, we have made several botanical trips in the Himalaya, sometimes accompanied by Ajai’s wife Madhu.

 

 

Having lunch together with Madhu and Ajai Saxena, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, June 2007. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Acanthaceae Acanthus family
This huge family, counting about 229 genera with c. 4,000 species of herbs, shrubs, climbers, or trees, is distributed in most parts of the world. In subtropical valleys of the Himalaya, members of this family are conspicuous, comprising about 30 genera.

A popular name of this family is bear’s breeches family. This strange name builds on a misunderstanding. A medieval Latin name of the plant, which Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, or Carl von Linné (1707-1778), later named Acanthus mollis, was Acanthus sativus branca ursina (‘cultivated spiny (plant with) bear bracts’), alluding to the curved bracts of the inflorescence, which, to those who named the plant, apparently resembled a bear’s claws. Over time, branca was corrupted to breech, leading to the name bear’s breeches.

 

Asystasia
This genus, comprising about 70 species, is widespread in the Tropics. It has a single member in the Himalaya.

 

Asystasia macrocarpa
A shrubby herb with showy, pinkish-white or pale purplish flowers, to 3 cm long, conspicuously netted with purple within. The elliptic leaves are to 15 cm long. This species is common at altitudes up to 2,100 m, distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to Bhutan.

The specific name, derived from the Greek makros (‘large’) and karpos (‘fruit’), refers to the fruit, a cylindrical capsule to 3.5 cm long.

 

Flower colour and size Pinkish-white or pale purplish, to 3 cm long.
Height to 1.5 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, waste areas.
Flowering Mar.-Apr.

 

 

Asystasia macrocarpa, Hille, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Barleria Bush-violet
A genus with about 300 species, found in tropical regions of Africa and Asia, with a single species in tropical America, yellow barleria (B. oenotheroides), which is illustrated on the page In praise of the colour yellow. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

The genus was named in honour of French botanist Jacques Barrelier (1606-1673).

 

Barleria cristata Philippine violet
This shrubby herb is widespread in tropical and subtropical areas of Asia. In the Himalaya, it is common up to 2,000 m altitude, from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar.

 

Flower colour and size Blue or pink, to 4 cm long.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Lahaul-Ladakh 2014
Blue-flowered form of Barleria cristata, photographed near Manikaran, Parvati River Valley, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Pink-flowered form of Barleria cristata, Garhwal, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Dicliptera Foldwing
A genus with about 100 species, found in tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions around the world. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is from the Greek diklis (‘folding doors’) and pteron (‘wing’), alluding to the winged capsule, which, at maturity, is opening into two symmetrical parts, exposing the seeds.

 

Dicliptera bupleuroides
This herb grows in shady places at altitudes between 500 and 2,000 m, from Afghanistan eastwards to Southeast Asia and south-western China. The flowers, which are pink with purple blotches inside, are arranged in small clusters in the leaf axils. The ovate leaves are to 7 cm long.

 

Flower colour and size Pink, to 2 cm long and across.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, along trails.
Flowering May-Dec.

 

 

Dicliptera bupleuroides, Ropa, Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Phlogacanthus
This genus, which is characterized by showy inflorescences, contains more than 40 species, distributed in Tropical Asia. 4 species have been encountered in the lower valleys of the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from the Greek floga (‘flame’) and anthos (‘flower’), referring to the colourful flowers of the genus.

 

Phlogacanthus thyrsiformis
This evergreen shrub, which is also known as P. thyrsiflorus, is very pretty in winter or early spring, when it displays numerous dense, cylindrical spikes, to 30 cm long, of brick-red or orange-red flowers, to 2.5 cm long, situated above a dense cluster of large leaves, to 25 cm long. It is found up to 1500 m elevation, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar.

The flowers are eaten as a vegetable, but the taste is quite bitter. Medicinally, the plant is used for cough, colds, and asthma.

 

Flower colour and size Brick-red or orange-red, to 2.5 cm long.
Height to 2.5 m.
Habitat Forests, banks.
Flowering Dec.-Mar.

 

 

Phlogacanthus thyrsiformis, near Fakot, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Strobilanthes
A genus with around 250 species worldwide, distributed in warmer parts of Asia and in Madagascar. About 25 species are found in the Himalaya, many of them very similar and difficult to identify.

The generic name is derived from the Greek strobilos (‘cone’) and anthos (‘flower’), thus ‘cone-shaped flower’, introduced in 1826 by German-Dutch botanist Karl Ludwig von Blume (1796-1862), alluding to the appearance of the young inflorescence of a Javanese species, Strobilanthes cernua.

 

Strobilanthes atropurpurea
This species, previously known as Strobilanthes wallichii or Pteracanthus alatus, may be identified by the rather short, inflated, strongly curved flowers, which are dark blue, pale blue, or sometimes a combination of white and blue, or white and purple. It is widespread in the Himalaya, from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar, between 1,500 and 3,600 m altitude.

This plant is especially common in coniferous forests, flowering at intervals of often several years. The obsolete specific name wallichii refers to Danish physician and botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), who studied the Indian and Himalayan flora in the early 1800s. 

 

Flower colour and size Dark blue, pale blue, or whitish-purple, to 3 cm long.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Jun.-Oct.

 

 

Lahaul-Ladakh 2014
Strobilanthes atropurpurea, Naggar, south of Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

White-and-purple-flowered form of Strobilanthes atropurpurea, Bireth Nallah, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Strobilanthes attenuata Nettle-leaved strobilanthes
A large, shrubby herb, to 1 m tall, with large, hairy, heart-shaped, long-pointed, serrated leaves, to 12 cm long and 7.5 cm wide, a conspicuous calyx with a small tube, deeply divided into unequal, linear lobes, to 12 mm long, and slightly curved flowers. It is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to central Nepal, at altitudes between 2,000 and 3,500 m.

Formerly, this plant was called Strobilanthes alatus or Pteracanthus urticifolius, the name urticifolius referring to the nettle-like leaves.

 

Flower colour and size Blue, or blue with a whitish throat, to 3.5 cm long.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, grasslands.
Flowering Jun.-Oct.

 

 

Nettle-leaved strobilanthes, Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Flowers of nettle-leaved strobilanthes, covered in raindrops from a recent shower, Shyabru, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Strobilanthes nutans
As opposed to other members of this genus, the white flowers of S. nutans are pendent, and their base is covered by conspicuous, white or brownish, overlapping bracts. Stem and flower stalks are densely hairy. This species is found in Nepal at medium altitudes.

It was first collected in 1821 by Danish physician and botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), who studied the Indian and Himalayan flora in the early 1800s. Formal publication had to await the third volume of Wallich’s Plantae Asiaticae Rariores, from 1832, where it was described as a new species under the name Goldfussia nutans by German botanist Christian Nees von Esenbeck (1776-1858), the then expert on the Acanthaceae. (Source: Curtis’s Botanical Magazine 2014, 31 (2): 168-179, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)

 

Flower colour and size White, to 3 cm long.
Height to 50 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Nepal 2009
Strobilanthes nutans, Kutumsang, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. A species of spikemoss (Selaginella) and unripe berries of Hemiphragma heterophyllum, of the plantain family (Plantaginaceae), are also seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Strobilanthes penstemonoides var. dalhousieana
This tall herb has rather long, slender flowers and large, ovate, long-pointed leaves, to 15 cm long, which are either sessile or tapering into a winged stalk. It is common at altitudes between 1,800 and 2,600 m, distributed in the major part of the Himalaya. The variety name was given in honour of Lady Dalhousie, wife of George Ramsay, the 9th Earl of Dalhousie, who was governor-general in India in the first half of the 1800s. Lady Dalhousie was an avid collector of plants.

 

Flower colour and size Dark blue, pale blue, or white-and-blue, to 4 cm long.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Strobilanthes penstemonoides var. dalhousieana, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Aceraceae, see Sapindaceae.

 

 

 

 

Adoxaceae Moschatel family
An almost worldwide family with 5 genera, containing c. 200 species of trees or shrubs, rarely herbs. 2 genera are found in the Himalaya, Sambucus and Viburnum.

In the past, these plants were placed in the family Sambucaceae, but were then transferred to the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae). However, recent genetic studies have caused them to be moved yet another time, to the moschatel family.

 

Sambucus Elder
The number of elder species is disputed, and there may be anywhere between 25 and 50. These trees, shrubs, or shrubby herbs are distributed in temperate and subtropical areas, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, with some members in parts of Australasia and South America. 4 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is from the Greek sambuca, the name of an ancient instrument of Asian origin. The soft pith was removed from the twigs to make flutes. The name elder is from Anglo-Saxon, aeld, meaning ’fire’ – the hollow stems were used to kindle a fire. The popular names pipe tree and bore tree stem from the habit of removing the pith of elder branches to produce pipes. The same procedure would make pop-guns, which were popular among small boys. English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) writes: ”It is needless to write any description of this [the elder], since every boy that plays with a pop-gun will not mistake another tree for the elder.”

Elders in folklore, and their usage in folk medicine, is described on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

 

Sambucus adnata
This herbaceous plant is usually gregarious, forming large clumps. The inflorescence is a flat-topped cluster, to 25 cm across, with countless, tiny, white flowers. The red berries are edible. It is found at altitudes between 1,500 and 3,700 m, from western Nepal eastwards to south-western China.

 

Flower colour and size White, to 4 mm across.
Height to 2 m.
Habitat Open areas.
Flowering May-Sep.

 

 

Flowering Sambucus adnata, Benkar, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Viburnum Viburnum
This huge genus, comprising 150-175 species of shrubs or small trees, is native to temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with a few species in montane areas of North Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. The generic name is the old Latin name of a European species, V. lantana.

8 species are found in temperate areas of the Himalaya, several of which display large clusters of scarlet berries in autumn. Berries of some species are edible.

 

Viburnum cotinifolium
This shrub may be identified by its thick, ovate or rounded leaves, to 12 cm long, with impressed veins above, giving the leaf a wrinkled appearance. Also, the leaves are white-woolly on the underside. Inflorescences are rather small, to 10 cm across. The fruits are initially red, later black. This species is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to Bhutan, at altitudes between 1,800 and 3,600 m.

 

Flower colour and size White or pink, to 8 mm across.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Apr.-May.

 

 

Flowering Viburnum cotinifolium, Bratang, Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Fruiting Viburnum cotinifolium, Ghyaru, Marsyangdi Valley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Viburnum erubescens
The commonest Himalayan viburnum. It is found from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-western China, growing between 1,500 and 3,000 m altitude.

 

Flower colour and size White, cream, or pink, to 5 mm long.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Open forests.
Flowering Apr.-May.

 

 

Nepal 2013
This flowering branch of Viburnum erubescens, full of rain drops, was photographed near Chitre, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

The fruits of Viburnum erubescens are ellipsoid, red, to 8 mm long. This picture shows unripe fruits with raindrops, Nuntala, Solu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Viburnum grandiflorum Large-flowered viburnum
This species is among the few high-altitude Himalayan trees, which bloom in winter and early spring. The flowers are very showy, pinkish-white, to 1.3 cm long. It is quite common in temperate forests of the western Himalaya. The total distribution area is from Pakistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, at altitudes between 2,700 and 3,700 m.

Trees in the western part of the Himalaya were formerly regarded as a separate species, V. foetida, but are now considered a form of V. grandiflorum.

A picture, depicting an inflorescence covered in ice, is shown on the page Nature: Snow and ice.

 

Flower colour and size Pinkish-white, to 1.3 cm long.
Height to 4 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Nov.-Jun.

 

 

Large-flowered viburnum, Dodi Tal, Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Viburnum mullaha
This plant, formerly called V. stellulatum, is quite common between 1,500 and 4,000 m altitude, growing at forest edges and in open areas, from Pakistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet. It is also found in Southeast Asia. The leaves are long-pointed, to 15 cm long, and the inflorescence is semi-globular, to 13 cm across. The scarlet, shining berries, to 8 mm long, are edible.

 

Flower colour and size White, to 4 mm across.
Height to 5 m.
Habitat Forests, open areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Flowering Viburnum mullaha, Pati Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 2009-2
These specimens of Viburnum mullaha display large clusters of red to scarlet, edible berries, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Viburnum nervosum
Like V. cotinifolium, the leaves of this small forest tree have impressed veins above, but they are larger, to 13 cm long, and long-pointed. The nerves are also conspicuous on the underside, giving rise to the specific name. This species is found at elevations between 2,600 and 3,500 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-western China.

 

Flower colour and size White or pinkish, to 6 mm long.
Height to 6 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Apr.-May.

 

 

Viburnum nervosum, Lukla, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Agavaceae (agave family), see Asparagaceae.

 

 

 

 

Alliaceae Onion family
An almost worldwide family, comprising 13 genera with c. 800 species of herbs. A single genus is found in the area.

 

Allium Onion
A huge genus of about 660 herbs, distributed mainly in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Asia, with some species in Africa as well as Central and South America. No less than 70 species are found in the Himalaya, the major part in dry Tibetan areas. The generic name is the old Latin name of garlic (A. sativum), which is described in detail on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

The inflorescence of these plants is very distinctive, consisting of a compact globular umbel on an unbranched stem. Initially, the umbel is enclosed in a papery spathe, which splits into lobes, when the stalked flowers unfold.

 

Allium carolinianum
A stout plant, to 50 cm tall, with rather broad, bluish-green, curved leaves and a dense umbel, to 3.5 cm across, of pink to reddish flowers. This species grows on dry, stony slopes, at altitudes between 3,000 and 5,100 m, from Pakistan to western Nepal, and also in Central Asia.

Fresh leaves are edible, and dried leaves are used as a flavouring agent. The plant also has medicinal value, as it is used to expel intestinal worms.

 

Flower colour and size Pink or reddish, to 9 mm long.
Height to 50 cm.
Habitat Stony slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Allium carolinianum is fairly common in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Allium oreoprasum
The 3-5 olive-green leaves of this plant are narrow and linear, to 5 mm broad, and much shorter than the stem. The rather few, long-stalked flowers are white or pink with a purple mid-vein. The petals are elliptic, to 7 mm long and 4 mm broad. The leaves are edible.

In the Himalaya, this species is restricted to dry Tibetan borderlands, found from Pakistan eastwards to western Nepal, and is also widespread in Central Asia, at altitudes between 2,700 and 5,000 m.

 

Flower colour and size White or pink, to 7 mm long and 4 mm wide.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Open stony areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Allium oreoprasum is common in Ladakh, here encountered at Honupatta. Rosa webbiana is seen in the background. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Allium wallichii
As opposed to most other onion species, this plant thrives in humid areas, distributed from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China, at altitudes between 2,300 and 4,800 m. It is easily identified by its large umbel, to 7 cm across, the red or purple (rarely white) flowers, with lanceolate to elliptic, blunt, long-stalked petals, to 1 cm long, and the flat, keeled leaves, which are to 2 cm broad.

The leaves are edible, and the bulbs are used for diarrhoea, cough, and colds.

This plant was named in honour of Danish physician and botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), who studied the Indian and Himalayan flora in the early 1800s.

 

Flower colour and size Red or purple, petals to 1 cm long and 2 mm broad.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, meadows, river banks.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Allium wallichii, near Ghora Tabela, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Amaranthaceae Cockscomb family
This worldwide family contains about 174 genera with 2,100 to 2,500 species of herbs or shrubs, rarely trees or climbers. Many species were formerly in the goosefoot family (Chenopodiaceae), which has now been included in the amaranth family. About 17 genera occur in the Himalaya and Ladakh.

 

Blitum Goosefoot
This genus, comprising 12 species, occurs in Europe, North Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. A single species is found in the Himalaya.

Formerly, these plants were placed in the goosefoot genus (Chenopodium). However, recent genetic research has shown that they are more closely related to spinach (Spinacia). (Source: S. Fuentes-Bazan et al. 2012: A novel phylogeny-based generic classification for Chenopodium sensu lato, and a tribal rearrangement of Chenopodioideae (Chenopodiaceae). Willdenowia 42:16-18). The name goosefoot was given in allusion to the outline of the leaves of several species.

 

Blitum virgatum Leafy goosefoot
This plant, also known by the popular name strawberry sticks, and formerly by the scientific name Chenopodium foliosum, is easily identified by its bright red, edible, succulent clusters of fruits, which resemble strawberries. Leaves and inflorescences are also edible, spinach-like in taste.

This species is widely distributed, from Europe and North Africa eastwards across the Middle East to Central Asia, with the eastern limit in Gansu, Tibet, and central Nepal. It grows in fallow fields and on open slopes, in the Himalaya between 1,500 and 3,800 m altitude.

The stem, which may be either white, green, yellowish, or red, is erect and many-branched, and the fleshy leaves are to 9 cm long and 3 cm broad. Inflorescences are dense, green spikes in the leaf axils.

 

Flower colour and size Green, tiny.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Fallow fields, open slopes.
Flowering May-Aug.

 

 

Fruiting leafy goosefoot, encountered at Lake Deepak Tal, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Cyathula Pasture-weed
About 27 species of these shrubs or shrubby herbs are distributed in Asia, Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas. 3 species occur in the Himalaya. The fruit is a globular or ovate head, prickly in some species, and often remaining on the plant throughout the winter. The generic name is derived from the Greek kuathos, a small ladle, alluding to the flower shape.

 

Cyathula capitata Round-headed pasture-weed
A slender, branched herb with dark purple or yellowish-brown stem. The broadly ovate leaves are to 14 cm long and 7 cm broad, abruptly narrowed to a tail-like end. The ellipsoid flowerheads, to 4 cm long, are solitary or few together. The flowers are divided into fertile ones, which are dark purple, and sterile ones, which are whitish or yellowish, to 4 mm long.

This plant is distributed from Kashmir eastwards to south-western China, and thence southwards into Southeast Asia. In the Himalaya, it is found from 1,300 to 3,000 m altitude.

 

Flower colour and size Two types, dark purple, and whitish or yellowish, to 4 mm long.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering Aug.-Sep.

 

 

Cyathula capitata, Changdam, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cyathula tomentosa Woolly pasture-weed
Stems and branches of this shrub are densely downy, hence its specific name, from the Latin tomentosum (‘having a mass of rough hairs’). The leaves are lanceolate to elliptic, pointed, to 17 cm long and 5 cm broad. The tiny greenish-white flowers are in dense globular heads, to 4 cm across. However, there are only 1-2 regular flowers in each cluster, surrounded by many imperfect flowers, which are reduced to a single sepal with a spiny, hooked tip. The flower-heads are arranged in long, axillary or terminal spikes. The fruit is very spiny, often remaining on the plant until spring.

This species occurs at altitudes between 1,400 and 2,400 m, from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to south-western China.

 

Flower colour and size Greenish-white, tiny, in dense globular heads, to 4 cm across.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Cyathula tomentosa, Pairo, Langtang National Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Haloxylon
A genus of about 11 species of shrubs or small trees, found from the Mediterranean eastwards to Central Asia. One species is found in dry Tibetan areas of the Himalaya.

 

Haloxylon griffithii ssp. wakhanicum
This small shrub, to 80 cm tall, is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to Pakistan and Ladakh, at 3,000 to 3,600 m altitude. It has whitish or blue-green branches, and pink or pinkish-white flowers in the leaf axils, petals ovate, to 1.5 mm long. The fruit is winged, white, pinkish, or yellowish, to 8 mm across.

 

Flower colour and size Pink or pinkish-white, petals ovate, to 1.5 mm long.
Height to 80 cm.
Habitat Deserts.
Flowering Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Haloxylon griffithii ssp. wakhanicum, photographed near Leh, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Anacardiaceae Sumac family
This family, comprising about 83 genera with c. 860 species, is native to tropical and subtropical areas around the world, with a few species occurring in temperate regions. Several species are economically important fruit and nut crops, including the cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale).

 

Rhus Sumac
Sumacs are a genus of c. 35 species, distributed in subtropical and temperate areas, especially around the Mediterranean, and in Asia, Australia, and North America. Many other species, which were formerly placed in Rhus, have now been transferred to the genus Searsia, others to Toxicodendron, including T. parviflorum (below).

The word sumac is derived from Ancient Syriac summaq (‘red’), referring to the red fruits of the genus. They have an acrid taste and are used as a spice in the Middle East. In North America, the fruits of staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) are soaked in cold water to make ‘pink lemonade’, a refreshing beverage, rich in vitamin C.

 

Rhus chinensis Chinese sumac
This deciduous shrub or small tree, sometimes growing to 12 m tall, was previously known as Rhus javanica var. chinensis. It is native from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Korea, Japan, China, and Taiwan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia. It often forms thickets, easily spreading by means of suckers, growing from the lowlands up to an altitude of c. 2,800 m.

The leaves are very large, to 40 cm long, pinnate, with 5-13 leaflets. The inflorescence is also very large, to 30 cm long, consisting of countless tiny yellowish-green flowers.

Tannins are extracted from galls of this species, popularly called Chinese galls, which are also widely used in traditional Chinese medicine for a variety of ailments, including cough, diarrhoea, dysentery, and intestinal bleeding. The fruit is edible when cooked. It has an acid flavour.

 

Flower colour and size Yellowish-green, to 3 mm across.
Height to 12 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Aug.-Sep.

 

 

Fruiting Chinese sumac, Solang Nallah, Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Toxicodendron Poison sumac
Formerly included in the genus Rhus, some 15-20 species have been transferred to this genus, including the well-known American poison ivy (T. radicans), feared by many people due to its content of the toxic urushiol, which often causes severe rashes.

 

Toxicodendron parviflorum
This much-branched shrub has leaves with three large, rounded leaflets. The inflorescence is an open panicle with tiny yellowish, fragrant flowers. Whether it contains the poisonous urushiol is unknown.

This species is widespread in the Indian Subcontinent, eastwards to Myanmar. In the Himalaya, it is found up to an altitude of 1,100 m.

 

Flower colour and size Yellowish, tiny.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Apr.-May.

 

 

Flowers and young leaves of Toxicodendron parviflorum, Lower Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) Carrot family
A huge worldwide family, containing about 434 genera with c. 3,700 species of herbs. About 40 genera occur in the wild in the Himalaya, and several others are cultivated.

The inflorescence of this family is unique. In almost all species, the flowers are arranged in terminal umbels, which may be simple, usually with bracts at the base, and each of the stalks, the so-called primary rays, ending in a flower. More commonly, the umbel is compound, consisting of a number of primary rays, each ending in a secondary umbel. Each of these umbels usually has small bracts, bracteoles, at the base, and a number of secondary rays, each ending in a flower. Usually, the secondary umbels together form a flat-topped inflorescence, mostly with white, yellow, pink, or purple flowers, rarely blue or bright red. The flowers have five petals and stamens. This also accounts for the sepals, if they are present. They are usually missing, however.

 

Bupleurum Hare’s-ear, thoroughwax
A large genus of herbs or shrubs, comprising about 190 species, varying from tiny plants a few cm tall, to stately plants, almost 3 m high. The bracteoles are sometimes large and may attract pollinators. Almost all of these plants are native to the Palaearctic Northern Hemisphere, with one species in North America and one in southern Africa. About 8 species occur in the Himalaya and Ladakh.

The name hare’s-ear refers to Bupleurum rotundifolium, whose leaves resemble a hare’s ears, whereas thoroughwax is a corruption of a German name of these plants, Durchwachs (‘growing through’), alluding to the stem of some species, which appears to grow through the leaves.

The roots of several species of hare’s-ear are an important ingredient in the traditional Chinese medicine chai hu, utilized for a huge number of ailments, including respiratory problems, dizziness, menstrual irregularity, cough, fever, and influenza. The name literally means ‘kindling of the barbarians’. Presumably, some Chinese observed the ‘barbarians’ using dried hare’s-ear stems as kindling.

 

Bupleurum candollei
This tall herb has ovate, sessile stem leaves, to 12 cm long, more or less clasping the stem. The primary umbel is encircled by 2-4 unequal, ovate bracts that resemble leaves. The secondary umbels are to 1 cm across, surrounded by 4-5 ovate bracteoles. The tiny flowers are yellow, to 2 mm across. This plant grows in forests and on open grassy slopes, at altitudes between 2,400 and 4,000 m, from Pakistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet.

The specific name honours Swiss botanist Augustin Pyrame de Candolle (1778-1841), who created a new natural plant classification system.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow, to 2 mm across.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Forests, open grassy slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Bupleurum candollei, Solang Nallah, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Bupleurum gracillimum
This prostrate plant has many creeping branches, to 35 cm long. The leaves are linear, to 6 cm long, upper leaves shorter. Inflorescences are bright yellow. This species is found in humid areas of the Tibetan Plateau, such as meadows and along streams, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China, at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,300 m.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow, to 1.5 mm across.
Height Stem to 1 cm tall, or absent, branches creeping, to 35 cm long.
Habitat Meadows, along streams.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Bupleurum gracillimum, Lossar, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Bupleurum longicaule
This slender herb has narrow, lanceolate, long-pointed leaves, to 10 cm long, and inflorescences are usually purple or blackish-brown, but may be yellow. The secondary umbels, each about 1 cm across, are subtended by ovate, abruptly pointed bracteoles, longer than the flowers, making the umbels resemble small stars. This species is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China, at altitudes between 1,000 and 4,400 m.

 

Flower colour and size Blackish-brown, dark purple, or yellow, to 1.5 mm across.
Height to 70 cm.
Habitat Forests, grassy areas, open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Bupleurum longicaule, Tragshindo La, Solu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Bupleurum marginatum
A tall herb with linear or lanceolate, pointed leaves, to 16 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, having a narrow white margin. Umbels are yellow-flowered, to 4 cm across, terminal as well as in the leaf axils. The bracteoles are tiny, to 2.5 mm long and 1 mm wide, shorter than the flower stalks. This plant is found in a wide variety of habitats, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China, at 700 to 4,000 m altitude.

Previously, this species was regarded as a variety of the Eurasian sickle-leaved hare’s-ear (B. falcatum).

 

Flower colour and size Yellow, to 2 mm across.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Forests, open slopes, grasslands, river banks, roadsides.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Bupleurum marginatum, Sissu, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Bupleurum marginatum, Keylong, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Cortia
This small genus of 3-4 species is restricted to Central Asia, from Afghanistan eastwards to Bhutan. 2 species are found in the Himalaya.

 

Cortia depressa
A prostrate plant, often stemless, the primary umbels spreading out star-like, rays to 10 cm long, secondary umbels to 1.5 cm across, with white, pink, or dark red flowers. Bracts are twice compound, primary rays very unequal. Bracteoles are 1-2-compound, as long as the flowers. The leaves, to 8 cm long, are twice-pinnate, resembling parsley leaves. This plant is restricted to meadows in drier areas, from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan, at altitudes between 3,600 and 4,800 m.

 

Flower colour and size White, pink, or dark red, to 2.5 mm across.
Height to 10 cm, but mostly stemless.
Habitat Meadows.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Cortia depressa, Dole, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Heracleum Hogweed, cow-parsnip
This large genus, comprising about 148 species, is distributed throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere, and is also found in montane areas in tropical regions, as far south as Ethiopia. 7 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The fruit of these plants is characteristic, strongly compressed and ribbed, the lateral ribs with a broad wing. Inside the fruit are club-shaped resin canals, clearly visible against the light.

The generic name was applied in 1753 by Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, or Carl von Linné (1707-1778), alluding to the immensely strong Ancient Greek mythological hero Herakles (Hercules), undoubtedly referring to the profuse growth of many of these plants.

The common name hogweed refers to the former usage of some species as pig feed, whereas cow-parsnip, used from about 1548, presumably alludes to some species being eaten by cattle.

 

Heracleum candicans
This tall plant may be identified by the white-felted underside of the large, pinnately lobed leaves, to 60 cm long. The upper leaves have large boat-shaped sheaths. The primary rays are numerous, to 30 cm long, hairy, often without bracts, sometimes with 5-8 linear bracts, to 1 cm long. The secondary umbels are about 2.5 cm across, with tiny bracteoles. This species grows in a variety of habitats in drier areas, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China, at altitudes between 1,800 and 4,800 m.

 

Flower colour and size White, to 1.5 mm across.
Height to 2 m.
Habitat Forest margins, shrubberies, meadows, grassy slopes, river banks.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Fruiting Heracleum candicans, Kardung Gompa, near Keylong, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Heracleum nepalense
This plant resembles H. candicans, but the leaves are hairless on the underside, except along the veins. It grows in much wetter habitats, found from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to south-western China, at altitudes between 1,800 and 4,000 m.

 

Flower colour and size White, to 1.5 mm across.
Height to 1.6 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, forests, grassy slopes, roadsides.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Heracleum nepalense, Phakding, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Heracleum pinnatum
A slender plant with pinnate leaves, to 25 cm long, usually with 3 pairs of ovate, toothed leaflets, to 3 cm long. The primary rays are numerous, long, usually without bracts. Bracteoles are lanceolate, hairy. Secondary rays also numerous, umbels about 1 cm across. This species is distributed in arid country, from Pakistan eastwards to Himachal Pradesh, at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,500 m.

In local medicine, the root is used to treat wounds and infections, and dried plants are collected for fodder.

 

Flower colour and size White, to 1.5 mm across.
Height to 50 cm.
Habitat Stony river banks, screes, steppe, open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Heracleum pinnatum is common in Ladakh, here photographed at Honupatta. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Fruiting Heracleum pinnatum, Honupatta. The resin canals in the fruits are clearly seen against the light. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Heracleum wallichii
Slender plant, stem 30-60 cm tall, hairy beneath the nodes. Upper leaves are usually with 3-6 lanceolate, long-pointed, toothed leaflets, to 5 cm long. The inflorescence is very characteristic, as the outer petals are much larger than the inner, with two lobes to 8 mm long. Bracts and bracteoles are few and small. It is distributed in humid areas from central Nepal eastwards to Bhutan, at altitudes between 3,600 and 4,100 m.

In folk medicine, the root is utilized as an aphrodisiac and as a tonic.

The specific name honours Danish physician and botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), who studied the Indian and Himalayan flora in the early 1800s.

 

Flower colour and size Central flowers tiny, to 1 mm across, outer with lobes to 8 mm long.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, open places.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Heracleum wallichii, Gopte, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Pleurospermum
This genus is distinguished by the very large and conspicuous bracts and bracteoles, the latter usually with a broad white margin. About 50 species are distributed from eastern Europe eastwards to northern and central Asia. The stronghold of the genus is the Himalaya and western China. 9 species have been encountered in the Himalaya, varying from tall to prostrate plants. The generic name is derived from the Greek pleuron (‘ribbed’) and sperma (‘seed’), alluding to the winged fruits of the genus.

 

Pleurospermum benthamii
A large plant, easily identified by its dense masses of white or pink flowers, with inflorescences to 20 cm across, and large white bracts and bracteoles, or pink with a white margin. The leaves are triangular in outline, to 25 cm long, pinnate, the leaflets ovate or lanceolate. This species is found in humid areas, from central Nepal eastwards to south-western China, at 2,200 to 4,300 m altitude.

 

Flower colour and size White or pink, petals to 3 mm long.
Height to 1.7 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, alpine pastures, river banks.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Pink is a common flower colour of Pleurospermum benthamii in the Upper Rolwaling Valley, central Nepal, where this picture was taken. The red flowers in front are a lousewort, Pedicularis megalantha. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

White-flowered form of Pleurospermum benthamii, near Beding, Rolwaling Valley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Pleurospermum govanianum
Usually stemless, sometimes to 15 cm tall. The leaves are twice or thrice pinnate, carrot-like, shorter than the inflorescence. The primary rays are ascending, bearing secondary umbels, to 2 cm across, with conspicuous, deeply divided, greenish-white bracteoles, to 1.5 cm long. This plants is distributed in dry areas, from Pakistan eastwards to Uttarakhand, at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,800 m.

 

Flower colour and size White, to 2 mm across.
Height to 15 cm, but mostly stemless.
Habitat Open slopes, rocky areas.
Flowering Aug.

 

 

Pleurospermum govanianum, Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Pleurospermum hookeri
Like P. govanianum, but usually with a short stem, sometimes to 30 cm long. Leaves triangular in outline, twice pinnate, to 13 cm long, leaflets ovate, toothed or lobed. Upper leaves have turned into a woolly sheath. Umbels to 7 cm across, bracteoles conspicuous, lanceolate, white, to 1 cm long. This plant grows in more humid areas than the previous species, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China, at 2,700 to 5,400 m altitude.

 

Flower colour and size White or pinkish, petals to 1.2 mm long.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Open pastures, meadows, river banks.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Pleurospermum hookeri, Gosainkund, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Selinum Milk parsley
A small genus of 8 species, distributed in Europe and Asia. 6 species occur in the Himalaya, several of which are used medicinally, others are burned as dhup (incense) in temples, and some are harvested as cattle fodder. The generic name is a Latinized version of selinon, the old Greek name of celery (Apium graveolens).

 

Selinum wallichianum
This species, formerly called S. tenuifolium, is common from Kashmir eastwards to south-western China, at altitudes between 2,600 and 4,200 m. It is a tall plant with large leaves, to 25 cm long and 20 cm wide, which are divided 3-5 times into very fine segments. Primary rays are numerous, up to 30, bracts linear, to 10 cm long, but sometimes absent. The umbels are to 10 cm across, with linear, white-margined bracteoles, to 2 cm long.

This species was named in honour of Danish physician and botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), who studied the Indian and Himalayan flora in the early 1800s.

 

Flower colour and size White, to 2 mm across.
Height to 1.5 m.
Habitat Grassy areas, shrubberies.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Selinum wallichianum, Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Apocynaceae Dogbane family
This almost worldwide family contains about 415-425 genera with c. 4,500 species of trees, shrubs, or climbers, rarely herbs. About 35 genera occur in the Himalaya. A large number of genera formerly constituted the milkweed family (Asclepiadaceae), which is today regarded as a subfamily, Asclepiadoideae, of the dogbane family.

 

Ceropegia
A genus of herbs, native to sub-Saharan Africa, Arabia, Tropical Asia, and Australia. The majority are climbers, with a few erect plants. There are at least 180 species, of which 7 have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The generic name was applied in 1753 by Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, or Carl von Linné (1707-1778), to whom the inflorescence resembled a fountain of wax. He therefore named it Ceropegia, derived from the Greek keros (‘wax’) and pege (‘fountain’). These plants have many common names, including parasol flower, bushman’s pipe, and string of hearts.

The flowers are unique, having a tubular corolla with five petals, which are usually fused at the tips, forming a cage-like structure. This is an adaption for pollination by flies, which are momentarily trapped in this ‘cage’. In their effort to escape, they move about inside the flower, thus pollinating it.

 

Ceropegia pubescens
The stem of this climber is about 1 m long, twining. The leaves are long-stalked, ovate, downy, long-pointed, to 15 cm long and 6 cm wide. The axillary inflorescences have up to 8 flowers, the tube is purplish-brown with whitish base, to 3.5 cm long, yellow at the apex (the ‘cage’). This plant is found at elevations between 900 and 3,200 m, from central Nepal eastwards to south-western China.

 

Flower colour and size Tube purplish-brown with whitish base, to 3.5 cm long, yellow at apex.
Height Climbing, to 1 m long.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Flower bud of Ceropegia pubescens, Chipling, Helambu, central Nepal. The yellow corolla has not yet opened. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Cynanchum Stranglewort
This genus of erect or twining shrubs, comprising about 300 species, is widely distributed in temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions. The generic name is derived from the Greek kuon (‘dog’) and ancho (‘to strangle’), alluding to the toxicity of some species. About 5 species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Cynanchum auriculatum
This climbing shrub may be identified by the deeply heart-shaped, long-stalked, pointed leaves, to 16 cm long, and the axillary, very long-stalked, many-flowered inflorescences. It is quite common at altitudes between 1,800 and 3,700 m, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China.

 

Flower colour and size White, greenish-white, pinkish, or yellowish, to 12 mm across.
Habitat Shrubberies.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

The commonest flower colour of Cynanchum auriculatum is greenish-white, here photographed at Benkar, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Yellow-flowered form of Cynanchum auriculatum, Shakti, Sainj Valley, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Marsdenia
This genus of about 150 species is widespread, native to tropical regions in Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas. It was named in honour of Irish plant collector and linguist William Marsden (1754-1836). 5 species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Marsdenia lucida
This stout climber has elliptic or ovate leaves, to 12 cm long, shining, with a short-pointed apex. The dense, many-flowered flower clusters are axillary. This plant is found from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to Bhutan, at altitudes between 2,100 and 2,700 m.

 

Flower colour and size Red, purplish-red, or pink, to 3.5 mm long.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Aug.-Sep.

 

 

Marsdenia lucida, Shermatang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Marsdenia roylei
A soft-haired, climbing shrub, easily identified by its heart-shaped, shining leaves, and dense clusters of minute, orange, fleshy flowers in the leaf axils. It is found from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar, at elevations between 900 and 2,400 m.

In local folk medicine, juice of the stem is used in treatment of gastric troubles and peptic ulcers.

 

Flower colour and size Orange, to 6 mm across.
Habitat Shrubberies.
Flowering May-Jun.

 

 

Marsdenia roylei, Mitlung, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Araceae Arum family
A very large, worldwide family, comprising 106 genera with about 4,000 species of herbs, rarely woody climbers. The inflorescence is very distinctive, with a large, often brightly coloured blade, the spathe, which encircles a central club-shaped axis, the spadix, on which numerous tiny flowers are clustered, male flowers above, females below. The tip of the spadix often has a flowerless part, the appendage. In many species, the flowers are foul-smelling, attracting flies that pollinate the flowers. The fruit is a club-like cluster of berries, remaining on the spadix when the spathe has withered. About 20 genera are found in the Himalaya.

 

 

Part of the spathe has been removed from this Arisaema tortuosum, exposing the flowers, males above, females below. – Ghat, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nordindien 1982
Berry cluster of an unidentified Arisaema species, photographed near the village of Lata, Uttarakhand. A butterfly is sitting on the cob. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Arisaema Cobra plant, Jack-in-the-pulpit
The generic name is from the Greek arisamos (‘conspicuous’, ‘distinguished’), naturally alluding to the spectacular appearance of these plants. In some species, spathe and spadix have a thread-like tip, which is sometimes up to 1 m long. The berries are bright red. About 20 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

A common name of the genus is Jack-in-the-pulpit. To some people, the flower resembles a person in a pulpit: ‘Jack’ is the flowering club, and the ‘pulpit’ is the spathe. Another name is cobra plant, referring to the cobra-like spathe on some species. The Nepalese name of the genus is sarpa ko makai (‘snake maize’), likewise alluding to the cobra-like spathe, and to the cluster of fruits, which resembles a maize cob.

 

Arisaema consanguineum
This species is easily identified by its single, radiate leaf, having 11-20, linear or lanceolate leaflets with elongated, thread-like tips. The spathe is pale green with thin, vertical, white stripes and a thread-like tip, to 15 cm long. The green spadix is hidden inside the spathe. This plant is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to Southeast Asia and China. In the Himalaya, it is found at elevations between 1,600 and 3,000 m.

In Nepal, the leaves are eaten as a vegetable, and the rhizome is used medicinally to treat stroke and paralysis, and to expel phlegm.

 

Flower colour and size See above. Spathe, including tube, to 12 cm long, plus tip to 15 cm.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Arisaema consanguineum, Sekathum, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Arisaema costatum
The spathe of this plant is dark purple with white stripes, the tip to 4 cm long. The thread-like tip of the spadix is quite grotesque, sometimes growing to a length of 1 m, and often lying on the ground. The leaves have many parallel lateral veins, raised beneath, with ovate leaflets, to 20 cm long. The outer two are asymmetrical with broad outer base and narrow, wedge-shaped inner base. This species is restricted to central and eastern Nepal, where it is common at altitudes from 1,900 to 2,800 m.

 

Flower colour and size See above. Spathe, including tube, to 12 cm long, plus tip to 4 cm.
Height to 20 cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Jun.

 

 

The spadix of Arisaema costatum has an extremely long, whip-like tip, here photographed at Surkhe, Solu, eastern Nepal (top), and at Tharke Ghyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Autumn leaf of Arisaema costatum, Tharke Ghyang, Helambu. The raised veins beneath are clearly seen against the light. A species of sagebrush (Artemisia) is growing in the background. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Arisaema erubescens
Easily recognized by its 7-14 radiating, long-pointed, narrow leaflets, and the spathe, which is striped white and reddish-brown, often with a down-curved tip. The leaf-stalk is yellowish, with reddish-brown, vertical stripes. This plant grows in forests and shrubberies from central Nepal eastwards to Myanmar, at altitudes from 1,900 to 2,600 m.

 

Flower colour and size See above. Spathe, including tube, to 19 cm long, plus tip to 3 cm.
Height to 50 cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Jun.

 

 

Arisaema erubescens, Choplong, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of Arisaema erubescens, Amjilassa, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Arisaema flavum
This plant has a small yellow spathe with a short blade, 2-4 cm long, dark purple on the lower part inside. The yellow spadix is hidden inside the spathe. Usually, there are two leaves, which are curved, with 5-11 leaflets, to 12 cm long and 4 cm broad. It is distributed in dry, desert-like areas, from Yemen eastwards to Central Asia. In the Himalaya, it is found from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan, at altitudes between 1,700 and 4,500 m. Locally, the young leaves are eaten as a vegetable.

 

Flower colour and size See above. Spathe, including tube, to 6 cm long, plus tip to 2 cm.
Height to 35 cm.
Habitat Dry open areas.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Arisaema flavum, photographed near Tok Tso Lake, Lhatze, Tibet. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Pehr Forsskål – an outstanding Swedish naturalist
Swedish naturalist Pehr Forsskål (1732-1763) participated in the Royal Danish Expedition to Arabia 1761-1767. During this expedition, he described hundreds of new species, plants as well as animals. In Yemen, he described a member of the arum family with a yellow spathe, naming it Arum flavum. This plant is today called Arisaema flavum.

The fascinating, albeit short, life of Pehr Forsskål is described on the page People: Pehr Forsskål – brilliant Swedish scientist.

 

 

 

Arisaema griffithii
This striking plant can be identified by its very short flower stalk and the curled-up, very large spathe, to 20 cm long, with large, ear-like flaps to 15 cm across, netted with yellow and purple. The spathe is often situated at ground-level. The spadix has a whip-like appendage, 20-80 cm long. The two leaves are trifoliate, with broad, rhombic leaflets, to 40 cm long.

This species is found in forests from central Nepal eastwards to Myanmar, at altitudes between 2,400 and 3,000 m.

 

Flower colour and size See above. Spathe, including tube, to 20 cm long, 15 cm across.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering May-Jun.

 

 

Nepal 1991a
Nepal 1991a
My companion Lars Nørgaard Hansen, seated near a large specimen of Arisaema griffithii, Makalu-Barun National Park, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

A young leaf of Arisaema griffithii, unfolding, Barun Valley, Makalu-Barun National Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Arisaema intermedium
The spathe is pale green or yellowish, sometimes with white or purple vertical stripes, and a tail-like tip to 10 cm long. The spadix has a very long, whip-like appendage, to 45 cm, usually purple at the base and white or yellowish on the upper part. The leaf-stalk is much longer than the flower-stalk. The trifoliate leaves are single or in pairs.

This plant is found at altitudes between 2,100 and 3,000 m, from Kashmir eastwards to Sikkim.

 

Flower colour and size See above. Spathe, including tube, to 24 cm long, plus tip to 10 cm.
Height to 50 cm.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering May-Jun.

 

 

Arisaema intermedium, Gyapla, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. Leaves of Himalayan strawberry (Fragaria nubicola) are seen in the foreground. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Arisaema jacquemontii
This plant resembles A. intermedium, with a green spathe, often with white stripes, and a tail-like, up-curved, green or purple tip, to 8 cm long. However, the dark purple spadix has no whip-like appendage. It is hidden inside the spathe, or only slightly protuding. The leaves are palmate, with 3-9 long-pointed leaflets, to 14 cm long and 4 cm broad. It is distributed in drier areas, from Afghanistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, at 2,300 to 4,000 m altitude.

The leaves are dried and fermented to make gundruk (see below), and the fruits are cooked for food.

 

Flower colour and size See above. Spathe, including tube, to 16 cm long, plus tip to 8 cm.
Height to 70 cm.
Habitat Forests, open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Arisaema jacquemontii, Kyanjin, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Arisaema nepenthoides
This species is often called cobra plant, referring to the spathe, which resembles the spread-out hood of a cobra. It is reddish-green or whitish, mottled or striped with brown. The spadix is thick, greenish, and club-like, protuding from the mouth of the spathe. The usually two leaves are palmate, with 5 elliptic, glossy leaflets, to 12 cm long. Leaf- and flower-stalks are mottled purple and whitish.

This plant grows in forests and shrubberies at altitudes between 2,000 and 3,300 m, from central Nepal eastwards to south-western China.

 

Flower colour and size See above. Spathe, including tube, to 18 cm long.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Jun.

 

 

Arisaema nepenthoides, Tadapani, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Arisaema propinquum
The spathe of this species is to 15 cm long, dark purple or green, with purple or white stripes and vertical ribs inside, often paler near the pointed tip, which is 1-4 cm long. The spadix has a whip-like appendage, to 20 cm long. The leaf-stalk is long, to 70 cm, often brown-spotted. The leaflets of the trifoliate leaves are ovate, to 20 cm long and 15 cm broad.

This plant is found from Kashmir eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, at 2,400 to 4,000 m altitude.

 

Flower colour and size See above. Spathe, including tube, to 15 cm long, plus tip to 4 cm.
Height to 70 cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Aug.

 

 

A form of Arisaema propinquum with greenish spathe, Propang Danda, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Arisaema tortuosum
This tall species is easily identified by the purplish, velvety spadix, which points 7-12 cm upwards. The spathe is green (sometimes purple), the tip, to 12 cm long, pointing forward above the spadix. There are usually two leaves, with 5-7 leaflets, sometimes more.

This plant is widespread and very common in the Himalaya, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China. The fruits are cooked for food. In Pakistan, an extract of the rhizome is used against intestinal worms in cattle.

 

Flower colour and size See above. Spathe, including tube, to 19 cm long, plus tip to 12 cm.
Height to 1.5 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

The spadix appendage of Arisaema tortuosum is pointing upwards, somewhat resembling an old man, pointing with his walking stick. – Lukla, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Arisaema utile
This is the plant, which is most commonly utilized for making gundruk (see below). It is common in forests from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to Bhutan, at altitudes between 1,800 and 4,300 m.

The spathe is to 15 cm long, dark purple with white ribs near the base. The margin is netted with transparent veins, and the apex is notched, with a pointed tip, 1-3 cm long. The purple spadix appendage is whip-like, to 22 cm long. The single leaf is trifoliate, with red-margined leaflets, to 25 cm long and 18 cm broad.

 

Flower colour and size See above. Spathe, including tube, to 15 cm long, plus tip to 3 cm.
Height to 50 cm.
Habitat Forests, open slopes.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Arisaema utile, photographed in the Annapurna area, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gundruk
Outside the summer months, fresh vegetables are often difficult to find in rural areas of the Himalaya. A widespread method of obtaining nutrients from vegetables at times, when fresh ones are not available, is to make gundruk – fermented leaves of certain cultivated plants, including cabbage, mustard, and radish, and of various wild plants, such as Arisaema utile, a buttercup, Ranunculus diffusus, and Nepalese dock (Rumex nepalensis).

Two methods are utilized to make gundruk. One is to wash the leaves and leave them to dry for a day, after which the last juice is beaten out of them. They are then stuffed firmly into a container, which is tightly closed, making it airtight. About a week later, the fermented leaves are taken out and left to dry in the sun, after which they are stored in a dry place for later use. Another method is to boil the leaves for a short time and then stuff them tightly in a container. After a short period of time, the juice is removed and boiling water added. The leaves are then left to ferment for 4-5 days, before being dried in the sun. (Source: Manandhar, N.P. 2002. Plants and People of Nepal. Timber Press)

Gundruk can be kept for about a year. The fermented leaves emit a characteristic fragrance, and they have a unique, strong, and lovely taste – at least in my opinion.

 

 

Drying leaves of Arisaema utile on a roof top, to make gundruk, Annapurna area, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Remusatia
A small genus with 4 species, 3 in southern Asia, and one distributed from Africa eastwards to Tropical Asia, Australia, and the Pacific. The genus was named in honour of French sinologist Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat (1788-1832), who is best known as the first professor of sinology at the Collège de France. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Remusatia pumila
This small herb, which may be ground-living or epiphytic, was previously called Gonatanthus pumilus. It is found at altitudes between 1,000 and 2,500 m, from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to south-western China and Southeast Asia.

The spathe has a short, green tube, to 2 cm long, which is constricted, where it meets the yellow, slender, very long vertical blade, to 21 cm long. The tip of the purple spadix is exposed in the mouth of the spathe. The spathe-tube is persisting, enclosing the yellow berries. The leaves are ovate to heart-shaped, pointed, to 15 cm long and 10 cm broad, dark green to purplish above, purple beneath, pale green along veins on both sides. In Nepal, young leaves are cooked as a vegetable.

 

Flower colour and size See above. Spathe, including tube, to 23 cm long.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, banks.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Leaves of Remusatia pumila, Ghare, Annapurna, central Nepal. The dark-green plant to the right is Crassocephalum crepidioides (Asteraceae). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Rhaphidophora
This genus of evergreen woody climbers, comprising about 100 species, is distributed from tropical Africa eastwards through the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Australasia to the western Pacific. The generic name is derived from the Greek rhaphis (‘needle’) and pherd (‘I carry’), referring to the trichosclereids, sharp, needle-like cells in the tissue, which serve the purpose of protecting the plant from grazing herbivores. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Rhaphidophora decursiva
This large species is quite common, climbing up tree trunks, distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to southern China and Southeast Asia, and also found in Sri Lanka. In the Himalaya, it usually occurs below 1,500 m altitude, occasionally up to 2,200 m.

The stem is thick, green, yellow, or brown, to 20 m long and 5 cm in diameter. The leaves are numerous, large, broadly ovate, glossy green, to 70 cm long and 50 cm wide, pinnately divided, with 8-15 pairs of lobes. The spathe is pale yellow, to 20 cm long and 12 cm thick. The spadix is shorter, grey-green, cylindrical. The berries, which are white, greenish-white, or yellow, mature one year after flowering.

Stem and leaves are used medicinally for a number of ailments, including fractures, swellings, lumbago, snake bites, colds, cough, and bronchitis.

 

Flower colour and size See above. Spathe, including tube, to 20 cm long and 12 cm thick.
Height to 20 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering May-Aug.

 

 

Rhaphidophora decursiva, climbing on an oak tree, Jhinu Danda, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Araliaceae Ivy family
This almost worldwide family contains about 43 genera with c. 1,450 species of trees or shrubs, rarely climbers or herbs. Most species are found in the Tropics. About 13 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Aralia
About 40 species of small trees, shrubs, or climbers, mainly found in Southeast Asia and China, a few in the Americas. 3 species in the Himalaya.

 

Aralia leschenaultii
This woody climber, or sometimes a small tree, previously known as Pentapanax leschenaultii, is found from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-western China, and in South India. In the Himalaya, it grows at 1,600 to 3,700 m elevation. The leaves are compound, with 3-5 large, toothed leaflets, to 15 cm long. The inflorescence is large, branched, to 40 cm across, consisting of clusters of umbels, each to 4 cm across.

The specific name honours French botanist and ornithologist Jean-Baptiste Leschenault de la Tour (1773-1826), who was chief botanist on Nicolas Baudin’s expedition to Australia 1800-1803.

 

Flower colour and size White, to 5 mm across.
Height to 15 m.
Habitat Forests, banks.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Aralia leschenaultii, Surkhe, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Brassaiopsis
This genus, comprising about 45 species of trees and shrubs, is distributed in South and Southeast Asia. 6 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

 

Brassaiopsis mitis
This small tree, to 6 m tall, spiny on the trunk, is found in forests at altitudes between 1,200 and 2,400 m, from eastern Nepal eastwards to Bhutan. The leaves are highly characteristic, large, to 60 cm across, palmate, rounded in outline, with 7-12 lobes, which are constricted near the base. The leaf-stalk is very long, to 60 cm. The inflorescence is a panicle, to 50 cm long, consisting of umbels, each about 5 cm across, with small creamy flowers.

 

Flower colour and size Creamy, petals to 3 mm long.
Height to 6 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Brassaiopsis mitis, Tashigaon, Makalu-Barun National Park, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Hedera Ivy
This well-known genus of 12-15 species of evergreen woody climbers is native to the major part of Europe, eastwards through Turkey to the Caucasus, the Himalaya, China, Taiwan, and Japan, and also in North Africa, the Canary Islands, and Madeira. Hedera is the classical Latin name of ivy. 1 species occurs in the Himalaya.

 

Hedera nepalensis Himalayan ivy
This woody liana, to 30 m long, climbs into tall trees by aerial roots. The leaves are leathery, dark-green, and glossy. There are two kinds, the commonest one heart-shaped, to 7 cm long, strongly angular, with 3-7 points, and another, ovate or lanceolate, to 15 cm long, surrounding the inflorescences. The numerous yellow-green flowers are tiny, in globular umbels to 2 cm across, which are arranged in domed clusters up to 8 cm across. The globular fruit is to 6 mm across, at first yellow, later black. This plant is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to south-western China, at 1,800 to 3,200 m elevation.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow-green, petals to 3 mm long.
Height to 30 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Sep.-Nov.

 

 

Unripe fruits of Himalayan ivy, Pothana, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Panax Ginseng
This much praised genus contains 12 species, of which the American ginseng (P. quinquefolius) is found in eastern North America, the remaining 11 species in eastern Asia, from south-eastern Siberia through China and Korea to the Himalaya and Vietnam. A single species occurs in the Himalaya. Several species are highly threatened due to over-collecting. The generic name is derived from the Greek pan (‘all’) and akos (‘to cure’), applied by Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, or Carl von Linné (1707-1778), in allusion to the usage of this genus in traditional Chinese medicine. The name ginseng is a corruption of the Chinese word 人參 (ren shen), meaning ‘man-root’, referring to the root, which resembles a human torso with two legs (see photo on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry).

 

Panax pseudoginseng Himalayan ginseng
This herb, to 75 cm tall, has 4-6 long-stalked, compound leaves, arising from a common point at the tip of the stem, with 5 broadly lanceolate, serrated leaflets, the two lower ones smaller than the remaining three. The single inflorescence is a long-stalked umbel, containing 20-50 flowers, arising from the same point as the leaves. The ovoid fruit is red at first, then black. This plant grows in forests from central Nepal eastwards to south-western China, and also in Thailand. In the Himalaya, it is found at altitudes between 2,100 and 4,300 m.

Himalayan ginseng is widely used in traditional medicine for a large number of ailments, including nosebleed, intestinal bleeding, stroke, dizziness, and sore throat. The Naga people of north-eastern India take a powder made from the dried root orally to treat heart problems, diabetes, cancer, tuberculosis, and ulcers, and also as an aphrodisiac. They also eat the leaves as a vegetable.

 

Flower colour and size Greenish-yellow or white, petals to 2 mm long.
Height to 75 cm.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Fruiting Himalayan ginseng, Lower Rolwaling Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Trevesia
This genus of small trees, comprising 7 species, is characterized by spiny trunks and large, palmately lobed leaves. They are native to forests of South and Southeast Asia, with 1 species occurring in the Himalaya. The genus was named in honour of the family Treves de Bonfigli, of Padua, Italy, who supported botanical research in the 18th Century.

 

Trevesia palmata
A small tree, to 8 m tall, with short spines on the stem. The leaf stalks, also often prickly, are to 80 cm long, terminating in large leaves, to 60 cm across, which are deeply palmately divided, with long-pointed, serrated lobes. The branched inflorescence is to 45 cm long, with many umbels of small yellowish flowers. The fruit is almost globular, compressed, to 1.8 cm across, with united styles, which are persistent.

This tree, which is often cultivated as an ornamental, is found in the wild from central Nepal eastwards to south-western China, and also in Southeast Asia, at altitudes from 250 to 2,500 m. It is utilized medicinally.

 

Flower colour and size Yellowish, small.
Height to 8 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Mar.-Oct.

 

 

Trevesia palmata, Amjilassa, Lower Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Aristolochiaceae Birthwort family
A family of herbs, shrubs, or lianas, with 7-8 genera and 450-600 species, primarily found in tropical and subtropical regions. 2 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Aristolochia Dutchman’s pipe
Members of this large genus, comprising 400-500 species of shrubs or herbs, rarely woody lianas, are usually known as birthwort, pipevine, or Dutchman’s pipe. They are widely distributed in tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions of the Old World, including Australia. 6 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The scientific name is derived from the Greek aristos (‘best’) and locheia (‘childbirth’), alluding to the ancient belief that these plants were an effective remedy against infections caused by childbirth. The English name birthwort also refers to this usage, as well as their usage to induce abortion. The names pipevine and Dutchman’s pipe refer to the flower shape of many species, which resembles an old-fashioned tobacco pipe.

 

Aristolochia griffithii
This climbing shrub has very conspicuous, solitary, bright yellow, or brownish-purple, yellow-spotted flowers, to 12 cm long, with a tube about 8 cm long, and a wide, rounded mouth, to 10 cm wide, which is blood-red or yellow-spotted in the purplish form. The flowers are evil-smelling, attracting flies, which pollinate the plant. The large, heart-shaped leaves are to 28 cm long and 26 cm broad.

This plant is distributed from central Nepal eastwards to south-western China, at elevations between 1,800 and 2,900 m.

 

Flower colour and size See above.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Apr.-Jul.

 

 

Yellow-flowered form of Aristolochia griffithii, Gyapla, Lower Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Asclepiadaceae (milkweed family), see Apocynaceae.

 

 

 

 

Asparagaceae Asparagus family
Today, the worldwide asparagus family includes 114 genera with a total of c. 2,900 species. A large number of genera, which were formerly placed in various other families, have recently been moved to this family.

Five of these genera are Chlorophytum, Maianthemum, Ophiopogon, Polygonatum, and Theropogon, all presented below. Originally, these plants were all members of the huge lily family (Liliaceae), but Chlorophytum was since moved to the family Anthericaceae, and later to the agave family (Agavaceae), which is now treated as a subfamily, Agavoideae, of the asparagus family. The remaining four genera were formerly members of the Solomon’s-seal family (Convallariaceae), but were then transferred to the lily-of-the-valley family (Ruscaceae), which is today regarded as a subfamily, Nolinoideae, of the asparagus family.

 

Chlorophytum Spider plant
This is a genus of almost 200 species, native to tropical and subtropical areas of Africa, Asia, and Australia. 3 species occur in the Himalaya. The generic name simply means ‘green plant’, derived from the Greek chloros (‘green’) and phyton (‘plant’).

 

Chlorophytum nepalense
The leaves of this species are all basal, linear, pointed, to 60 cm long and 2 cm broad, and the leafless stem is to 90 cm long. The flowers are arranged in a long terminal cluster, erect or drooping, 1-3 flowers in the axils of bracts. This plant is quite common at elevations between 1,400 and 3,000 m, from central Nepal eastwards to south-western China.

Young leaves are locally cooked as a vegetable, and the root is used medicinally for gout.

 

Flower colour and size Petals white with yellow anthers, to 1.4 cm long and 3 mm wide.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Rocks, open slopes, forest-edges.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Chlorophytum nepalense, Kutumsang, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Maianthemum May lily, false Solomon’s seal
Today, this genus, which includes species that were formerly placed in Smilacina, contains about 40 species, native to woodlands in Europe, Asia, and North America. 3 species occur in the Himalaya. The fruit is a berry.

The generic name is derived from the Latin Maia (‘May’) and the Greek anthemon (‘flower’), referring to a European species, M. bifolium, which blooms in May.

 

Maianthemum oleraceum
The stem of this tall plant is zig-zagged, hairless or downy. Leaves are 4-9, alternate, ovate or broadly lanceolate, to 20 cm long and 6 cm broad, hairy along the margin. The inflorescence is a panicle, up to 15 cm long, of many racemes with small, white or sometimes purplish, stalked, solitary flowers, petals to 6 mm long and 3.5 mm wide. This species is distributed from eastern Nepal eastwards to south-western China, at elevations between 2,100 and 4,200 m.

 

Flower colour and size White or purplish, petals to 6 mm long and 3.5 mm wide.
Height to 80 cm.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Maianthemum oleraceum, Surkhe, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Maianthemum purpureum
A rather common plant in forests at altitudes between 2,400 and 4,200 m, occurring from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to south-western China. The stem is erect, unbranched, leafy, sometimes downy, to 60 cm tall. Leaves are 3-9 in 2 ranks, almost stalkless, alternate, oblong to elliptic, pointed, to 13 cm long and 6.5 cm broad, margin hairy. The inflorescence is a terminal panicle, usually pendulous, but sometimes erect. The petals are white or purplish, elliptic, to 6 mm long and 3 mm broad. The berry is red when ripe, to 7 mm across.

Young parts of this plant are eaten locally as a vegetable.

 

Flower colour and size Petals white or purplish, to 6 mm long and 3 mm broad.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Apr.-Jul.

 

 

Maianthemum purpureum, Nara, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Ophiopogon
A genus of about 67 species, native to warmer areas of Asia, with a single species in the Himalaya. The generic name is derived from the Greek ophis (‘snake’) and pogon (‘beard’), presumably referring to the grass-like appearance of these plants.

 

Ophiopogon intermedius
A tufted plant with many grass-like, linear leaves, to 70 cm long and 15 mm broad. The flowering stem is to 15 cm tall, with a spike-like cluster of small, white, drooping, funnel-shaped flowers with spreading petals. (Petals of the similar Theropogon (below) are not spreading.) The berries are blue.

This species is found at elevations between 1,200 and 3,000 m, from Afghanistan eastwards to south-western China, and also in Southeast Asia.

 

Flower colour and size White, petals to 6 mm long.
Height Flowering stem to 15 cm long, leaves to 70 cm long.
Habitat Shady forests, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Ophiopogon intermedius, Deorali, Solu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Polygonatum Solomon’s seal
These plants, comprising about 63 species, are distributed in temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with most species occurring in Asia. 10 species are found in the Himalaya. The 6 petals are fused to form a tube or funnel. The fruit is a red or black berry.

The generic name is derived from the Greek polys (‘much’, ‘many’) and gonos (‘knee’), alluding to the rhizome, which has several joints. The common name is a translation of the Medieval Latin name of these plants, sigillum Solomonis, alluding to grooves on the rhizome, which, to those who named it, apparently resembled royal seals. Another interpretation is that the cut root has marks, which resemble Hebrew characters.

 

Polygonatum cirrhifolium
This tall plant has leaves in several whorls up the stem, each whorl with 3-6 linear to lanceolate leaves, to 15 cm long and 1.5 cm broad, with in-rolled margin and a thread-like, coiled tip. The short-stalked, pendulous flowers sit in clusters of 2-4 in the leaf-whorls. The berry is red or purplish when ripe, to 9 mm across.

This species grows at altitudes between 1,500 and 4,600 m, from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to south-western China. Locally, the rhizome is used medicinally, and young leaves are cooked as a vegetable.

 

Flower colour and size Petals are white, purplish, or greenish, to 1.2 cm long.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Polygonatum cirrhifolium, Changdam, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Polygonatum hookeri
This species is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-western China, at elevations between 2,900 and 5,000 m. It differs from most other members of the genus by its very short, or absent, stems that grow from the creeping rhizome. The blunt, linear to oblong leaves are crowded, to 9 cm long and 8 mm broad. The few flowers, which often occur before the leaves, are borne in the axils of the lower leaves. The berry is red when ripe, to 8 mm across.

 

Flower colour and size Pink to purple, forming a funnel to 2.5 cm long.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering May-Jun.

 

 

Polygonatum hookeri, Kyangjuma, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Polygonatum verticillatum Whorled Solomon’s seal
This plant resembles P. cirrhifolium, but the leaves are pointed, with uncoiled tips, in whorls of 3-8, to 20 cm long and 3 cm broad. Flowers are in clusters of 2-4 in the leaf-axils, petals purple or white with green tips. The berry is red at first, purple when ripe, to 9 mm across. This species is widely distributed, from Europe eastwards to Central Asia. In the Himalaya, it is found at elevations between 1,500 and 4,700 m, from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar.

Young shoots are edible when cooked. A paste of the root is given to dogs as a health tonic.

 

Flower colour and size Flowers to 1.2 cm long, petals purplish or whitish with green tips.
Height to 80 cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Whorled Solomon’s Seal, Sanasa, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Theropogon
There is only one species in this genus, found in the Himalaya and China. The generic name is derived from the Greek theros (‘summer’) and pogos (‘beard’), alluding to the flowering time and tufted habit of this plant.

 

Theropogon pallidus
A gregarious plant, which very much resembles Ophiopogon intermedius (above), but the drooping flowers, 9-14 in a terminal cluster to 8 cm long, are clearly bell-shaped, and the petals are not spreading out like a star. The berry is mottled green when ripe. This plant is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-western China, at elevations between 1,800 and 2,700 m.

 

Flower colour and size White or pink, to 8 mm long.
Height Flowering stem to 35 cm long, leaves to 40 cm long.
Habitat Shady rocks, forest slopes.
Flowering May-Aug.

 

 

Theropogon pallidus, Brabal, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Asteraceae (Compositae) Daisy family
This worldwide family is one of the largest, comprising about 1,620 genera with c. 24,000 species of herbs or shrubs, rarely climbers or trees. The inflorescence consists of many individual flowers, called florets, which are grouped densely together to form a flower-like structure, the flowerhead, technically called the capitulum. The central disk florets are symmetric, and the corolla is fused into a tube. The outer ray florets are asymmetric, the corolla having one large lobe, which is often erroneously called a petal. In some species, ray florets, or sometimes disk florets, are absent. About 112 genera occur in the Himalaya and Ladakh.

 

Achillea Yarrow, milfoil, sneezewort
A large genus of about 200 species, found mainly in Europe and temperate areas of Asia. English herbalist John Gerard (c. 1545-1612) informs us that during the Trojan War the Greek hero Achilles used yarrow to stop bleeding on wounded soldiers. Hence, the name Achillea was applied to the genus by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), also named Carl von Linné. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Achillea millefolium Common yarrow
This plant is widespread, distributed in temperate areas of Eurasia and North America. In the Himalaya, it is restricted to the western part, eastwards to Uttarakhand, found at altitudes between 1,100 and 3,600 m. It mainly grows in disturbed areas, along trails and ditches, and in fallow fields. The greyish-green leaves are very finely dissected, aromatic, to 10 cm long. Flowerheads are numerous, sometimes up to 50, borne in a flat or slightly domed cluster to 30 cm across. Ray florets are white, much larger than the tiny yellowish or cream-coloured disc florets. The entire flowerhead is only to 8 mm across.

The specific name is derived from the many fine segments of the leaves, hence its popular names milfoil and thousand-weed. In parts of south-western United States, it is called plumajillo (Spanish for ‘little feather’), likewise alluding to the leaves. The name yarrow is a corruption of gearwe, an ancient Anglo-Saxon name for the plant.

You may read much more about this plant on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

 

Flower colour and size Ray florets white, disc florets yellowish or cream-coloured, flowerheads to 8 mm across.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Trails, banks, fallow fields.
Flowering Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Yarrow, growing along a stone wall, Koksar, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Yarrow, Solang Nallah, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Ageratum Goat-weed, whiteweed, bluemink
A genus of about 40 species, native to the Americas, with most species in Mexico and Central America. Many species have become widely naturalized worldwide in tropical and subtropical areas, often regarded as invasive weeds. The generic name is derived from the Greek (‘without’) and geras (‘old age’), alluding to  the fact that these plants flower for a long period of time. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Ageratum conyzoides Goat-weed
This species has become naturalized in almost all tropical and subtropical areas of the world. It is common in the Himalaya, growing in disturbed areas up to an altitude of 2,000 m. This softly-hairy plant may grow to 90 cm tall, but is often much lower. The leaves are lanceolate to ovate, to 8 cm long, with rounded teeth along the margin. Flowerheads are bluish or white, to 6 mm across, without ray florets, in flat or domed clusters, terminal or axillary.

Bluemink (Ageratum houstonianum) is also commonly naturalized in the Himalaya. It is very similar to goat-weed, but may be identified by its sticky-hairy involucral bracts, which are glabrous or sparsely hairy in goat-weed.

 

Flower colour and size Bluish or white, disc florets only, flowerheads to 6 mm across.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Trails, banks, fallow fields.
Flowering Apr.-Oct.

 

 

Goat-weed, Jagat, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Goat-weed, Sarangkot, Pokhara, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Ainsliaea
This genus, counting about 50 species of herbs, is restricted to Asia, found from Afghanistan eastwards to China and Japan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia. 2 species are found in the Himalaya. The generic name honours British surgeon Sir Whitelaw Ainslie (1767-1837) , author of Materia Indica (1826).

 

Ainsliaea aptera
In March and April, the slender, leafless stems of this remarkable plant, to 1 m tall, display numerous white or pink, cylindrical flowerheads, to 2 cm long, arranged in small clusters up the stem. After fruiting, the stems wither. In June, the rootstock produces several broadly triangular or ovate leaves, hairless, to 10 cm long, and during the rainy season, from July to September, new stems shoot up, bearing leaves, flower buds, and numerous flowerheads, in which the florets do not open, but nevertheless produce seeds. These stems persist during the winter, when the leaves fall off, and in spring the remaining flower buds on the stem produce perfect flowers.

The specific name means ‘wingless’ in the Greek, alluding to the leaf stalk, which is not winged, as opposed to other members of the genus. This plant is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to Bhutan, growing in forests and shrubberies, at altitudes from 1,200 to 3,600 m.

 

Flower colour and size White or pink, flowerheads to 2 cm long.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Mar.-May.

 

 

Ainsliaea aptera, Sinuwa, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Ainsliaea aptera, Tharepati, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Ajania Tansy
These plants, comprising c. 36 species, are restricted to Temperate Asia. They were formerly included in the genus Tanacetum (see below). The genus is named for the Russian harbour city Ayan, on the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk. About 5 species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Ajania gracilis
This species, which was previously named Tanacetum gracile, is common from Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and southern Russia southwards to Iran, Pakistan, and Ladakh, growing in stony areas between 2,800 and 3,600 m altitude. It can be identified by its tiny yellow flowerheads, only 3-4 mm in diameter. Leaves and flowers are fragrant, and essential oil is extracted from them.

Some authorities call this plant Ajania fruticulosa. However, according to eFlora of China, this name is reserved for a species, which grows further north in Central Asia.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow, flowerheads to 4 mm across.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Stony slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Ajania gracilis is very common in Ladakh, here photographed near Hemis Gompa (top), and near Saspol, in front of a boulder with a pictograph. – Artwork from this area is presented on the page Culture: Folk art around the world. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ajania nubigena
This plant, formerly called Tanacetum nubigenum, may be identified by its many grey-woolly stems, to 30 cm tall, and the long-stalked, twice or thrice-pinnate grey-woolly leaves. The flowerheads are yellow, to 5 mm across, borne in dense, rounded, terminal clusters. It grows on stony or sandy slopes at altitudes between 3,600 and 4,800 m, distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to Bhutan and western China.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow, flowerheads to 5 mm across.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Stony or sandy slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Ajania nubigena, Upper Kali Gandaki Valley, Mustang, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ajania tibetica
Formerly called Tanacetum tibeticum, this plant is similar to A. nubigena, but has larger foliage and larger flowerheads, to 8 mm across. It grows on dry slopes between 3,900 and 5,400 m altitude, from Kazakhstan and Tibet southwards to Pakistan, Ladakh, and Himachal Pradesh, eastwards to the Sichuan Province.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow, flowerheads to 8 mm across.
Height to 20 cm.
Habitat Stony slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Ajania tibetica, photographed near the Puga Marshes, Ladakh (top), and on the Bara Lacha La Pass, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Allardia, see Waldheimia.

 

 

 

 

Anaphalis Pearly everlasting
The majority of these herbs, comprising c. 110 species, are distributed in tropical and subtropical Asia, with only relatively few in temperate areas of Asia, Europe, and North America. About 20 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from the Greek ana, which, in this connection, means ‘exceedingly’, and phalos (‘white’), referring to the white flowerheads. The name pearly everlasting is derived from the specific name of a Eurasian species, A. margaritacea, from the Greek margarites (‘pearl’), likewise alluding to the white, pearl-like flowerheads of the genus.

 

Anaphalis nubigena
This low plant, to 10 cm tall, or sometimes stemless, grows in rocky areas and along streams at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,500 m, from Pakistan across the southern part of the Tibetan Plateau to south-western China. The white-woolly leaves, spatulate to oblong, to 3 cm long and 2 cm wide, are densely clustered in a rosette.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow disc-florets surrounded by numerous pointed white bracts, flowerheads to 1.5 cm across.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Slopes, among rocks, along streams.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Anaphalis nubigena, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Artemisia Mugwort, wormwood, sagebrush
These plants constitute a huge, worldwide genus, comprising between 200 and 400 species. About 25 species are found in the Himalaya, the major part in dry Tibetan areas.

The genus is named for Artemis, the Greek goddess of wilderness and wild animals, hunting, childbirth and virginity, protector of young girls, and also bringer and reliever of disease in women. In his Herbarium, Roman philosopher and scholar Lucius Apuleius (c. 124-170 A.D.) writes: “Of these worts that we name Artemisia, it is said that Diana found them and delivered their powers and leechdom to Chiron the Centaur, who first from these worts set forth a leechdom, and he named these worts from the Greek name of Diana, Artemis.”

You may read about the role of Artemisia species in folklore and traditional medicine on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

 

Artemisia macrocephala Large-flowered wormwood
This plant is distributed from southern Russia and Mongolia across Sinkiang and Tibet to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Ladakh, at altitudes between 1,500 and 5,500 m. It is usually unbranched, or with few short branches, and may easily be recognized by the relatively large flowerheads, growing to 1.5 cm across. The greyish-green leaves are deeply dissected, to 4 cm long and 1.5 cm wide.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads brownish, to 1.5 cm across.
Height to 50 cm.
Habitat Dry steppes and slopes, waste areas.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Large-flowered wormwood, Pang, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Artemisia sieversiana
This tall species is widely distributed, from Russia southwards to Pakistan and Ladakh, and from eastern Europe eastwards to Japan. It also has a wide altitudinal range, found from sea level to 4,200 m. The branched inflorescence is a panicle to 30 cm long, with small yellow flowerheads. The pinnatifid, twice or thrice dissected, greyish-green leaves are broadly ovate, to 15 cm long and wide.

In local folk medicine, essential oil from this plant is utilized as an anti-inflammatory, a paste of the root is applied to boils, and a decoction of the plant is used to relieve joint pain.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow, flowerheads to 6 mm across.
Height to 1.5 m.
Habitat Roadsides, waste areas, steppes, slopes, forest margins.
Flowering Jun.-Oct.

 

 

Artemisia sieversiana, observed at Koksar, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh (top), and near Leh, Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Askellia
This small genus, comprising about 11 species, is distributed from the Middle East across Central Asia to eastern Siberia and North America. Formerly, these plants were included in the hawksbeard genus (Crepis). A single species is found in our area.

 

Askellia flexuosa
This plant, previously named Crepis flexuosa, grows to 30 cm tall, but is often prostrate. The numerous branches are nearly leafless, ending in a profusion of small, pale yellow flowerheads, to 1 cm across. It is widespread and common, growing in a variety of habitats at altitudes from 800 to 5,100 m, from Kazakhstan, southern Russia, and Mongolia southwards to Nepal and Pakistan, westwards to the Middle East, and eastwards to western China.

 

Flower colour and size Pale yellow, flowerheads to 1 cm across.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat River plains, sandy and rocky areas, open slopes, meadows.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Askellia flexuosa is very common in Ladakh, here photographed near Kiara (top), and in the Puga Marshes. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Aster Aster
This huge genus has given name to the composite family. The ray florets of the major part of these attractive plants are bluish or lilac, whereas the disc florets are various shades of yellow or orange. A few species have white ray florets. Comprising about 152 species, the genus is almost worldwide, with c. 13 species in the Himalaya.

 

Aster diplostephioides
This tall plant, which may grow to 50 cm, but is often much lower, has solitary flowerheads, which are the largest of the genus, to 9 cm across, with numerous (sometimes up to 100) shaggy, narrow ray florets, to 2.5 cm long and 2 mm broad. The leaves are small and narrow, to 8 cm long. This species is partial to wet meadows, found at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,900 m, from Kashmir eastwards to south-western China.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads to 9 cm across, ray florets mauve or lilac, to 2.5 cm long, disc florets initially black, later yellow or orange.
Height to 50 cm, but often much lower.
Habitat Meadows, along rivers.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Aster diplostephioides, Upper Rolwaling Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Aster falconeri
This species resembles A. diplostephioides, with large solitary flowerheads to 8 cm across, but with bluish, somewhat broader ray florets. The leaves are much larger, ovate to lanceolate, to 15 cm long. This plant is found from Pakistan eastwards to western Nepal, growing on alpine slopes at altitudes from 3,000 to 4,200 m. In local folk medicine, juice of its root is applied to wounds.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads to 8 cm across, ray florets blue, to 3.5 cm long, disc florets yellow or orange.
Height to 35 cm.
Habitat Alpine slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Aster falconeri, observed below the Rohtang La Pass, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Aster himalaicus
This species also has solitary flowerheads, but is a much smaller plant, often only 10 cm tall, and with small flowerheads to 3.5 cm across. It grows in open areas between 3,600 and 4,500 m altitude, from central Nepal eastwards to south-western China.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads to 3.5 cm across, ray florets lilac, to 1.5 cm long, disc florets yellow or orange.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Open slopes, rocky areas.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

These pictures were all taken near the Kyanjin Gompa, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. Early in the morning, the flowerhead in the bottom picture was covered in rime, which by now has melted in the morning sun. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Aster indamellus
A tall plant with many leaves, to 5 cm long, up the stem, and 4-7 flowerheads in a spreading, flat-topped cluster, each flowerhead to 4 cm across, and many mauve ray florets, to 1.3 cm long. This species is found at elevations between 2,100 and 4,000 m, from Kashmir eastwards to central Nepal.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads to 4 cm across, ray florets mauve, to 1.3 cm long, disc florets yellow.
Height to 50 cm.
Habitat Open slopes.
Flowering Aug.-Sep.

 

 

Aster indamellus, Keylong, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Cirsium Thistle
A large genus of spiny herbs with about 250-300 species, distributed across Eurasia, in North Africa, and in Central and North America. 7 species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Cirsium wallichii
This is one of the commonest Himalayan thistles, an extremely variable plant, which grows to a height of almost 3 m, often with many branches. Its leaves are heavily armed with recurved spines, and it has numerous white or purplish flowerheads, measuring to 4 cm across. This species is found from Afghanistan eastwards to south-western China, at altitudes between 1,200 and 3,300 m.

The specific name was given in honour of Danish physician and botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), who studied the Indian and Himalayan flora in the early 1800s.

 

Flower colour and size White or purplish flowerheads, to 4 cm across.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Open areas.
Flowering May-Aug.

 

 

Cirsium wallichii, Solang Nallah Valley, near Manali (top), and near Keylong, both in Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Cousinia
This huge genus is restricted to Asia, comprising about 600 species of spiny herbs. 3 species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Cousinia thomsonii
This plant resembles a thistle, but the leaves, to 13 cm long and 3.5 cm wide, are pinnately divided, and the involucral bracts are heavily spined. It grows in arid areas between 3,000 and 4,300 m altitude, distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to western Nepal and south-western Tibet.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerhead pink, red, or purple, to 6 cm across.
Height to 45 cm.
Habitat Grasslands, open stony areas.
Flowering Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Cousinia thomsonii is very common in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Cremanthodium
Members of this genus, comprising altogether about 69 species, have beautiful yellow flowerheads. These plants are restricted to China and the Himalaya, with 13 species in the Himalaya.

 

Cremanthodium nepalense
This plant is found in central and eastern Nepal and extreme southern Tibet, growing on open slopes and among rocks, at altitudes from 2,800 to 4,800 m. The basal leaves are stalked, ovate, toothed, to 8 cm long and 5 cm wide, with impressed veins, apex rounded or slightly pointed. The stem has short black hairs and very small leaves. The single flowerhead is nodding, to 3 cm across, the yellow ray florets with 3 teeth at the apex.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerhead to 3 cm across, ray florets yellow, to 15 mm long and 3 mm wide, disc florets initially yellow, later black.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Grassy or rocky slopes, river banks.
Flowering Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Nepal 2009-1
Cremanthodium nepalense, photographed in the Gosainkund area, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cremanthodium reniforme
Resembles C. nepalense, but the rounded leaves, which are broader than wide, are characteristic of this species, to 3.5 cm long and 7 cm wide, and the involucral bracts are covered in black hairs. The single flowerhead is nodding, to 7 cm across, the yellow ray florets with 3 teeth at the apex. This species is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to the Yunnan Province of China, growing in shrubberies and open areas between 3,300 and 4,500 m altitude. It is rather common in Nepal.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerhead to 7 cm across, ray florets yellow, to 2 cm long and 8 mm wide, disc florets deep yellow or brown.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes, forest margins.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Cremanthodium reniforme, Gosainkund area, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Dubyaea
This genus, comprising about 15 species, is restricted to south-western China and the Himalaya, with c. 4 species in the Himalaya.

 

Dubyaea hispida
The specific name, from the Latin hispidus (‘rough’, ‘bristly-hairy’) refers to the stiff hairs on stem, leaves, and involucral bracts of this plant. The lower leaves have a winged stalk, leaf blade to 18 cm long and 6 cm wide, often lobed or pinnate at the base, upper leaves smaller and narrower, toothed or entire, clasping. Inflorescence with 2-7 flowerheads, yellow, nodding, to 2.5 cm across.

This species is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-western China, found between 2,700 and 4,500 m altitude.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerhead yellow, to 2.5 cm across.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Forest margins, meadows, shrubberies.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Dubyaea hispida, Langshisha, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. The plant to the right, with red fruits, is a species of rhubarb, Rheum australe (see Polygonaceae). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Echinops Globe-thistle
Most members of this genus, comprising c. 120 species, are native to Europe and northern Asia, with some species reaching mountains in tropical Africa. 2 species occur in our area.

These plants are characterized by their thistle-like appearance, but are easily identified by the spherical flowerhead, which resembles a spiny ball. This inflorescence gave rise to the generic name, from the Greek ekhinos (‘hedgehog’) and ops (‘head’).

 

Echinops cornigerus
This plant grows in dry, stony areas, from Afghanistan eastwards to central Nepal, at altitudes between 2,400 and 3,500 m. It is very common in Ladakh. The numerous leaves, to 20 cm long, very much resemble thistle leaves. The florets are all alike, to 15 mm long, white or pale blue, with long, spine-tipped involucral bracts.

Medicinally, the powdered leaves are used to cure jaundice, a paste of the leaves is applied to septic wounds, and the seeds are taken as a tonic.

 

Flower colour and size Florets all alike, white or pale blue, to 15 mm long.
Height to 1.5 m.
Habitat Stony areas.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Echinops cornigerus is very common in Ladakh, here photographed near Leh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Inula Yellowhead
This genus contains about 100 species, of which many are large, with showy, yellow flowerheads. These plants are distributed in Asia, Africa, and Europe. About 13 species occur in the Himalaya.

Inula is the old Latin name for Inula helenium, a species native to southern Europe, and western and central Asia. It is derived from the Greek inaein (‘cleansing’), referring to its medicinal properties. In the 5th Century, it was called Inula campana, in medieval times Enula campana, which, in English, was corrupted to elecampane (see I. racemosa below).

 

Inula orientalis
This attractive plant, also known as I. grandiflora, is distributed from western Asia eastwards to central Nepal. In the Himalaya, it is found at altitudes between 2,000 and 3,400 m. The leaves are oblong or lanceolate, to 7.5 cm long, with glandular teeth and bristly hairs on the margin. The solitary, golden-yellow flowerhead is to 6 cm across, borne at the end of a leafy stem. The numerous ray-florets are narrow, to 2 cm long, 3-lobed at the tip. The involucral bracts are bristly-hairy.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow, ray-florets narrow, to 2 cm long.
Height to 45 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Inula orientalis, Chame, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Inula racemosa Indian elecampane
This stately plant resembles the Eurasian elecampane (I. helenium), hence its common name. It is a stout herb, to 1.8 m tall, with large flowerheads, to 8 cm across, borne in branched clusters at the end of stem and branches. Ray florets are slender, to 2.5 cm long. The lower leaves are very large, to 45 cm long, elliptic or lanceolate, narrowed to a winged stalk. The upper leaves are smaller, sessile.

This plant is distributed from Afghanistan and Sinkiang southwards to Himachal Pradesh and central Nepal, at elevations between 1,500 and 3,200 m. It is often cultivated, as the root is widely utilized in local traditional medicine, e.g. as an expectorant.

The origin of the name elecampane is explained above.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow, ray florets to 2.5 cm long.
Height to 1.8 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, grasslands, cultivated areas.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Indian elecampane, Sissu, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Leontopodium Edelweiss
This genus contains about 58 species, most of which grow in Asia, with a few species extending to Europe. The Himalaya, Ladakh, and Tibet are home to a large number of species, many of which are notoriously difficult to distinguish, especially as they often interbreed.

The generic name was applied by Scottish botanist Robert Brown (1773-1858), from the Greek leon (‘lion’) and podion (‘small foot’), presumably in allusion to the fuzzy involucral bracts, which somewhat resemble a lion’s paw. The name edelweiss means ‘noble white’ in German.

The common edelweiss (L. alpinum) is described on the page Plants: Flora of the Alps.

 

Leontopodium nanum
The specific name is derived from the Greek nanos (‘dwarf’), and this tiny plant, with densely woolly bracts, really lives up to its name, rarely growing more than 5 cm tall. Usually 3-5 flowerheads sitting closely together, each up to 1.3 cm across. This species is found in alpine meadows and shrubs, from Kazakhstan and Sinkiang southwards through Tibet to Pakistan, Ladakh, and Nepal, eastwards to the Chinese provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi, and Sichuan. It has a wide altitudinal range, found between 2,100 and 5,000 m.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads brownish, to 1.3 cm across.
Height to 7 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, meadows.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Leontopodium nanum, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Leontopodium ochroleucum
This plant has several stems, to 15 cm tall. The stem leaves are covered in a dense layer of white or grey heairs, whereas the basal leaves are green, slightly downy or sometimes glabrous. Usually 5-7 flowerheads sitting closely together, each up to 7 mm across. This species grows in grassy areas or on stony slopes, between 2,200 and 5,000 m altitude, from southern Russia southwards through Sinkiang and Mongolia to Tibet and Ladakh.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads brownish, to 7 mm across.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Grassy areas, stony slopes.
Flowering May-Aug.

 

 

Leontopodium ochroleucum, Pang, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

This unidentified species of edelweiss was encountered below the Kongmaru La Pass (5274 m), Markha Valley, Ladakh. Orange lichens are growing on the stone. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Melanoseris
Genetic research has shown that a large number of species, probably 60-80, which were formerly placed in the genera Chaetoseris, Stenoseris, Cicerbita, Lactuca, Mulgedium, and Prenanthes, are in fact members of the genus Melanoseris, which was previously not recognized, although it is one of the oldest described genera in the subtribe Lactucinae. These plants are distributed in Africa and Asia, with about 9 species in the Himalaya.

 

Melanoseris brunoniana
This plant, which was previously named Prenanthes brunoniana, is to 2 m tall, with a branched or unbranched stem, sometimes glandular-hairy above. The leaves are variable, long-stalked or short-stalked, the stalk winged or not, the blade to 20 cm long, triangular heart-shaped, toothed or pinnately lobed. The nodding flowerheads only have 3-5 florets, blue, purple, or sometimes white, to 2 cm long and 3 mm wide, in numerous lax clusters at the end of branches. This plant is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to central Nepal, at elevations between 1,800 and 3,600 m.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads with 3-5 florets, blue, purple, or sometimes white, to 2 cm long and 3 mm wide.
Height to 2 m, but often much lower.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Melanoseris brunoniana, Koksar, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Melanoseris macrantha
This tall herb, formerly called Cicerbita macrantha, has large lower leaves, elliptic or lanceolate in outline, pinnate, to 40 cm long and 8 cm wide, with toothed margin. The upper leaves are smaller and less divided. The inflorescence is a lax cluster of few blue flowerheads, to 5 cm across, ray florets to 2.5 cm long. This species is found from central Nepal eastwards to Bhutan, and in extreme southern Tibet, at altitudes from 3,200 to 4,300 m.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads blue, to 5 cm across, ray florets to 2.5 cm long.
Height to 1.5 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Melanoseris macrantha, Yangri Peak, Helambu, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Pyrethrum
This genus of mainly Asian plants, counting about 51 species, has one member in our area.

 

Pyrethrum pyrethroides
This plant, which resembles a daisy (Leucanthemum), has few grey-woolly stems with solitary flowerheads to 3.5 cm across, with many oblong, blunt, white or pinkish ray-florets and yellow disc florets. The involucral bracts have purple, papery margins. Almost all leaves are basal, stalked, to 8 cm long, oblong in outline, twice or thrice pinnate, densely woolly-hairy. The stems have few, very small leaves. This species is restricted to dry areas of northern Pakistan and Ladakh, growing at altitudes between 3,300 and 4,800 m. It is common in Ladakh, 

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads to 3.5 cm across, ray florets white or pinkish, disc florets yellow.
Height to 25 cm.
Habitat Stony, dry areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Pyrethrum pyrethroides, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Saussurea
A huge genus with about 415 species, distributed mainly in temperate Asia, with some species in Europe and North America. No less than about 289 species, of which 191 are endemic, are found in China, the majority on the Tibetan Plateau. About 31 species have been encountered in the Himalaya and Ladakh. Members of this genus lack ray florets. Many species are adapted to the cold and dry conditions at high altitudes, having a dense cover of insulating hairs.

 

Saussurea elliptica
A prostrate, almost stemless plant, which is quite similar to the more common S. gnaphalodes (below), but may be identified by its leaves, which are elliptic, greyish-green, pointed, to 7 cm long and 3 cm wide. The uppermost leaves are linear, surrounding the inflorescence, which consists of 2-10 lilac flowerheads. This species is found at elevations between 2,500 and 4,600 m, from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and western Tibet southwards to Pakistan and Ladakh.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads lilac, to 1.3 cm across.
Height to 20 cm, but often only 5-10 cm.
Habitat  Dry stony areas, grasslands.
Flowering Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Saussurea elliptica, encountered near Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Saussurea gnaphalodes
Another prostrate plant, branched from ground-level. The leaves, most of which are clustered in a rosette, are woolly-hairy, oblong to spatulate, to 2 cm long and 8 mm wide. The inflorescence consists of 5-20 brown, lilac, or purplish flowerheads, to 4 cm across. This species is quite common in stony areas between 2,700 and 5,800 m altitude, from eastern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan eastwards across Central Asia to western China, southwards to Pakistan, Ladakh, and western Nepal.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads brown, lilac, or purplish, to 4 cm across.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Dry stony areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Saussurea gnaphalodes, growing in a compact cushion of Thylacospermum caespitosum (Caryophyllaceae), beneath the Kongmaru La Pass, Markha Valley, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Saussurea gnaphalodes, growing up through shrubs of Caragana brevifolia (Fabaceae), Pang, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Saussurea gossypiphora
This remarkable plant is one of the species, which has a dense cover of insulating, white hairs making it look like a cotton ball. Flowerheads are purple, hidden in the cover of hairs. Leaves are numerous, green or brownish, linear or oblong, with few or many spiny teeth. This species is found in barren and stony areas at altitudes between 4,200 and 5,600 m, from Kashmir eastwards to Arunachal Pradesh, and, doubtfully, in the Yunnan Province. It is used medicinally.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads purple, to 1 cm across and 2 cm long.
Height to 45 cm.
Habitat Dry stony areas.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Saussurea gossypiphora, Nathu La, Sikkim. (Photo copyright © by Ajai Saxena)

 

 

Saussurea gossypiphora, photographed at an altitude of c. 4,700 m beneath the Ganja La Pass, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Senecio Groundsel, ragwort, butterweed
This genus, comprising more than 1,200 species, is found almost worldwide, with about 22 species in the Himalaya. The majority of these plants are erect herbs, with a few climbing or scrambling species.

 

Senecio cappa
This very common plant grows in open areas between 1,300 and 3,300 m altitude, from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-western China. It has a shrubby stem with very many stalked, lanceolate to elliptic leaves, to 22 cm long and 4 cm wide. The numerous flowerheads are tiny, to 6 mm long, in dense, terminal, branched clusters.

In Nepal, alcohol is produced from the plant. Medicinally, juice of the root is given for fever, and a paste of the leaves is applied to boils.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads yellow, to 6 mm long, with short ray florets.
Height to 2 m, but often much lower.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering Aug.-Nov.

 

 

Nepal 2009a
Senecio cappa, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Senecio graciliflorus
This large plant may be identified by its large, deeply cleft leaves, to 20 cm long, with 6-8 pairs of irregularly toothed lobes. The numerous flowerheads are tiny, to 8 mm long, in flat-topped, terminal, branched clusters. Each flowerhead only has 3-5 ray florets, to 4 mm long. This species is rather common, found from Kashmir eastwards to south-western China and Malaysia. In the Himalaya, it is found between 2,000 and 4,100 m altitude.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads yellow, to 8 mm long, ray florets to 4 mm long.
Height to 2 m, but often much lower.
Habitat Forest margins, shrubberies, along rivers.
Flowering Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Senecio graciliflorus, observed at Darjaling in the southern part of Langtang National Park, central Nepal. The mountain in the background is Bemthang. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Senecio scandens
This species is one of the few members of the genus, which is not erect, but scrambling over other plants, or hanging down from banks. It has very slender, zig-zag stems and arrow-shaped, long-pointed leaves, to 12 cm long and 4.5 cm wide, often with lobes at the base, and terminal, branched clusters of flowerheads, each to 8 mm long, with ray florets to 5 mm long.

This plant is very widely distributed in Asia, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Japan, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines, and also in South India and Sri Lanka. In the Himalaya, it grows at altitudes between c. 1,800 and 4,000 m.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads yellow, to 8 mm long, ray florets to 5 mm long.
Length to 4 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, villages.
Flowering Aug.-Dec.

 

 

Nepal 2009a
Senecio scandens, hanging down from slopes near Chame (top) and Koto, both in the Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Sigesbeckia St. Paul’s wort
This genus, comprising about 17 species, is found in most tropical and subtropical areas around the world, with most species in Central and South America. A single species is found in warmer valleys of the Himalaya.

 

Sigesbeckia orientalis Common St. Paul’s wort
This plant is easily identified by its long involucral bracts, densely covered in sticky glands. The leaves are ovate to triangular, to 12 cm long and 8 cm wide. It is widely distributed, found in Africa, on the Indian Subcontinent, in East and Southeast Asia, in Australia, and on islands in the Pacific. In the Himalaya, it grows up to an altitude of c. 2,700 m.

In traditional medicine, this species is utilized for arthritis, joint pain, muscle pain, sciatica, and snakebite, and it has also been used in treatment of malaria.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads yellow, to 5 mm across, ray florets tiny, to 2 mm long.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering Apr.-Oct.

 

 

Common St. Paul’s wort, Solang Nallah Valley, near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

The Linnaeus-Siegesbeck feud
Sigesbeckia orientalis was named for German botanist and physician Johann Georg Siegesbeck (1686-1755), who was director of the Botanical Gardens of St. Petersburg. Initially, he was a friend of the famous Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, or Carl von Linné (1707-1778).

Later, however, he became a fierce critic of Linné’s Systema plantarum sexuale, from 1737, which was partly based on grouping plants according to the number of male and female organs in each flower. Siegesbeck called this theory “loathsome harlotry” and wondered “who would have thought that bluebells, lillies and onions could be up to such immorality?” He mockingly asked, whether God would allow 20 men or more (i.e. the stamens) to have one wife in common (i.e. the pistil).

“What man,” he continued, “will ever believe that God Almighty should have introduced such confusion, or rather such shameful whoredom, for the propagation of the reign of plants? Who will instruct young students in such a voluptuous system without scandal?”

When Linné returned to Sweden, he realized that he had become a laughing stock, thanks to Siegesbeck’s criticism. He retaliated by naming a foul-smelling oriental weed with sticky glands Siegesbeckia.

Swedish botanist Johan Browallius successfully defended Linné’s ideas, but this did not alter Siegesbeck’s attitude, and the dispute continued. Linné relabeled a packet of Siegesbeckia seeds Cuculus ingratus (‘ungrateful cuckoo’) and sent it to Siegesbeck, who grew the seeds. When he realized that they were Siegesbeckia, he stopped his correspondence with Linné, and from then on there was cold air between the two. (Source: L. & L. Taiz, 2017. Flora unveiled: the discovery and denial of sex in plants)

While the good German doctor’s name was Siegesbeck, the current correct spelling of the generic name, according to Kew Botanical Gardens, London, is Sigesbeckia.

 

 

 

 

Tanacetum Tansy
This genus, comprising c. 100 species, is distributed in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Disc florets are yellow, whereas ray florets are missing in most species. About 36 species, which were formerly placed in this genus, have been moved to a new genus, Ajania (see above).

A member of this genus, feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), which was formerly much utilized in folk medicine, is presented on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

 

Tanacetum dolichophyllum
This species is readily identified by its fresh-green, aromatic, much dissected leaves, to 25 cm long, which somewhat resemble carrot leaves. The inflorescence is a dense terminal cluster of several, relatively large flowerheads, each to 1.5 cm across, with hairy bracts, which are purplish along the margin. This plant is distributed from Kashmir to western Nepal, at altitudes between 3,300 and 4,400 m.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads yellow, to 1.5 cm across, ray florets missing.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Open slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Tanacetum dolichophyllum, Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Tanacetum stoliczkae 
At first sight, this plant resembles a daisy (Leucanthemum), but it may be identified by its pinnate leaves. In this respect, it resembles Pyrethrum pyrethroides (above), but its foliage is pale green and only slightly hairy, not greyish and woolly-haired. It is endemic to northern Pakistan and Ladakh, at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,000 m.

The specific name was given in honour of Ferdinand Stoliczka (1838-1874), a Czech palaeontologist, geologist, and zoologist, who mainly worked in India. He died of altitude sickness during an expedition to the Karakoram Mountains.

 

Flower colour and size Ray florets white, to 1.1 cm long, disc florets yellow.
Height to 20 cm.
Habitat Rock crevices, sandy river plains.
Flowering Aug.

 

 

Tanacetum stoliczkae, Ulley, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Waldheimia
This genus of pretty composites, comprising 8 species, is restricted to Central Asia. It is much discussed among taxonomists, whether these plants should be called Waldheimia or Allardia, as the year of publication of the latter name is uncertain. It seems that Waldheimia has priority (see P.K. Pusalkar & D.K. Singh 2005. Proposal to conserve the name Waldheimia against Allardia (Asteraceae–Anthemideae). Taxon 54 (2): 553-554).

 

Waldheimia glabra
A tufted plant with rosettes of greyish-green, hairless or sparsely woolly leaves, to 2 cm long, which has 4-5 terminal lobes. The flowerheads are to 3.5 cm across, with pink, purplish, or white ray florets, to 1.5 cm long, disc florets yellow, orange, or brownish. This species is found at altitudes between 3,500 and 5,500 m, from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan southwards through Afghanistan and Tibet to Pakistan, and thence eastwards to Bhutan.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads to 3.5 cm across, ray florets pink, purplish, or white, to 1.5 cm long, disc florets yellow, orange, or brownish.
Height to 5 cm.
Habitat Stony areas.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Waldheimia glabra, near Nathu La, eastern Sikkim. A species of Silene (Caryophyllaceae) is seen in the upper right corner. (Photo copyright © by Ajai Saxena)

 

 

 

Waldheimia nivea
The flowers of this plant resemble those of W. glabra, but the leaves are tiny, sessile, to 8 mm long and 2.5 mm wide, with 3 tiny lobes at the apex. This species is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to eastern Nepal and extreme southern Tibet, at altitudes between 4,000 and 5,400 m.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads to 1.9 cm across, ray florets pink or reddish, to 8 mm long, disc florets yellow or orange.
Height to 5 cm.
Habitat Stony areas.
Flowering Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Waldheimia nivea, Bara Lacha La, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Waldheimia stoliczkae
This species very much resembles W. glabra, but its leaves are bright green. It grows between 3,000 and 4,500 m altitude, from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Sinkiang, and western Tibet southwards to Pakistan and Ladakh. The specific name was given in honour of Ferdinand Stoliczka (see Tanacetum stoliczkae above).

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads to 2 cm across, ray florets pink, to 1.5 cm long, disc florets yellow or orange.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Stony areas, dry riverbeds.
Flowering Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Waldheimia stoliczkae, Konze La Pass (4950 m), Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Waldheimia tomentosa
The leaves of this plant are twice pinnate, to 5 cm long, and both surfaces are densely covered in web-like, whitish hairs. Ray florets are white, or sometimes very pale pink, disc florets yellow, the outer ones often turning blackish. This species mainly grows in thallus (dead plant material) among rocks. It is distributed in about the same area as W. glabra (above).

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads to 6 cm across, ray florets white or pale pink, to 2.5 cm long, disc florets yellow or orange, outer ones often turning blackish.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Stony areas, dry riverbeds.
Flowering Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Waldheimia tomentosa, Bara Lacha La, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Balanophoraceae
This family contains 17 genera with c. 44 species, some of which superficially resemble fungi. These plants contain no chlorophyll, being parasites that obtains all necessary nutrients from tree roots. They are found in subtropical and tropical areas around the globe, with a few species extending into temperate regions.

The generic name stems from the inflorescence of members of the genus Balanophora, which is covered by bumps, resembling barnacles (family Balanidae).

 

Balanophora
This genus, comprising about 20 species, is found in tropical Africa, Madagascar, southern Asia, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia, and on some Pacific Islands. Some species emit an odour, which attracts flies as pollinators.

Several species are used in traditional medicine in certain Asian countries.

 

Balanophora dioica
The stems of this plant are pink or purple, cylindric, to 10 cm tall. Leaves are scale-like, clasping the stem, to 4 cm long and 2.5 cm broad. Inflorescences are ovoid or ellipsoid, to 3.5 cm long. This species has a wide altitudinal range, found between 400 and 2,600 m, from central Nepal eastwards to China and Taiwan.

 

Flower colour and size White, tiny.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Nepal 2009
Balanophora dioica, near Bamboo Lodge, Lower Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Balsaminaceae Balsam family
This huge family, with more than 1,000 species, is found in temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions, primarily in Asia and Africa, with some species in Europe and North America. It consists of 2 genera, Impatiens, which contains the vast majority of the species, and Hydrocera, with only one species.

These plants are characterized by their fleshy, almost translucent stems, and the unique structure of their attractive flowers, having 3 or 5 sepals, of which the lower one is greatly enlarged to form a pouch with a spur, whereas the other 2 or 4 are small and greenish. There are 5 petals, of which the upper one is often helmet-like, whereas the 4 lateral ones are fused in pairs, the upper pair forming the wings, the lower pair the lip.

 

Impatiens Balsam, touch-me-not, jewelweed, busy-Lizzie
The generic name, as well as the popular name touch-me-not, were given in allusion to the way these plants spread their seeds. As the fruit reaches maturity, a tension builds up inside the pod, causing it to ‘explode’ when touched, hereby spreading the seeds a considerable distance.

Balsam species are ubiquitous in the Himalaya, comprising at least 50 species, most of which bloom during the monsoon. As if the monsoon rain is not enough, some species often grow along streams or beneath waterfalls to benefit from the humid air. Many of the species are difficult to distinguish.

 

Impatiens bicornuta
This plant grows at altitudes between 1,900 and 3,000 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to eastern Nepal and southern Tibet. It can be identified by its pink flowers, to 3 cm long, with a yellowish, brown-dotted pouch, having a short, S-shaped spur, to 8 mm long, and by two very long, slender ‘tails’ on the lip. The leaves are elliptic, rounded-toothed, to 20 cm long and 6.5 cm wide. Locally, tender parts of this species are cooked as a vegetable.

 

Flower colour and size See above.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, along streams.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Impatiens bicornuta, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. To me, some of the flowers rather resemble French artist Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Impatiens falcifer 
This pretty, yellow-flowered balsam may be identified by its brown-dotted upper petal and the broad, sickle-shaped wings. The flowers are to 2.5 cm long. The long-stalked leaves are ovate to oblong, to 5 cm long and 2 cm wide, with sharp teeth. This plant has a rather restricted distribution, from central Nepal eastwards to Bhutan, growing in forests between 2,300 and 3,600 m altitude. It is common in Nepal.

 

Flower colour and size See above.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Forests, along streams.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Impatiens falcifer, Thangshyap, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. The plant in the lower picture is covered in raindrops after a heavy monsoon shower. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Impatiens glandulifera
This plant, formerly known as I. roylei, very much resembles I. sulcata (below), but is generally lower, to 2 m tall, the leaves are narrower, to 20 cm long and 3 cm wide, with sharp, gland-tipped teeth, and its capsules, to 3 cm long, are clearly club-shaped, thicker at the tip, not linear as in I. sulcata. It is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to Uttarakhand, at altitudes between 1,800 and 4,000 m.

This plant is widely cultivated and has become naturalized in many European countries, North America, New Zealand, and elsewhere. It is considered a noxious weed in many countries, often forming large stands, which expel native species.

 

Flower colour and size Much like I. sulcata (below).
Height to 2 m, but often lower.
Habitat Shrubberies, grazing grounds.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Impatiens glandulifera, Solang Nallah, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Impatiens scabrida
A robust plant to 1.2 m tall, branched, leaves stalkless, with 2 basal purplish glands. Leaf blade ovate or lanceolate, long-pointed, to 15 cm long and 4 cm wide, with sharp, glandular teeth along the margin. The flowers are axillary, golden-yellow with purple spots or streaks, to 4 cm long, abruptly narrowed into a slender, hooked spur, to 3 cm long. This species is distributed from Kashmir eastwards to Bhutan, at elevations between 1,200 and 3,600 m.

 

Flower colour and size See above.
Height to 1.2 m, but often lower.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, along streams.
Flowering May-Sep.

 

 

Impatiens scabrida, Manali, Himachal Pradesh (top), and near Galeshwor, Kali Gandaki, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Impatiens sulcata
Previously, this large species, growing to 3 m tall, was known as I. gigantea. The flower colour is very variable, being pink, bright red, or purple. The pouch is often yellowish, brown-spotted. The leaves are ovate or lanceolate, to 20 cm long and 5 cm wide, with blunt teeth, and red or purple basal glands. It is widespread and common, growing in a variety of habitats between 1,800 and 4,000 m altitude, from Kashmir eastwards to Bhutan. It is very common in Himachal Pradesh, where the pictures below were taken.

This species resembles I. glandulifera, but its leaves are blunt-tipped, and the capsules are linear, to 4 cm long and 3 mm wide, whereas they are clearly club-shaped in I. glandulifera.

 

Flower colour and size See above.
Height to 3 m, but often lower.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, cultivated areas.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Large growth of Impatiens sulcata along a river, Jispa, Lahaul. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Impatiens sulcata in front of a waterfall, near Manali. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Himachal 2009
Impatiens sulcata, near the village of Sissu, Lahaul. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Begoniaceae Begonia family
This family has 2 genera, of which Hillebrandia only has a single member, restricted to Hawaii, whereas the other genus, Begonia, has no less than about 1,825 species, found worldwide in tropical and subtropical areas, with a few members extending into temperate mountain regions.

 

Begonia
There are more than 600 species of Begonia in Asia, of which about 18 are found in the Himalaya. Many of the species are difficult to distinguish.

Male and female flowers of this genus are quite different, the males having 4 petals, of which the outer two are rounder and broader than the inner ones. Female flowers have 5 or more petals, of almost equal size.

 

Begonia picta
This plant is easily identified by its hairy, irregularly double-toothed leaves, which are often blotched with purple. It is very common at altitudes between 600 and 2,900 m, distributed from Pakistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet. Leaf-stalk and stems are edible when pickled.

This species is widely used in traditional medicine. Juice of the plant is taken for headache, whereas juice of the root is used for inflamed eyes and peptic ulcer. The juice is also squeezed into vegetable dyes to make them colourfast.

 

Flower colour and size Pink, to 3 cm across.
Height to 18 cm.
Habitat Moist rocks, banks, shady forest margins.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Male flowers of Begonia picta, Chipling, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Female flowers of Begonia picta, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Red fruits and yellow autumn foliage of Begonia picta, Danakju, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Begonia rubella
As opposed to B. picta, this species is hairless, with triangular, long-tipped leaves, which are with or without teeth. It grows at altitudes between 600 and 1,800 m, from central Nepal eastwards to Sikkim. In Nepal, leaf-stalk and stems are pickled.

 

Flower colour and size Pink, to 2 cm across, in a branched cluster.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Moist rocks, banks, shady forest margins.
Flowering Aug.-Sep.

 

 

Begonia rubella, hanging down from a bank along a trail, Chisapani, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

An unidentified species of Begonia, Rimche, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Berberidaceae Barberry family
Members of this family, consisting of 17 genera with ca. 650 species, are mainly native to the northern temperate zone and some subtropical mountains. 5 genera are found in the Himalaya.

 

Berberis Barberry
This huge genus contains about 500 species, of which the vast majority is found in northern temperate regions, with a few species in the Southern Hemisphere. The genus is ubiquitous in the Himalaya, the majority of the c. 38 species being small shrubs, usually with spiny stems and leaf-margins. They all have pretty, yellow flowers, which later turn into red, blue, or blackish berries. The wood of many species yields a yellow dye, and many species are utilized medicinally. The Naga people of north-eastern India tie barberry spines together in a bamboo clip, called azialangba, using them as needles for tattooing.

 

Berberis aristata
This shrub has long, arching branches, spineless or with few spines, to 1 cm long. The leaves are elliptic, usually spineless, to 5 cm long and 2 cm broad, falling in the late autumn, or sometimes remaining on the bush, turning crimson in winter. The flowers are arranged in short-stalked clusters from the leaf axils, longer than the leaves. The edible berry is ovoid, to 8 mm long, dark red when ripe, often covered in a layer of glaucous powder. This species is distributed from Kashmir eastwards to Bhutan, at elevations between 1,800 and 3,500 m. It is also found in Central and South India, and in Sri Lanka. 

This plant is widely used in local folk medicine for a large number of ailments, including inflamed eyes, jaundice, malaria, diarrhoea, and skin diseases. Among the Naga people of north-eastern India, the bark is crushed, soaked in water and drunk as a tonic, and to treat uterus problems and jaundice.

 

Flower colour and size Warm yellow, petals to 6 mm long.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, cultivated land.
Flowering Apr.-Jun.

 

 

Berberis aristata, growing next to a house in the village of Lete, Kali Gandaki, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Ripe berries of Berberis aristata are red. – Sing Gompa, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Some leaves of Berberis aristata remain on the bush in the winter, turning crimson. – Shivapuri National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Berberis asiatica
A much-branched, evergreen shrub with spines on the stem, to 1.5 cm long. It somewhat resembles B. aristata, with long, pale branches, but its leaves, which are ovate or elliptic in outline, to 7.5 cm long and 4 cm wide, has 6-8 spines along the margin, and it has foliage year-round. The flowers are arranged in short-stalked clusters from the leaf axils, shorter than the leaves. The edible berry is oblong or ovoid, to 8 mm long, purplish-blue when ripe. This species is distributed from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to south-western China, at elevations between 1,200 and 2,500 m.

This plant is also widely used in local folk medicine.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow, petals to 7 mm long.
Height to 4 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes, cultivated land.
Flowering Mar.-May.

 

 

Flowering Berberis asiatica, Jhinu Danda, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Flowers of Berberis asiatica, Himalpani, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Ripening berries of Berberis asiatica, Bheri Kharka, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Berberis concinna
This small spiny bush, growing to 1 m tall, usually forms large thickets in open areas at high altitudes, between 2,700 and 4,400 m. It is distributed from central Nepal eastwards to Sikkim and south-eastern Tibet. The branches are bright red or purple, with long spines, often as long as the leaves, which are up to 3 cm long and 1.4 cm wide, with 2-6 spines along the margin. Some leaves remain green on the bush throughout the winter, others turn red or a very delicate shade of cyclamen. The yellow flowers are solitary, petals ovate, to 6.5 mm long. The berry is oblong, to 1.6 cm long and 8 mm broad, dark red when ripe.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow, petals to 6.5 mm long.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

The winter foliage of Berberis concinna is often a very delicate shade of cyclamen. – Magingoth, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Bright red fruit, and red and green winter foliage of Berberis concinna, Magingoth. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Berberis lycium
This plant, with stem spines to 2 cm long, is common in open areas, from Pakistan eastwards to eastern Nepal, at altitudes between 1,500 and 3,000 m. The leaves are lanceolate, spineless, to 4 cm long and 1 cm wide, abruptly narrowed to a sharp point. The flowers are in axillary clusters, to 5 cm long. The edible berries, to 1 cm long, are a pretty blue, turning black when ripe, with a whitish bloom. In Pakistan, an extract from root and stems is used as a tonic and as an eye lotion.

 

Flower colour and size Pale yellow, to 8 mm across.
Height to 4 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes, cultivated land.
Flowering Apr.-Jun.

 

 

Blue berries and spineless leaves of Berberis lycium, Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Mahonia Mahonia
This genus of evergreen shrubs or small trees, comprising about 60 species, are mainly distributed in East and Southeast Asia, with some species in western North America, Central America, and western South America. 3 species are found in the Himalaya.

 

Mahonia napaulensis Nepalese mahonia
This evergreen shrub or small tree, to 7 m tall, is very common from western Nepal eastwards to south-western China, at altitudes between 1,200 and 3,000 m. The spectacular leaves are shiny, elliptic or ovate in outline, to 60 cm long and 19 cm wide, with 5-12 pairs of sharp-pointed leaflets, to 10 cm long and 5 cm broad, with up to 20 teeth along the margin. This species is gorgeous when flowering, displaying numerous clusters of bright yellow flowers, to 25 cm long. The blue or bluish-black berries are eaten raw or pickled, and bark and fruit are used medicinally.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow, petals to 7 mm long.
Height to 7 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Oct.-Apr.

 

 

Flowering Nepalese mahonia, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

The blue berries of Nepalese mahonia are edible, raw or pickled. This cluster was photographed in the Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Young leaves of Nepalese mahonia are bright red before turning green. – Tharo Kosi, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Betulaceae Birch family
Today, this family contains six genera of deciduous trees and shrubs, numbering about 167 species. Previously, only two genera, Betula (birches) and Alnus (alders), were included, but the former family Corylaceae (hazels, hornbeams, and allies) is now regarded as a subfamily, Coryloideae, of Betulaceae. Most members of the family are native to temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with some species in tropical mountains and in the Andes. Male and female flowers are borne in separate inflorescences, males in pendulous catkins and females mostly in upright spikes. The seed is a nut or, in Betula and Alnus, a winged nutlet.

 

Alnus Alder
This genus, comprising about 40 species of shrubs or trees, is distributed throughout the northern temperate zone, with a few species in Central America and the Andes. The fruits are very distinctive, woody, resembling diminutive cones. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Alnus nepalensis Nepalese alder
A medium-sized deciduous tree, to 15 m tall, whose bark is dark green in young specimens, later turning silvery-grey, and often covered in lichens. The leaves are elliptic or ovate, to 16 cm long and 10 cm wide, but often much smaller, tip rounded or shortly pointed, margins finely serrated. This species is distributed from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to south-western China and northern Southeast Asia, at altitudes between 900 and 3,000 m. It is often one of the first trees to appear in landslides, where it forms pure stands, and is widely planted to prevent landslides.

The wood is used for making boxes, furniture, and other light construction, and as firewood. The bark is used for dyeing and tanning. Juice of the bark is boiled, and the gelatinous liquid applied to burns.

An ancient specimen of a close relative, Alnus glutinosa, is shown on the page Plants: Ancient and huge trees.

 

Flower colour and size Male catkins slender, greenish-yellow, to 12 cm long, female cones ovoid, brown, to 1.5 cm long.
Height to 15 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, riverbanks, landslides, cultivated areas.
Flowering Oct.-Dec.

 

 

Forest of Nepalese alder, Tolka, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

A few Nepalese alders have survived a landslide in a riverbed, Riverside, Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

The bark of Nepalese alder becomes greyish with age. – Chomrong Khola, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Spring foliage of Nepalese alder, Kuldi Ghar, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. The mountain in the background is Machhapuchhare (‘Fishtail Peak’) (6993 m), with a strange cloud formation around the peak. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Spring foliage of Nepalese alder, Langtang Khola, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

A profusion of flowers on a Nepalese alder, between Rolla and Gushaini, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Fruits of Nepalese alder, Melamchi Ghyang, Helambu, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Betula Birch
A genus with 50-60 species, distributed in temperate and subarctic areas of Europe, Asia, and the Americas, with 2-3 species in the Himalaya. The fruit differs from Alnus in not being woody, and by fragmenting into 3-lobed scales and winged nutlets when mature.

The generic name Betula is derived from Celtic betu (’glue’), referring to the fact that Celts extracted a glue-like substance from birch sap. In certain areas with Gaelic-speaking peoples, including Wales and Brittany, birch is still called bezuenn or bedwen.

Several species of birch are presented on the page Autumn.

 

Betula utilis Himalayan birch
This large tree, to 35 m tall, is easily identified by its reddish bark, which peels off in large, thin flakes. The leaves are ovate or elliptic, irregularly serrated, to 9 cm long and 6 cm broad, woolly-haired below. This species is very common, often forming pure stands at altitudes between 2,500 and 4,300 m, from Afghanistan eastwards to western China.

The wood was used for building construction and as firewood, the bark is burned as incense, and also used in local medicine, as roof cover, and to make paper. The foliage is chopped for fodder.

 

Flower colour and size Male catkins slender, reddish, to 10 cm long, female catkins to 5 cm long and 1.2 cm wide.
Height to 35 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering Apr.-Jul.

 

 

Forest of Himalayan birch, Deboche, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. A dense thicket of Rhododendron campanulatum/wallichii (Ericaceae) is seen in the background. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

The reddish bark of Himalayan birch peels off in large, thin flakes. – Kyangjuma (top) and Deboche, both in Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Flowering Himalayan birch, Deboche, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Autumn foliage of Himalayan birch, Bagah River, near Keylong, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Biebersteiniaceae
This family contains only one genus, Biebersteinia, with four species, distributed in mainly montane regions from Greece eastwards to central China. Formerly, these plants were placed in the crane’s-bill family (Geraniaceae), but has since been moved to form a separate family.

 

Biebersteinia odora
As its specific name implies, this pretty, yellow-flowered plant is fragrant. The leaves are almost all basal, linear in outline, to 14 cm long, pinnatifid, segments to 1 cm long. This species is restricted to dry areas at high altitudes, between 4,200 and 5,600 m, distributed from Kazakhstan, central Russia, and Mongolia southwards to northern Pakistan, Ladakh, and southern Tibet. It is quite common in Ladakh.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow, to 1.5 cm across, petals to 1.2 cm long.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Rocky and gravelly areas.
Flowering Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Biebersteinia odora, Stakspi La Pass (4970 m), Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Biebersteinia odora, Pang, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Bignoniaceae
This family contains about 116-120 genera with 650-750 species of trees, shrubs, or climbers, rarely herbs. These plants are mainly distributed in tropical and subtropical regions, with some species in temperate areas. 3 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Incarvillea
A genus with about 16 species of herbs, restricted to Central Asia, with 4 species in the Himalaya.

 

Incarvillea arguta
This shrubby herb, to 1.5 m tall, has rather large, pretty flowers, bell- or funnel-shaped, to 4 cm long and 2.5 cm wide. The pinnately divided leaves are to 15 cm long, with 5-11 leaflets, each to 5 cm long and 2 cm broad. This plant is found from Himachal Pradesh eastwards  to central Nepal, and also in Tibet and western China, at altitudes between 1,400 and 3,500 m.

 

Flower colour and size Pink, reddish, or purplish-red, to 4 cm long and 2.5 cm wide.
Height to 1.5 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, rocky and gravelly areas.
Flowering Mar.-Aug.

 

 

Incarvillea arguta, Marpha, Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Boraginaceae Forget-me-not family
A huge family, comprising about 156 genera with c. 2,500 species of herbs, rarely shrubs, climbers, or trees. Most species are bristly-hairy. These plants are distributed in temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions, with a core area around the Mediterranean. About 23 genera occur in the Himalaya.

The name forget-me-not was first used in English by King Henry IV in 1398 – a direct translation of the German word Vergissmeinnicht. A German legend relates that a courting couple was walking along the bank of the River Danube. The young man noticed some beautiful blue flowers, growing in the water near the shore, but as he waded out to pick them for his darling, he was swept away by the strong current. Before he disappeared, he managed to shout: ”Forget me not!”

 

Cynoglossum Hound’s-tongue
An almost cosmopolitan genus with about 85 species, primarily found in Africa, Asia, and Europe. About 12 species occur in our area, including 3 species, which were previously placed in the genus Lindelofia. The generic name is derived from the Greek kynos (‘dog-like’) and glossa (‘tongue’), alluding to the rough leaves. Thus, the English name is a direct translation of the generic name. The nutlets of these plants are usually covered in hooked bristles.

 

Cynoglossum anchusoides
This plant, formerly named Lindelofia anchusoides, is distributed from the Tien Shan Mountains southwards through western Tibet to Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, Ladakh, and Himachal Pradesh, growing in stony areas at altitudes between 2,100 and 3,600 m. The lower leaves are long-stalked, linear, to 20 cm long and 3 cm wide, with adpressed, greyish hairs. The upper leaves are much smaller. The flowers are bright blue, funnel-shaped, to 1.2 cm long, style protruding.

 

Flower colour and size Bright blue, to 1.2 cm long.
Height to 50 cm.
Habitat Rocky and gravelly areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Lindelofia anchusoides, Lossar, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cynoglossum furcatum
An erect herb, stem branched or unbranched, to 80 cm tall. The lower leaves are long-stalked, oblong or lanceolate, to 20 cm long and 5 cm wide, pointed, upper leaves smaller, sessile, all leaves with adpressed hairs. Inflorescences are long, forked clusters, borne in leaf-axils or at the end of branches. Flowers are funnel-shaped, bright blue, rarely pale blue or white, to 5 mm long and 6 mm across, with rounded petals. This species is widespread in Asia, found from Afghanistan eastwards to Japan, and thence southwards to Malaysia and the Philippines. In the Himalaya, it grows at elevations up to 3,000 m.

This plant was previously regarded as the same species as Cynoglossum zeylanicum, which is today generally considered to be restricted to South India and Sri Lanka.

 

Flower colour and size Bright blue, rarely pale blue or white, to 5 mm long and 6 mm across.
Height to 80 cm.
Habitat Meadows, open slopes, along trails.
Flowering May-Oct.

 

 

Cynoglossum furcatum, Koto, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Cynoglossum furcatum, Tapethok, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of inflorescences of Cynoglossum furcatum, Chamje, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cynoglossum lanceolatum
This stout, erect, branched herb grows to 1.2 m tall. Stem and branches are densely covered in white hairs, to 2 mm long. Basal and lower stem leaves are stalked, lanceolate, to 15 cm long and 4 cm wide, upper leaves smaller, sessile or short-stalked. Flowers are borne along the branches, pale blue or white. This plant is very widely distributed, found in Africa, and from the Middle East eastwards to China and Taiwan, and thence southwards to South India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and the Philippines. In the Himalaya, it grows up to an elevation of 3,200 m. It is utilized in local medicine.

 

Flower colour and size Pale blue, sometimes white, to 2.5 mm long and across.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Meadows, open slopes, along trails.
Flowering Apr.-Sep.

 

 

Cynoglossum lanceolatum, just beginning to bloom, Sairopa, Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cynoglossum microglochin
This stout plant, growing to 1.2 m tall, was previously called C. grandiflorum, in reference to the relatively large, gorgeous flowers. The stem is simple or branched, hairy, basal leaves long-stalked, stalks up to 20 cm long, the leaf blade ovate or oblong, to 20 cm long and 10 cm wide, pointed or blunt. The leaves gradually get smaller up the stem, and upper leaves are sessile. Inflorescences are borne in lax or dense clusters in leaf axils or at the end of branches. Initially, the flowers are purple, turning dark blue or purplish-blue with age, petals ovate, to 4 mm long. This plant is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to Nepal, at elevations at least up to 2,500 m. 

 

Flower colour and size Purple, dark blue, or purplish-blue, petals ovate, to 4 mm long.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Meadows, open slopes.
Flowering May-Jun.

 

 

Cynoglossum microglochin, Dhela, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cynoglossum stylosum
The stem, to 1 m tall, is usually branched above, downy, lower stem leaves stalked, upper leaves sessile, narrow, lanceolate. The purple or purplish-red flowers, to 1.2 cm long, are tubular, with protruding style, borne in lax, nodding clusters, to 7 cm long, elongated to about 20 cm in fruit. This plant is distributed in dry areas, from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia southwards through Sinkiang, Gansu, and Tibet to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Ladakh, at altitudes between 1,200 and 4,700 m.

 

Flower colour and size Purple or purplish-red, to 1.2 cm long.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Grassy areas, open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Cynoglossum stylosum, Lossar, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Hackelia
This genus, counting about 45 species, is mainly found in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, and also in Central and South America. About 6 species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Hackelia uncinatum
This plant has several stems, branched above, with very short hairs. Basal leaves are stalked, to 30 cm long, the blade is elliptic or ovate, pointed, to 9 cm long and 5 cm wide, downy, veins 5-7, raised beneath. Upper leaves smaller, short-stalked. The flowers are in small clusters at the end of branches, sky-blue or purplish, to 1.3 cm across, with a raised ring of yellow scales in the centre. This species is very common in forests and open areas at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,500 m, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China.

 

Flower colour and size Sky-blue or purplish, to 1.3 cm across.
Height to 80 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, forests, open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Early in the morning, these flowers of Hackelia uncinatum are covered in dew drops. – Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Lindelofia, see Cynoglossum.

 

 

 

 

Brassicaceae Mustard family
A huge family of herbs and some shrubs, with about 330 genera and c. 3,500 species, found in all continents, except Antarctica, mainly in temperate areas. The highest diversity is around the Mediterranean, in the Middle East and Central Asia, and in western North America. 

 

Cardamine Bittercress, toothwort
This large genus, comprising about 200 species of herbs, is found in a variety of habitats, distributed in most of the world. About 13 species are found in the Himalaya. The generic name is from the Greek kardamon, the Ancient name of a kind of cress.

 

Cardamine macrophylla
A robust plant, to 1 m tall, but often much lower, stem erect, sometimes branched above, leaves pinnate, lower ones to 40 cm long, upper leaves much smaller, 2-6 pairs of leaflets, lanceolate or elliptic in outline, margin with sharp or rounded teeth, terminal leaflet to 15 cm long and 4 cm wide, lateral ones to 8 cm long and 3 cm wide, leaflets gradually getting smaller up the stem. The inflorescence is a dense terminal cluster, elongated in fruit. This species is widely distributed, from Kazakhstan, southern Siberia, and Mongolia eastwards to Japan, southwards to the Himalaya, where it grows at altitudes between 2,100 and 4,200 m.

 

Flower colour and size Lilac, pink, or white, to 1.5 cm across, petals to 1.5 cm long.
Height to 1 m, but often much lower.
Habitat Damp shrubberies and forests, streamsides, among damp rocks.
Flowering May-Oct.

 

 

Cardamine macrophylla, Ghumtarao, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cardamine violacea
This stout herb is probably the most handsome of the Himalayan species of bittercress, growing to 1 m tall, with gorgeous, dark purple flowers in a dense, terminal, spike-like cluster. Stem leaves are clasping, lanceolate, toothed, to 20 cm long and 3.5 cm wide. It is found between 1,800 and 4,000 m altitude, distributed from western Nepal eastwards to south-western China. In Nepal, tender parts are cooked as a vegetable.

 

Flower colour and size Deep purple, to 1.5 cm across, petals to 1.5 cm long.
Height to 1 m, but often lower.
Habitat Humid forests and shrubberies, meadows, streamsides.
Flowering Apr.-Jun.

 

 

Cardamine violacea, photographed at Deorali, Annapurna, central Nepal, at an altitude of c. 3,200 m. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Christolea
A small genus with only 2 species in Central Asia, from Afghanistan eastwards to eastern Tibet and Nepal, with 1 species in our area.

 

Christolea crassifolia
A low, many-branched, shrubby herb, to 40 cm tall, with fleshy leaves, very variable in shape and hairiness, toothed, to 5 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, and terminal inflorescences, each with 10-25 small, white or mauve flowers with purple base, to 7 mm across, petals to 6.5 mm long and 3 mm broad. This plant, which was previously called Ermania pamirica, is found from Tajikistan, Sinkiang, and Qinghai southwards to Pakistan, Ladakh, and central Nepal, at altitudes between 3,500 and 4,700 m. In Ladakh, tender shoots are consumed as a vegetable.

 

Flower colour and size White or mauve, with purple base, to 7 mm across, petals to 6.5 mm long and 3 mm broad.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Grasslands, rocky slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Christolea crassifolia, growing in a dried-out riverbed near the Puga Marshes, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Crucihimalaya
A small genus with 9 species, distributed from the Middle East eastwards to the Himalaya, Central Asia, southern Siberia, and Mongolia. These plants were formerly included in the genus Arabidopsis (rock-cress).

 

Crucihimalaya himalaica Himalayan rock-cress
This plant, previously named Arabidopsis himalaica, grows to 60 cm tall, but is often much lower. The stem is erect, branched or unbranched, densely hairy. Leaves vary in shape, mostly spathulate or oblong, toothed, to 4 cm long and 1.4 cm wide, upper leaves smaller. Small inflorescences are in the leaf-axils, whereas a larger one is terminal. Flowers lilac or pink, rarely white, to 3 mm across, petals to 5 mm long and 2 mm broad. Sepals are often pink or brownish, pointed. 

This species is common between 2,400 and 4,500 m altitude, from Afghanistan eastwards to south-western China. In Tibet, flowers and leaves are utilized to treat meat poisoning.

 

Flower colour and size Lilac or pink, rarely white, to 3 mm across, petals to 5 mm long and 2 mm broad.
Height to 60 cm, but often much lower.
Habitat Rocky areas, grazing grounds, flood plains.
Flowering May-Sep.

 

 

Himalayan rock-cress, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Erysimum Wallflower
About 150 species of this genus are found in the Northern Hemisphere, primarily in Asia and Europe, with some species in North Africa, Macaronesia, North America, and Central America. There are at least 6 species in the Himalaya, but there is much controversy concerning the number and their identity.

 

Erysimum benthamii
This plant, with pretty, orange or yellow flowers, is quite common, distributed from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to south-western China, in a wide altitudinal range, between 1,600 and 4,100 m. The stem is erect, branched or unbranched, leaves linear or lanceolate, to 10 cm long and 1.4 cm wide, toothed, pointed, upper leaves smaller.

 

Flower colour and size Orange or yellow, petals to 1.5 cm long and 3.5 mm broad.
Height to 1 m, but often much lower.
Habitat Shrubberies, open areas, fallow fields, grasslands, along trails.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Erysimum benthamii, Shakti, Sainj Valley, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This beetle is busy eating petals of Erysimum benthamii, Tirthan Valley, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Lepidium Cress
A large genus with about 180 species of herbs, rarely shrubs or climbers, found in all continents, except Antarctica. At least 6 species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Lepidium latifolium Dittander, pepper-grass
This large species is widely distributed, found in most of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and North and Central Asia. In North America, it has become naturalized, regarded as an invasive in several states. In Central Asia, it grows in a wide range of habitats, at altitudes between 2,500 and 4,300 m. In other parts of its distribution area, it is often coastal. The stem, to 1.5 m tall, is often woody at the base, many-branched. Leaves are bluish-green, elliptic or oblong, to 15 cm long and 5 cm wide, with toothed margin. The white flowers are tiny, to 3 mm across, densely clustered in numerous inflorescences at the end of stem and branches, each with 25-50 flowers.

In Ladakh, young parts are cooked as spinach. To remove the bitterness and peppery taste, they are first boiled and then soaked in water for two days. In the Chinese provinces Gansu and Shaanxi, the seeds are utilized medicinally.

 

Flower colour and size White, tiny, to 3 mm across, petals to 2.5 mm long and 1.3 mm broad.
Height to 1.5 m.
Habitat Stony slopes, saline flats, along trails, fallow fields.
Flowering May-Aug.

 

 

Dittander, photographed near Sumda Tsu, Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Nasturtium Watercress
A small genus with 5 species, distributed in Eurasia, North Africa, and North America. A single species is found in the Himalaya.

 

Nasturtium officinale Common watercress
This species, which by some authorities is named Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum, is growing in shallow, moving water. The leaves are glossy green, pinnate, lower leaves stalked, with 3-5 leaflets, of which the terminal one is larger, sometimes to 4 cm long, upper leaves sessile, eared, with 5-9 smaller leaflets. It is very common, distributed from Europe and North Africa eastwards to Siberia, Central Asia, China, and Taiwan. In the Himalaya, it is found from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan, at altitudes between 1,500 and 4,000 m. The original native area of this plant is disputed, but probably Europe and West Asia. It is widely cultivated as a vegetable and has become naturalized in numerous places. It is also widely used medicinally.

 

Flower colour and size White or pinkish, petals to 5 mm long and 2.5 mm broad.
Length to 1 m, sometimes 2 m.
Habitat Running water.
Flowering Apr.-Sep.

 

 

Common watercress, growing in a small stream, Kimrong Khola, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Common watercress, Thulo Shyabru, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This woman from the village of Chitre, Annapurna, central Nepal, has collected wild foods in the forest: common watercress and young ferns. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Pycnoplinthopsis
Only one species in this genus, restricted to Central Asia.

 

Pycnoplinthopsis bhutanica
With its low growth and thick leaf rosette, this plant somewhat resembles a primrose (Primula), but is readily identified by 4 petals in each flower. It is a high-altitude plant, found between 3,000 and 4,500 m altitude, from central Nepal eastwards to Bhutan. It always grows on wet rocks or in moss cushions along streams. The spatulate leaves, to 4.5 cm long and 1.6 cm wide, have rounded teeth along the margin on the outer half. They are densely clustered in a thick rosette, to 15 cm across. The pretty white flowers are clustered at the centre of the rosette.

 

Flower colour and size White, to 1.5 cm across, petals to 1.3 cm long and 8 mm broad.
Height to 5 cm.
Habitat Wet rocks or moss cushions near running water.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Pycnoplinthopsis bhutanica, growing on a wet rock near a stream, Upper Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Campanulaceae Bellflower family
This cosmopolitan family contains about 86 genera with more than 2,300 species. About 10 genera occur in the Himalaya. The family name was given in allusion to the bell-shaped flowers of the genus Campanula, from the Latin campanula (’little bell’).

 

Campanula Bellflower
This genus includes more than 500 species, found in temperate and subtropical areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with the highest diversity around the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. About 11 species occur in the Himalaya. Several European species are described on the pages Plants: Flora of the Alps, and In praise of the colour blue.

 

Campanula argyrotricha
This tufted, many-branched species is easily identified by its small, elliptic, toothed, densely silvery-hairy leaves, to 2.5 cm long, but often smaller. It is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan, at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,700 m.

 

Flower colour and size Lilac or purple, to 1.5 cm long.
Height to 60 cm, but often much lower.
Habitat Dry rock walls, stone walls, banks, cultivated areas.
Flowering Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Campanula argyrotricha, growing on a rock wall above Shilt, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Campanula latifolia Large bellflower
This handsome plant grows to 2 m tall, but is often much lower. Leaves mostly stalkless, toothed, hairy, lower ones ovate with rounded base, to 12 cm long and 6 cm wide, upper ones much smaller, lanceolate. The large, nodding, blue or purplish-blue, bell-shaped flowers are to 5 cm long, borne in the leaf axils. This species is widely distributed, from Europe and West Asia eastwards to central Nepal. In the Himalaya, it grows at altitudes between 2,100 and 3,600 m.

 

Flower colour and size Blue or purplish-blue, to 5 cm long.
Height to 2 m, but often much lower.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Large bellflower, Tirthan Valley, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Campanula pallida
A many-branched plant with hairy stem and branches, lower leaves stalked, upper ones stalkless, narrow-elliptic or oblong, softly hairy, with toothed margin, to 4 cm long and 1.5 cm broad. Flowers are bell-shaped, slightly hairy, to 1.5 cm long, lobed to less than half of their length. Sepals are lance-shaped to narrowly triangular, hairy, toothed, to 8 mm long. This species is found from Afghanistan eastwards to south-western China and northern Thailand.

 

Flower colour and size Blue or purplish-blue, to 1.5 cm long.
Height to 60 cm, but often much lower.
Habitat Grassy slopes, open woods, stone walls, cultivated areas.
Flowering May-Sep.

 

 

Campanula pallida, Solang Nallah, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Codonopsis Bonnet bellflower
This genus, comprising 42 species, is restricted to eastern and southern Asia. China is home to no less than 40 species, and 14 species are found in the Himalaya. The name bonnet refers to the broadly bell-shaped, very attractive flowers, which are not unlike an old-fashioned bonnet.

 

Codonopsis clematidea
The broadly bell-shaped flowers of this stately, strong-smelling plant are pale blue or whitish, with purple veins and a pretty pattern of black, orange, and purple in the throat. Leaves ovate, oblong, or lanceolate, hairy, to 5 cm long and 3 cm wide. It grows between 1,700 and 4,200 m altitude, distributed from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Sinkiang southwards through western Tibet to northern Pakistan, Ladakh, and Himachal Pradesh.

This species is widely used in traditional medicine for a large number of ailments, including infections, gout, arthritis, rheumatism, paralysis, and leprosy, the root for stomach ache, indigestion, fatigue, diarrhoea, vomiting, and cough.

 

Flower colour and size To 2.5 cm long, pale blue or whitish with purple veins, throat black, orange, and purple.
Height to 60 cm, sometimes to 1 m.
Habitat Open woods, riversides, along fields and irrigation canals.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Codonopsis clematidea, growing at the edge of a field in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of a gorgeous flower of Codonopsis clematidea, growing up through a Caragana brevispina shrub, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Codonopsis thalictrifolia
The stem is erect or ascending, to 40 cm tall, leaves small, rarely more than 1 cm long and broad, rounded or heart-shaped, hairy. This high-altitude plant is found at elevations between 3,600 and 5,300 m, from central Nepal eastwards to south-eastern Tibet.

The specific name means ‘with leaves like Thalictrum‘, alluding to the small leaves, which resemble those of meadow-rue (Ranunculaceae).

 

Flower colour and size Pale blue, to 4.8 cm long and 3 cm wide.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, grassy areas.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Codonopsis thalictrifolia, Dukpu, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Cyananthus
This genus, comprising 18 species, are restricted to the Himalaya and the Yunnan Province of China. 9 species have been encountered in the Himalaya. The generic name is derived from the Greek kuanos (‘blue’) and anthos (‘flower’).

 

Cyananthus incanus
A low, spreading plant with reddish, hairy, creeping stems, each with a solitary blue or bluish-purple, funnel-shaped flower, tube to 1.5 cm long, and spreading lobes to 1 cm long and 3 mm wide, with white hairs in the throat. The calyx has triangular lobes, about half as long as the corolla tube, hairy or sometimes hairless. The leaves are mostly elliptic, entire or with small lobes, to 1 cm long and 4 mm wide, densely white-haired on both surfaces. This species is distributed from western Nepal eastwards to western China, at altitudes between 2,100 and 5,300 m.

 

Flower colour and size Blue or bluish-purple, tube to 1.5 cm long, lobes to 1 cm long and 3 mm wide.
Height to 10 cm, but often prostrate.
Habitat Grassy areas, among rocks.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Cyananthus incanus, Kyanjin Gompa, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cyananthus lobatus
This species is easily told from other members of the genus by its larger, spatulate or wedge-shaped, lobed leaves, to 3.5 cm long and 1.8 cm broad, and the larger flowers, tube to 5.5 cm long, with large, rhombic, spreading lobes, to 2.7 cm long. The calyx has a dense cover of short, brown hairs. This plant is distributed from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to south-western China, at altitudes between 2,800 and 4,500 m.

 

Flower colour and size Blue or bluish-purple, tube to 5.5 cm long, lobes to 2.7 cm long.
Height to 35 cm, but often lower.
Habitat Shrubberies, grassy areas.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Cyananthus lobatus, Cholang Pati, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Capparaceae Caper family
This family of the tropics and subtropics contains about 33 genera, with c. 700 species. 4 genera occur in the Himalaya, including the introduced Cleome.

 

Capparis Caper
By far the largest genus of the family, comprising about 450 species of shrubs or climbers, with 4 species in the Himalaya. The fruit is a berry.

 

Capparis spinosa Common caper
This climbing or creeping shrub is provided with nasty thorns on the stems, which can grow to a length of 2 m, or more. The spectacular flowers are white or pinkish-white, to 8 cm across, with long, white or purplish stamens, and an equally long pistil. The fleshy, ellipsoid fruit is to 5 cm long, with red flesh and brownish seeds inside. This species is distributed from southern Europe and North Africa across the Middle East to the Himalaya and Central Asia. In the Himalaya, it is restricted to dry areas, distributed from Pakistan to eastern Nepal, at elevations between 2,000 and 3,500 m. It is very common in Ladakh.

Locally, the leaves are lopped for fodder, whereas flower-buds and fruits are pickled or cooked as a vegetable. Medicinally, a paste of the root is applied to cure rheumatism, and juice of the root is used to expel intestinal worms.

 

Flower colour and size White or pinkish-white, to 8 cm across.
Length to 2 m or more.
Habitat Dry stony areas.
Flowering May-Sep.

 

 

Common caper, photographed in front of Tsemo Gompa, a Buddhist monastery in Leh, Ladakh. – Gompas and other aspects of Buddhism are described on the page Religion: Buddhism. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Fruits of common caper, Khalsi, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Caprifoliaceae Honeysuckle family
Following recent genetic research, several previously separate families, including Dipsacaceae and Valerianaceae, have now been reduced to subfamilies within the honeysuckle family. Today, this family includes 42 genera with about 860 species, found in most parts of the world. About 11 genera occur in the Himalaya. The family name is derived from Proto-Indo-European kapros (‘billy-goat’) and the Latin folium (‘leaf’), alluding to the climbing habit of several species in the genus Lonicera.

 

Dipsacus Teasel
This genus contains about 20 species, distributed in Asia, Europe, and North Africa, with 3 species in the Himalaya. Formerly, these plants were included in the scabious family (Dipsacaceae). However, recent genetic research has reduced this family to a subfamily, Dipsacoideae, within the honeysuckle family.

 

Dipsacus inermis
This robust plant is easily identified by its solitary, circular flowerheads, situated at the end of long, leafless stems, to 2 m tall, but often much lower, smooth or sparsely covered in stiff hairs. Leaves are elliptic, entire or palmately lobed, to 30 cm long, but often much shorter. Flowerheads are white, cream, or yellowish, to 3.5 cm across, with 6-8 spreading, linear to ovate, green bracts. Flowers densely packed, funnel-shaped, to 1,5 cm long, with 4 petals. This species is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to south-western China, at altitudes between 1,400 and 4,100 m.

 

Flower colour and size White, cream, or yellowish, flowerhead to 3.5 cm across.
Height to 2 m, but often much lower.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes, cultivated areas.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Dipsacus inermis, Solang Nallah, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Lonicera Honeysuckle
This genus contains about 180 species of shrubs or climbers, native to the Northern Hemisphere, with about 25 species in the Himalaya. The fruit is a berry.The generic name was given in honour of German botanist Adam Lonicer (1528-1586), whereas the name honeysuckle stems from the sweet nectar in the flowers of this genus. Some species are indeed fragrant, and several are cultivated as ornamentals. One such ornamental is Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), which has become a widespread pest in many countries. It is described on the page Nature: Invasive species.

 

Lonicera quinquelocularis
A large hairy shrub, to 6 m tall, with conspicuous purplish bark on young branches, later turning grey. Leaves are ovate, to 6.5 cm long and 4 cm wide. The flowers, to 1.3 cm across, sit in pairs in the axils of old leaves, cream-coloured at first, later turning yellow. The berries are quite distinct, ovoid, to 6 mm long, white, translucent. This species is common between 1,800 and 3,000 m altitude, from Afghanistan eastwards to Bhutan.

 

Flower colour and size Cream, turning yellow with age, to 1.3 cm across.
Height to 6 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, forests.
Flowering Apr.-Jul.

 

 

Lonicera quinquelocularis, photographed near the village of Shyabru, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lonicera rupicola
This high-altitude species grows to 2.5 m tall, but is often much lower. The grey bark is often peeling or splitting. The small, oblong, sparsely hairy leaves, often only 1 cm long and 5 mm broad, are arranged in whorls, or opposite. The pink or pale purple, funnel-shaped flowers sit in groups up to 6 in nodes of branches, to 1 cm long, with 5 spreading lobes, to 4 mm long. The berry is red, ellipsoid, to 8 mm long. This plant grows at altitudes between 2,000 and 5,000 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to western China.

 

Flower colour and size Pink or pale purple, to 1 cm long, petal lobes to 4 mm long. 
Height to 2.5 m tall, but often much lower.
Habitat Grasslands, shrubberies, forest margins, scree slopes.
Flowering May-Aug.

 

 

Lonicera rupicola, Kambachen, Upper Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lonicera spinosa
A small shrub, to 60 cm tall, branches often leafless, ending in a spine. The small, oblong, hairless leaves, to 1.5 cm long and 4 mm broad, are arranged in whorls, or opposite, with incurved margins. The purplish or pale pink, funnel-shaped flowers, which turn white with age, sit in groups up to 6 in nodes of branches. The berry is pale violet or white, ellipsoid, to 5 mm long. This species often grows on scree slopes together with species of Caragana (Fabaceae), at elevations between 1,700 and 4,600 m. It is distributed from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan eastwards to western Sinkiang and Tibet, southwards to Afghanistan and Ladakh. It is very common in Ladakh.

 

Flower colour and size Purplish or pale pink, turning white with age, to 1 cm long, petal lobes to 4 mm long. 
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, stony areas, scree slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Lonicera spinosa, photographed near the village of Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Morina
This small genus, comprising about 10 species, is distributed from the Balkans eastwards to Central Asia and the Himalaya, with 4 species in the Himalaya. The leaves of several species are furnished with spines as a means of defense against grazing animals. Formerly, these plants were included in the scabious family (Dipsacaceae), but were then transferred to a separate family, Morinaceae. However, recent genetic research has reduced these two families to a subfamily, Dipsacoideae, within the honeysuckle family.

The genus was named in honour of French physician, botanist, and meteorologist Louis Morin de Saint-Victor (1635-1715).

 

Morina longifolia
The numerous leaves of this striking and quite handsome plant, which grows to 1 m tall, are linear to linear-lanceolate, hairless, to 40 cm long and 4 cm wide, lobed, each lobe with 4-5 spines. The pink, purple, or red flowers are arranged in whorls up the stem, with 2 broad, usually spiny bracts, subtending the whorls. The flowers have a long, slender corolla-tube, to 3 cm long, with 2-lipped lobes to 8 mm across. This species is found at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,300 m, from Kashmir eastwards to Bhutan.

 

Flower colour and size Pink, purple, or red, corolla-tube to 3 cm long, with 2-lipped lobes to 8 mm across.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, grassy areas.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Moringa longifolia, observed between Thangu and Lachen, western Sikkim. (Photo copyright © by Ajai Saxena)

 

 

Morina longifolia, Sing Gompa, Langtang National Park, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Morina longifolia is very common in abandoned fields in the Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Morina nepalensis
A low plant, only to 15 cm tall, with narrow, strap-shaped, entire leaves, to 15 cm long, margin usually equipped with long, stiff bristles. The pretty flowers are pinkish-purple, in a dense terminal cluster, tube curved, to 1.5 cm long, lobes spreading, to 3 mm long. This species is distributed from western Nepal eastwards to Myanmar, at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,400 m.

 

Flower colour and size Pinkish-purple, corolla-tube to 1.5 cm long, lobes to 3 mm long.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Open grassy areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Morina nepalensis, encountered near Dole, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Morina polyphylla
The root of this densely spiny, branched plant is foul-smelling. The long-stalked leaves are linear, pinnately divided, to 40 cm long and 4 cm wide, with numerous spines along the margin. The inflorescence is a dense terminal cluster, to 10 cm long, of many whorls, each whorl having 3-6 large, greenish-white bracts, forming a cup-like structure, which almost hides the small reddish or whitish flowers, each ring of bracts resembling a greenish flower. This species is distributed at elevations between 3,600 and 4,700 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Bhutan.

 

Flower colour and size Reddish or whitish, corolla-tube to 5 mm long, almost hidden behind greenish-white bracts.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Open grassy areas.
Flowering May-Aug.

 

 

Morina polyphylla, Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Scabiosa Scabious
This genus with about 100 species is native to Europe, Africa, and Asia, with the greatest diversity around the Mediterranean. A single species occurs in our area. The generic and common names of these plants refer to their former usage to curb scabies. Previously, they were placed in the scabious family (Dipsacaceae), but, following recent genetic research, this family has been reduced to a subfamily, Dipsacoideae, within the honeysuckle family.

 

Scabiosa speciosa
A stout plant, to 60 cm tall, with handsome bluish-violet flowerheads, to 5 cm across, the outer, spreading florets much larger and longer than the inner ones. The leaves are entire or toothed, to 7 cm long, sometimes lobed at the base. It is rather common between 2,400 and 4,300 m altitude, found from Afghanistan eastwards to Uttarakhand.

 

Flower colour and size Flowerheads bluish-violet, to 5 cm across.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Open grassy areas.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Scabiosa speciosa, Koksar, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Caryophyllaceae Carnation family
A large family with 75-80 genera and ca. 2,000 species. These plants are widespread, but mainly occur in temperate or cooler subtropical regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with core areas around the Mediterranean, eastwards to Tibet and the Himalaya. Some species are also found in sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, and Oceania.

 

Acanthophyllum
This genus, containing about 75 species, is distributed in south-western and Central Asia. Following genetic research, some species, which were previously placed in the genus Gypsophila, have been moved to this genus. 6 species occur in the Himalaya, five of which are restricted to northern Pakistan.

 

Acanthophyllum cerastioides
Previously, this plant was known as Gypsophila cerastioides, but, following genetic research, it has now been moved to the genus Acanthophyllum. It may grow to 30 cm tall, but is often prostrate, with spreading stems to 20 cm long, leaves elliptic or spatulate, to 1.5 cm long and 1.2 cm wide, hairy along the margin. Inflorescences are dense terminal clusters of white or lilac flowers with purple streaks, to 1.3 cm across, petals often notched. This species resembles some species of mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium), but may be identified by its purple-streaked flowers and long hairs along the margins of the otherwise sparsely hairy leaves. It is distributed at elevations between 2,100 and 4,700 m, from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan.

 

Flower colour and size White or lilac, with purple streaks, to 1.3 cm across.
Height to 30 cm, but often prostrate.
Habitat Open grassy areas, among rocks, along rivers and trails.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Acanthophyllum cerastioides, Dole, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Acanthophyllum cerastioides, Dhela, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. Leaves of a species of Geranium (Geraniaceae) are also seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Arenaria Sandwort
A large genus with more than 300 species, found in northern temperate, subarctic, and arctic regions. About 25 species occur in the Himalaya, and no less than 102 in China, mainly in arid areas.

 

Arenaria bryophylla
As a means of protection against wind, cold, and evaporation, this plant forms hard cushions with densely packed, shiny, linear leaves, to 9 mm long and 1 mm wide. The white flowers are solitary, to 8 mm across, with linear or lanceolate petals. It is distributed in dry Tibetan borderlands, from Kashmir eastwards to Sikkim, and on the Tibetan Plateau northwards to Qinghai.

This species usually grows at altitudes between 4,200 and 5,200 m. However, in 1921 it was found by A. Wollaston on Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) at an elevation of 6,180 m – the altitudinal record of any seed plant.

 

Flower colour and size White, to 8 mm across.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Open grassy areas, among rocks, along gravelly rivers.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Arenaria bryophylla, observed near Tahungtse, Markha Valley, Ladakh. The blue-green plant is a member of the pea family (Fabaceae). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Arenaria densissima
This species also forms compact cushions, with densely packed, shiny leaves, to 1 cm long and 1 mm wide. The tiny white flowers are solitary, petals ovate, to 5 mm long and 2 mm wide. It is distributed from western Nepal eastwards to Bhutan, and thence northwards through eastern Tibet and western Sichuan to south-eastern Qinghai, found at elevations between 3,600 and 5,500 m. 

 

Flower colour and size White, petals to 5 mm long and 2 mm wide.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Rocks, screes.
Flowering May-Aug.

 

 

Arenaria densissima, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Arenaria polytrichoides
Similar to the two species above, this plant forms compact cushions, sometimes to 1 m or more across. The leaves are broadly lanceolate, with thick margins, to 1 cm long and 1 mm wide, ending in a sharp point. Petals white, broadly ovate, to 3 mm long. This species grows in similar places, between 4,300 and 5,500 m altitude, from Kashmir eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, and thence northwards to western Sichuan and Qinghai.

 

Flower colour and size White, petals to 3 mm long.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Rocks, screes, grassy areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Arenaria polytrichoides, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Gypsophila, see Acanthophyllum.

 

 

 

 

Silene Campion, catchfly
This huge genus, comprising c. 600 species, is found mainly in northern temperate regions, and also in Africa and South America. No less than about 50 species have been encountered in the Himalaya. 

According to Dr. Magnus Lärksporre Lidén, Uppsala University, Sweden, the identity of the Himalayan species are a cause of much confusion, and is far from clarified.

 

Silene gonosperma
This species, growing to 20 cm tall, is bristly-hairy on stem and leaves. Most leaves are basal, narrow-lanceolate, to 6 cm long and 8 mm broad, stem leaves smaller. Flowers are solitary, rarely 2-3 together, nodding, with a conspicuous, brown-ribbed, inflated calyx, bristly-hairy along the ribs, petals slightly longer than the calyx, white or purplish-white. This plant is quite common from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China, and in Central Asia, found at altitudes between 3,000 and 5,000 m.

 

Flower colour and size See above.
Height to 20 cm.
Habitat Stony areas, grasslands.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Silene gonosperma, observed on the Rohtang La Pass, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Silene gonosperma, Dhela, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Silene kumaonensis
Stem erect, to 80 cm tall, simple or branched, leaves lanceolate or oblong, to 3.5 cm long and 2 cm broad, usually pointed. Inflorescence mostly branched, with 1-4 flowers, nodding when young, later erect, to 2.3 cm long. Calyx is slightly inflated, wedge-shaped, brown-ribbed, bristly-hairy along the ribs, petals longer than the calyx, spreading, pink. This plant is found at altitudes between 2,500 and 4,500 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to central Nepal.

 

Flower colour and size See above.
Height to 80 cm.
Habitat Forest margins, shrubberies.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Silene kumaonensis, Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Silene moorcroftiana
As opposed to the previous two species, the calyx of this plant is only slightly inflated. The stem is to 30 cm tall, glandular-hairy, leaves linear or narrowly lanceolate, to 2.5 cm long and 5 mm broad. The rather large flowers are white or pinkish, to 2 cm across, petals deeply lobed, with scales in the throat. This species is common in rocky areas between 2,700 and 5,000 m altitude, from Afghanistan eastwards across Pakistan, Ladakh, south-western Tibet, and Himachal Pradesh to central Nepal. It is utilized medicinally for anaemia, and to relieve blocked nose and ears.

 

Flower colour and size White or pinkish, to 2 cm across.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Rocky areas, among gravel.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Silene moorcroftiana, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Silene thomsonii
This species also has a strongly inflated calyx, almost globular or ovate, to 1.5 cm long, lilac-ribbed, bristly-hairy along the ribs, petals slightly longer than the calyx, lilac. It is restricted to central Nepal and adjacent southern Tibet, at altitudes between 2,300 and 4,700 m, growing in a wide variety of habitats.

Identification of this species, and information on it, were kindly provided by Dr. Magnus Lärksporre Lidén, Uppsala University, Sweden.

 

Flower colour and size See above.
Height to 20 cm.
Habitat Rocky areas, sandy slopes, open grassland.
Flowering Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Silene thomsonii, photographed in the Rolwaling Valley, central Nepal, together with the blue-flowered Microula sikkimensis (Boraginaceae). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Silene thomsonii, Ghora Tabela, Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Thylacospermum
This genus has only one species, restricted to Central Asia.

 

Thylacospermum caespitosum
Similar to some Arenaria species (above), this striking plant forms large, hard cushions, to 1 m across. The stems are very short, and leaves are tiny, triangular, to 5 mm long, with a spiny tip. The tiny white flowers are solitary, to 2.5 mm across. This hardy species grows at high altitudes, between 4,800 and 6,000 m, from northern Pakistan eastwards to northern Sikkim, and thence northwards to Qinghai and Gansu. In Ladakh, where it is an important source of fuel, it is threatened due to over-collecting.

 

Flower colour and size White, to 2.5 mm across.
Height to 5 cm.
Habitat Rocky and gravelly areas.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

High altitude desert with cushions of Thylacospermum caespitosum, below the Kongmaru La Pass, Markha Valley, Ladakh. The plants with yellow flowers are Potentilla fruticosa var. pumila (Rosaceae). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Using pebbles, a prankster has made ‘faces’ in these cushions of Thylacospermum caespitosum, likewise growing below Kongmaru La. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Compact autumn cushion of Thylacospermum caespitosum, Taglang La Pass (5328 m), Lahaul. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Thylacospermum caespitosum with fruit capsules, Taglang La. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Convolvulaceae Morning-glory family
This family contains c. 58 genera, comprising close to 2,000 species, widely distributed in tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions. The majority are herbaceous vines, some are erect herbs, shrubs, or trees. The flowers of almost all species are funnel-shaped, with five fused petals, and many are quite showy. The stem of most of these plants twine around other plants, fences, or anything else, hence the scientific name of the family, from the Latin convolvere, ‘to wind (around)’.

Many members of this family are dealt with in depth on the page Plants: Morning-glories and bindweeds.

 

Cuscuta Dodder
Formerly, this genus, comprising between 100 and 170 species, was treated as a separate family, Cuscutaceae, but has since been moved to the morning-glory family – the only parasitic members of that family. These plants are distributed almost worldwide, with the greatest concentration in the Americas, and some in Asia and Europe. In hot climates, they are perennials, growing more or less continuously, whereas they are annuals in colder areas.

The thin stems, mostly yellow or red, twine around other plants, often completely enveloping them. A dodder seed starts its life like most other seeds by sending roots into the soil, from which grow stems, whose leaves are reduced to scales. When a stem gets into contact with a suitable plant, it wraps itself around it, inserting sucking organs, called haustoria, into the plant, through which the dodder obtains water and nutrients. Its root in the ground then dies.

Dodders are dealt with in detail on the page Plants: Parasitic plants.

 

Cuscuta europaea Greater dodder
This species is partial to common nettle (Urtica dioica), although it can grow on plants of many other families. The stems are red or yellow. The small, pink or whitish, urn-shaped flowers, 2.5-3 mm long, with 4 or 5 lobes, sit in dense clusters along the stems. This species is very widely distributed, found in temperate areas of Europe and Asia, eastwards to Japan, in North Africa, and occasionally in North and South America. It is widespread and common in Central Asia, and in the Himalaya it is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to central Nepal, at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,000 m.

 

Flower colour and size Pink or whitish, to 3 mm long.
Habitat Open slopes, grasslands, along rivers.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Greater dodder, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Dinetus
Members of this genus of twining herbs, comprising 8 species, were previously included in the genus Porana. These Asian plants are distributed from Pakistan eastwards to China, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia and the Philippines. 3 species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Dinetus grandiflorus
This plant, which was previously called Porana grandiflora, is easily identified by its deeply heart-shaped, long-pointed leaves, to 15 cm long and 10 cm wide, and the rather large, mauve or pinkish-purple flowers with a white centre, to 4.5 cm across, tube to 3 cm long. It is found from central Nepal eastwards to Bhutan and extreme south-eastern Tibet, growing between 1,500 and 2,600 m altitude.

 

Flower colour and size Mauve or pinkish-purple with a white centre, to 4.5 cm across, tube to 3 cm long.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Jun.-Oct.

 

 

Nepal 2009
Dinetus grandiflorusChipling, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Dinetus racemosus Snow creeper
This species, formerly called Porana racemosa, is gorgeous, with many long-branched, axillary clusters of small white flowers, to 1.3 cm long and 1.2 cm across, “resembling dazzling patches of snow in the jungle,” as Oleg Polunin and Adam Stainton state it in their book Flowers of the Himalaya (Oxford University Press, 1984). The leaves are broadly ovate, pointed, with a deeply heart-shaped base, to 16 cm long and 9 cm wide. It is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to central China, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia and the Philippines. In the Himalaya, it is found up to an altitude of c. 2,400 m.

The plant is used medicinally.

 

Flower colour and size White, to 1.2 cm across, tube to 1.3 cm long.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Snow creeper, Sarangkot, Pokhara, central Nepal. In the lower picture, it is climbing up a stem of an aibika (Abelmoschus manihot). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Ipomoea Morning-glory
This huge genus with more than 500 species is widely distributed in tropical, subtropical, and warmer temperate regions, especially in the Americas. The major part are twining plants, with large, funnel-shaped, beautiful flowers. The generic name, from the Greek ip (‘worm’) and hómoia (‘resembling’), was applied by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), also called Carl von Linné, in allusion to the worm-like movements of the stem, twining around other plants, fences, etc. About 16 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

 

Ipomoea nil Blue, ivy-leaved, or Japanese morning-glory
This plant is thought to be a native of Mexico or Central America, but has been widely introduced elsewhere in warmer countries as an ornamental, or accidentally. In the Himalaya, it is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar, growing at altitudes up to c. 1,800 m. The leaves are highly variable, the blade broadly ovate, or sometimes almost circular, to about 15 cm long and wide, but often much smaller, with heart-shaped base, margin usually with 3 lobes, but sometimes none or 5, pointed. Flowers are axillary, single or few together, pale blue to sky-blue, to 6 cm across, funnel white, to 6 cm long. It may be told from similar species by the long-pointed sepals, which are hairy at the base.

The seeds are used medicinally.

 

Flower colour and size Pale blue to sky-blue, to 6 cm across, funnel white, to 6 cm long.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, cultivated areas.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

This blue morning-glory, encountered in the Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal, is entwining a species of mugwort (Artemisia). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Porana, see Dinetus.

 

 

 

 

 

Crassulaceae Stonecrop family
This family, which contains c. 35 genera with about 1,400 species, is found worldwide, with the greatest diversity in the Northern Hemisphere and in southern Africa. It is characterized by plants with succulent leaves – an adaptation to growing in dry areas with little water. About 9 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Hylotelephium
This genus includes about 33 species, found in Asia, Europe, and North America. Formerly, they were placed in the genus Sedum (below), but differ in having flat, broad, and fleshy leaves, as opposed to the narrow, cylindrical leaves of Sedum species. A single species is found in the Himalaya.

 

Hylotelephium ewersii
This many-stemmed herb, previously named Sedum ewersii, is branched from the base, to 75 cm tall, but often much lower. The bluish-green leaves are ovate to rounded, to 3.5 cm across, margin entire or slightly toothed. Flowers are in umbel-like, dense, terminal clusters, with pink or purplish-red flowers, which have pointed petals to 6 mm long. This species is distributed from Kazakhstan and southern Russia eastwards to Mongolia, southwards to Pakistan, Ladakh, and Himachal Pradesh, at altitudes between 1,800 and 4,500 m. Locally, it is utilized for wounds and skin infections.

This plant is sometimes called pink Mongolian stonecrop, which is confusing, as another member of this genus is named Hylotelephium mongolicum.

 

Flower colour and size Pink or purplish-red, to 1 cm across, petals to 5 mm long.
Height to 75 cm, but often much lower.
Habitat Rocks, grassy areas, open slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Hylotelephium ewersii, Koksar, Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Hylotelephium ewersii, Bagah River, near Keylong, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Rhodiola Roseroot
This genus contains about 90 species, found at high altitudes, or in arctic conditions, across the Northern Hemisphere. In the past, these plants were placed in the genus Sedum (below), but they differ from that genus by having a stout rootstock and only 4 petals, versus a slender or no rootstock, and 5 petals, in Sedum species. About 20 species of roseroot have been encountered in the Himalaya.

 

Rhodiola amabilis
This plant, formerly called Sedum amabile, is not very typical of the genus, as it forms loose mats on damp rocks, like many members of the genus Sedum. It is distributed from central Nepal eastwards to north-eastern India, at altitudes between 2,300 and 3,900 m.

In the picture below, Rhodiola amabilis grows among mani stones (stone slabs with engraved Buddhist mantras), near the village of Thangshyap, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. – Mani stones and other Buddhist structures are described in depth on the page Religion: Buddhism.

 

Flower colour and size White or pinkish, to 8 mm across.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Rocks, open slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhodiola tibetica Tibetan roseroot 
This plant is found in dry stony areas in south-western Tibet, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Ladakh, between 3,000 and 5,400 m altitude. Stems are erect, to 30 cm tall, leaves linear or narrow-ovate, to 9 mm long and 4 mm wide, pointed, margin entire or toothed. Flowers are dark red or purple, in compact terminal clusters, to 2.5 cm across, petals to 4 mm long

 

Flower colour and size Dark red or purple, petals to 4 mm long.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Stony areas.
Flowering Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Tibetan roseroot, Honupatta, Ladakh. A species of sandwort, Minuartia kashmirica, is seen in the background. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Unidentified roseroot, Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Sedum Stonecrop
This genus, counting about 470 species, is mainly distributed in the Northern Hemisphere, but is also found in southern Africa and in South America. Most species are creeping plants, which grow in dry areas, such as in sand, among scree, or on rocks. About 15 species are encountered in the Himalaya.

 

Sedum multicaule
Stems branching from the base, to 15 cm long. Leaves are linear or lanceolate, fleshy, pointed, to 2.5 cm long and 2 mm wide. The lax inflorescence is widely branched, flowers yellow, stalkless, subtended by bracts, petals to 6 mm long, pointed. This plant is distributed from Kashmir eastwards to western China, at elevations between 1,300 and 3,500 m.

 

Flower colour and size Petals yellow, to 6 mm long.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Grasslands, among rocks.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Sedum multicaule, Solang Nallah, Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Sedum oreades
Most stonecrop species have star-like flowers with spreading petals, but this species may be identified by its rather bell-shaped flowers. Stems are simple or branched from the base, to 12 cm long. Leaves are narrow-lanceolate, pointed, fleshy, crowded towards the apex, beneath the flowers, to 9 mm long. Petals yellow, obovate or broadly lanceolate, to 12 mm long and 3.5 mm wide. This plant is found at altitudes between 3,000 and 5,500 m, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China.

 

Flower colour and size Petals yellow, to 12 mm long and 3.5 mm wide.
Height to 12 cm.
Habitat Grasslands, among rocks.
Flowering Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Sedum oreades, photographed below the Rohtang La Pass, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

An unidentified species of Sedum, Timang, Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. Leaves of Himalayan strawberry (Fragaria nubicola) are also seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Another unidentified species of Sedum, encountered on the Bara Lacha La Pass (c. 3,900 m), Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. Note the glandular-hairy sepals. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Cupressaceae Cypress family
This worldwide family of conifers contains 19 genera with about 125 species. The cones have scales, which are arranged in opposite pairs at right angles with each other. 2 genera are native to the Himalaya, others are introduced as ornamental trees.

 

Cupressus Cypress
About 17 species of these grand trees are distributed in Asia, southern Europe, North Africa, and south-western North America. 2 species are native to the Himalaya, of which C. casmeriana is restricted to Bhutan. 

 

Cupressus torulosa Himalayan cypress
This magnificent tree may grow to 45 m tall, with a diameter up to 3.5 m, with spreading branches and drooping branchlets. The leaves are scale-like, triangular, to 1.8 mm long, with white margins, densely overlapping. The bark often peels off in large strips. When young, the cones are bluish, globular, to 2 cm long and 1.8 cm wide, grey when older, scales separating, when the fruit dries out. This species is distributed from Kashmir eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, mostly on calcareous soil, at altitudes between 1,800 and 3,300 m. Its foliage is often burned as incense in Hindu and Buddhist shrines.

 

Fruit colour and size See above.
Height to 45 m.
Habitat Open dry areas.
Flowering Feb.

 

 

Two magnificent Himalayan cypresses, growing in the Upper Kali Gandaki Valley, Mustang, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Branches of Himalayan cypress with cones, young and old, Upper Kali Gandaki Valley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Juniperus Juniper
This genus of c. 60 species of trees and shrubs is distributed in almost the entire Northern Hemisphere. About 5 species are found in the Himalaya. The cone is berry-like, with an outer fleshy, leathery layer.

 

 

Juniper foliage is often burned as incense in Buddhist shrines. In this picture, juniper branches have been brought as an offering among Tibetan prayer flags, together with a skull of a bharal, or Himalayan blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur), Kagbeni, Upper Kali Gandaki Valley, Mustang, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Juniperus communis Common juniper
This is the most widespread conifer in the world, found in almost the entire northern subarctic and temperate zones, southwards to North Africa, northern Iran, the Himalaya, Japan, and Arizona. In the Himalaya, it is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to central Nepal, at elevations between 1,800 and 3,600 m. This species, which may grow to a large shrub, but is often prostrate, may at once be identified by it needle-like leaves, to 1.3 cm long, which have a sharp point. The cone, to 8 mm across, is bluish-black when ripe, often with a bloom.

Common juniper is much utilized in folk medicine, and also plays a substantial role in folklore, described on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

 

Fruit colour and size See above.
Height to 1.5 m.
Habitat Open dry areas.
Flowering Apr.-May.

 

 

Common juniper with unripe cones, Braga, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Juniperus indica Black juniper
This high-altitude species is often a shrub, but at lower altitudes it may grow into a tree, up to 20 m tall. It has two kinds of leaves: on younger individuals, and sometimes also on lower branches of older specimens, the leaves are awl-shaped, to 6 mm long, whereas those on older branches are scale-like, to 1.5 mm long, densely overlapping in four ranks, which gives the branch a smooth appearance. The cone is brown when young, later shining blue or black, to 1.3 cm across. This species is found at altitudes between 2,100 and 5,200 m, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China. Its foliage is burned as incense in Hindu and Buddhist shrines, and the fruit is utilized in traditional medicine for fever and headache.

 

Fruit colour and size See above.
Height to 20 m, but often a shrub at higher altitudes.
Habitat Open dry areas.
Flowering May.

 

 

This old and gnarled black juniper was found at an altitude of c. 3,600 m in the Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Shrub of black juniper with unripe fruits, Bibre, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. The mountain in the background is Taboche (6367 m). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Black juniper with ripe cones, Bratang, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Juniperus recurva Drooping juniper
This species may grow into a tree, up to 20 m tall, but at higher altitudes it becomes a low shrub. The growth is rather lax, and outer branches are often pendent, hence the specific and common names. Leaves are awl-shaped, to 8 mm long, in whorls of 3, more or less adpressed to the branch and loosely overlapping. The cone is brown when young, later black, shining, ovoid, to 1.3 cm long.

 

Fruit colour and size See above.
Height to 20 m, but often a shrub at higher altitudes.
Habitat Forests, open areas.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

The picture below shows a growth of old drooping junipers near the Pangboche Monastery, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. These magnificent trees are sacred to the local Tibetan Buddhists – a remnant of the animist Bon religion, in which trees, prominent rocks, etc. were worshipped. This belief dominated in Central Asia prior to the introduction of Buddhism. You may read more about this subject on the page Religion: Animism.

 

 

(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Drooping juniper with unripe cones, Tengboche, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Dioscoreaceae Yam family

 

Dioscorea Yam
This huge genus of climbers, comprising c. 613 species, are native to warmer regions of the world. The vast majority are found in the tropics and subtropics, with only a few species extending into temperate areas. The genus is named after Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist Pedanius Dioscorides (died 90 A.D.), author of De Materia Medica (five volumes dealing with herbal medicine).

 

Dioscorea deltoidea Nepalese yam
This climber is widely distributed in montane areas, from Afghanistan eastwards to south-western China, and thence southwards to Southeast Asia. The fresh tuber is used as fish poison. It is squeezed and mixed with water to wash clothes, and this soap is also used as a body wash to kill lice. It is edible after boiling. In Nepal, this species is widely utilized in folk medicine, juice of the tuber for constipation, and to expel roundworms. Bulbs from the upper part of the stem are boiled and the liquid drunk for gastric problems, and juice of these bulbs are used for dysentery. Elsewhere, the tuber is utilized for various diseases, including asthma and arthritis, and also as a contraceptive.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Fruiting Nepalese yam, climbing on a species of fig tree (Ficus), Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Dipsacaceae (scabious family), see Caprifoliaceae.

 

 

 

 

Droseraceae Sundew family
Plants of this family obtain part of their nutrients by catching small invertebrates by means of glandular hairs on their leaves. When an animal gets stuck in the sticky juice from these glands, the leaf will envelop the unfortunate victim and dissolve its body juices, whereupon the plant can obtain nitrogen from it.

Sundew and other flesh-eating plants are dealt with in detail on the page Plants: Carnivorous plants.

 

Drosera peltata Crescent-leaved sundew
This species is distributed in montane areas, from the western parts of the Himalaya eastwards to south-western China, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia and Indonesia to Australia. In the Himalaya, it is found at altitudes between 1,500 and 3,000 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar.

 

 

Nepal 2009-1
The leaves of this crescent-leaved sundew, encountered in Langtang National Park, central Nepal, are heavy with monsoon rain. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Elaeagnaceae Oleaster family

 

Hippophaë Sea-buckthorn
This small genus contains 7 spiny shrubs, distributed from western Europe eastwards to the Far East.

 

Hippophaë rhamnoides Common sea-buckthorn
This plant is found from Ireland and southern Scandinavia southwards to the Mediterranean, eastwards across Russia to Sinkiang and Mongolia, and thence southwards to Pakistan and Ladakh. Its edible berries are yellow, orange, or red, in dense clusters along branches. They are a rich source of vitamins C, A, B, E, and K, and also of carotenoids. Lately, research has shown that they may have anti-ageing and memory-restoring properties.

Subspecies turkestanica, called Asiatic sea-buckthorn, grows in dry river beds and on slopes bordering streams, from Kazakhstan eastwards to Mongolia, and southwards to Pakistan and Ladakh. It is a shrub to 5 m tall, rarely to 10 m, with up to 6 cm long, narrow leaves, which are green above and silvery-scaly beneath.

 

 

Asiatic sea-buckthorn is common in Ladakh, here photographed at Mangyu (top), and near Ulley Topko. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Ephedraceae Joint-pine family
This family of of gymnosperms is native to northern temperate and subtropical areas, and also to western South America.

 

Ephedra Joint-pine
This is the sole genus of the family, with about 65 species of shrubs, rarely climbers. Their stems are jointed and of various colours, including green, yellowish, bluish-green, and whitish-green, and the leaves are often reduced to brown scales at the joints. Male and female flowers are on separate plants. The female cone has a naked ovule, with 1-2 seeds enclosed by swollen, fleshy, berry-like red bracts. Numerous species grow on the Tibetan Plateau, often grazed to prostrate form by goats, which readily eat the fresh stems. The stems are also collected for fodder, and dried plants are utilized as fuel.

Excavations in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan suggest that joint-pine may have been a component of the Zoroastrian ritual drink haoma, which is identical to the Vedic drink soma. Drinking haoma ‘gives insight’ and makes you ‘wise’.

 

Ephedra intermedia Persian joint-pine 
This species, also called Tibetan joint-pine, is native to the Middle East and Central Asia. This densely branched shrub, which grows to 1 m tall, has yellowish or bluish-green stems. Bracts of the cone are orange-red.

In traditional Chinese medicine, this species, and also E. sinica and E. equisetina, are called 麻黄 (ma huang), meaning ’yellow hemp’. Their leaves are used for treatment of a large number of ailments, including fever, cardiovascular problems, nervous disorder, pulmonary diseases, and diarrhoea. They also have anti-viral properties. The root is used to reduce sweating due to weakness of the body. In Tibet, Persian joint-pine is used for liver diseases.

 

 

Fruiting Persian joint-pine, Gayk, Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ephedra pachyclada
This plant differs from E. intermedia by its pale green or whitish stems, and the cone bracts, which are orange. It is found in southern Tibet, northern Himalaya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and southern Arabia.

 

 

Mountain slope with Ephedra pachyclada, displaying male inflorescences, Lossar, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Bracts of Ephedra pachyclada fruits are orange. – Lossar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 
 
Ericaceae Heath family

 

Agapetes
This genus has five members in the Himalaya, all small, epiphytic shrubs.

 

Agapetes serpens Himalayan lantern
The flowers of this small climber come in two colours, red and white. They resemble tiny lanterns, hence its common name. This plant occurs in the eastern parts of the Himalaya, from eastern Nepal to south-eastern Tibet, growing in forests at altitudes between 1,500 and 2,700 m.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Agapetes serpens, photographed in the lower Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Cassiope White-heather
Two species of this genus are found in the Himalaya, both growing at high altitudes.

 

Cassiope fastigiata
This pretty shrublet is found from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan and southern Tibet, growing among rocks and in open areas between 2,800 and 5,000 m altitude.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Cassiope fastigiata, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Gaultheria Wintergreen
Another common name of members of this genus is mountain tea. These shrubs and dwarf shrubs, comprising about 135 species, are native to Asia, Australia, and the Americas. Seven species occur in the Himalaya.

In 1748, Swedish naturalist Pehr Kalm (1716-1779) – a pupil of the famous Carolus Linnaeus, or Carl von Linné (1707-1778) – named this genus in honour of French physician and naturalist Jean-François Gaulthier (1708-1756) of Quebec.

 

Gaultheria fragrantissima Fragrant wintergreen
This very common evergreen shrub displays large clusters of pretty, white, fragrant flowers in April-May. It grows in forests and shrubberies between 2,700 and 4,700 m, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China. This species is widely utilized in folk medicine, juice of unripe fruits being used for stomach ache, whereas juice from the leaves is taken for cough, and to kill intestinal worms. Oil extracted from the leaves is applied to cure scabies and to treat rheumatism. The ripe fruits are eaten fresh, and also distilled to make alcohol.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Fragrant wintergreen, growing below the Burlung Bhanjyang Pass, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gaultheria trichophylla 
In autumn, this dwarf shrub is easily recognized by its sky-blue, almost luminous berries, which are edible. It is very common, creeping over rocks and forest slopes at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,700 m, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China.

 

 

Nepal 2009-1
Fruits of Gaultheria trichophylla, Gopte, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Pieris
A genus of beautiful shrubs, native to central and eastern Asia, eastern North America, and Cuba. Whereas American species are known as andromedas or fetterbushes, the Asian species are merely called pieris, which name is derived from the Greek Pieria – home of the Muses.

 

Pieris formosa Himalayan pieris
A highly toxic plant, which is avoided by grazing animals. For this reason, it is very common in eroded areas or fallow fields, growing between 1,500 and 3,000 m altitude, from central Nepal eastwards to China and northern Vietnam.

 

 

Sydasien 1980
In April-May, Himalayan pieris displays a profusion of fragrant flowers, here photographed near the village of Shyabru, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 2013
Spring foliage of Himalayan pieris is a pretty reddish. – Chipling, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Rhododendron
In the Greek, rhododendron means ‘rose tree’, and, from a distance, the flower clusters of certain species do resemble roses.  However, they are not at all related to roses, as they belong to the heath family.

These trees and shrubs constitute a very large genus, comprising c. 1,025 species worldwide, with the largest concentrations in China, the Himalaya, Malaysia, Borneo, and New Guinea. China is the absolute stronghold of the genus, with no less than c. 571 species, of which 409 are endemic. The Himalaya is home to more than a hundred species, and a tiny country like Bhutan harbours more than 60. The further west you go in the Himalaya, the fewer species you encounter. Eastern Nepal is home to c. 30 species, western Nepal to seven, and Kashmir to only four.

Himalayan rhododendrons are dwarf shrubs, shrubs, or small trees, which bloom between March and July, with a peak in April-May. A majority of the species display flowers of various shades of red, yellow, or white, whereas violet and greenish are rarely seen. The inflorescence of most species is an umbel-like cluster, the corolla being funnel- or bell-shaped, with five lobes. The fruit is a capsule, containing between four and twenty chambers.

In the Himalaya, rhododendrons occur in almost all vegetation zones, from subtropical to alpine, the major part found between 2,000 and 4,000 m altitude. The largest species is Rhododendron arboreum, which can grow to 15 m tall. At the opposite end of the spectrum are various dwarf shrubs, such as R. nivale, R. lepidotum, R. anthopogon, and R. pumilum, the latter being only 10-15 cm tall. Other species are epiphytes, such as the large-flowered R. dalhousiae and R. lindleyi.

Pictures of rhododendrons from other parts of the world are presented on the page Plants: Rhododendron.

 

Rhododendron anthopogon
In Nepal, this dwarf shrub is called sun pathi. At altitudes between 3,000 and 5,100 m, it forms dense thickets, covering large areas. The dried flowers of this species are utilized as tea, and its branches are burned as incense in temples and on house altars.

 

 

Everest 2010
Rhododendron anthopogon, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 2002
This man from the Gosainkund area of central Nepal shows a tray, full of dried sun pathi flowers. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron arboreum
This is the tallest rhododendron species in the Himalaya, growing to about 15 m tall. It is very common, and in March-April, when it is flowering, it adds a reddish or pinkish tinge to the forest in numerous places, stemming from millions of flowers. The intensity of the red flower colour decreases with altitude, and near the upper limit of its distribution, around 3,800 m, trees with white flowers are sometimes encountered. In Nepal, this tree is the national plant, called lali guras (‘red rhododendron’).

In its widest sense, this species has an extensive distribution in Asia, from Pakistan eastwards to montane areas of northern Thailand and Vietnam, and with isolated populations in mountains of South India and Sri Lanka. The subspecies in South India is called Nilgiri rhododendron (R. arboreum ssp. nilagiricum), whereas the Sri Lanka rhododendron (R. arboreum ssp. zeylanicum) is sometimes regarded as a separate species, R. zeylanicum.

 

 

Nepal 2008
Rhododendron arboreum can grow to 15 m tall. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 2008
Nepal 2008
When it is flowering, Rhododendron arboreum adds a reddish or pinkish tinge to the forest in numerous places, stemming from millions of flowers. One of these areas is Annapurna, central Nepal, where these pictures were taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

The flowers of Rhododendron arboreum produce a profusion of pollen, and they are much visited by various bird species. In this picture, a striated laughing-thrush (Garrulax striatus) is feeding in a flower. – Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 2008
Nepal 2008
Nepal 2013
These pictures show three flower colours of Rhododendron arboreum. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 2008
Inflorescence of Rhododendron arboreum, not yet unfolded. – Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron barbatum
From a distance, this species is quite similar to R. arboreum, but a closer look reveals distinctive glandular bristles on its twigs and leaf-stalk. Also, its pinkish bark peels off in thin, cinnamon-coloured flakes. It is very common in the Himalaya, found from Uttarakhand eastwards to Bhutan, often forming pure stands at altitudes between 2,400 and 3,600 m.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Nepal 2013
Dense Rhododendron barbatum forest, Kutumsang, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 2008
This picture from Ghorepani, Annapurna, central Nepal, shows the distinctive bristles on a twig of Rhododendron barbatum. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 2008
The bark of Rhododendron barbatum peels off in thin, cinnamon-coloured flakes. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron campanulatum Bell rhododendron
As its specific name, derived from the Latin campanula (‘little bell’), implies, this attractive shrub has bell-shaped flowers. It is very common in the Himalaya, forming dense thickets at altitudes between 2,800 and 4,000 m. It can be identified by the rusty-coloured layer of hairs on the underside of the leaves.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Nepal 2013
Nepal 2013
Bell rhododendron, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. In the lower picture, rain drops cling to the flowers. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 2013
One of the characteristics of bell rhododendron is the rusty-coloured layer of hairs on the underside of its leaves. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron campylocarpum
This shrub is very common from eastern Nepal eastwards to south-western China, at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,000 m. In places, it brightens large tracts of forest with its beautiful pale-yellow inflorescences.

The pictures below were all taken in the Khumbu area, eastern Nepal, where this species is very common. In the upper picture, the peaks of Nuptse (7879 m, left), Sagarmatha (Everest) (8850 m, centre), and Lhotse (8511 m) are seen in the background.

 

 

Everest 2010
Everest 2010
Everest 2010
(Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron ciliatum
The white or slightly pinkish flowers of this small shrub have five notched, overlapping lobes. It has a rather limited distribution, found between eastern Nepal and Bhutan. It often grows on rocks, at altitudes between 2,700 and 3,900 m.

 

 

Nepal 1991a
Rhododendron ciliatum, Barun Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron cinnabarinum 
This shrub can be identified by its long, dark red, tubular, waxy, often pendent flowers. This species grows at altitudes between 3,200 and 4,000 m, from eastern Nepal eastwards to south-western China.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Nepal 2013
Usually, the flowers of Rhododendron cinnabarinum are dark red, but occasionally paler flowers are seen, as in the lower picture. This species is common in the Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal, where these pictures were taken. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron dalhousiae
Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911) was a British botanist, who, during the period 1848-1850, described no less than 22 new rhododendron species from Sikkim and other parts of the eastern Himalaya, including this gorgeous species, which was named in honour of Lady Dalhousie, wife of George Ramsay, the 9th Earl of Dalhousie, who was governor-general in India in the first half of the 1800s. Lady Dalhousie was an avid collector of plants.

In April-May, this epiphytic species displays a profusion of lemon-coloured flowers, which later turn yellowish-white.

 

 

Nepal 1991a
Rhododendron dalhousiae, Tashigaon, Arun Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Rhododendron fulgens
This shrub, to 4 m tall, is of a rather limited distribution, found from eastern Nepal eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, growing at altitudes between 3,300 and 4,200 m.

 

 

Nepal 1991a
Many rhododendron species are indeed hardy. Early in the morning, the flowers of this Rhododendron fulgens, observed in the Barun Valley, eastern Nepal, are covered in rime. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron hodgsonii
This large shrub, which grows to 7 m tall, is easily identified by its dense inflorescences and large leaves. It has a rather limited distribution, from eastern Nepal eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, often forming shrubberies in forests, at altitudes between 3,000 and 3,800 m.

 

 

My guide Saila Tamang, standing in a dense growth of Rhododendron hodgsonii, Barun Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

The flower colour of Rhododendron hodgsonii varies from whitish to deep pink. These pictures are from Barun Valley (top) and Ghunsa Valley, both in eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron lepidotum
Flowers of this dwarf shrub come in three colour forms, red, white, and (rarely) yellowish. This is one of the most widespread Himalayan rhododendron species, distributed from northern Pakistan eastwards to south-western China. It also has a wide altitudinal range, found between 2,400 and 4,500 m.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
The commonest flower colour of Rhododendron lepidotum is red, here encountered at Ghumtarao, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 2013
White-flowered form, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Everest 2010
The rare yellowish form, encountered in the Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron nivale 
The alpine zone, above the tree limit, is home to several species of dwarf rhododendron, including R. nivale, which is distributed from western Nepal eastwards to south-western China, at altitudes between 4,500 and 5,500 m. It is quite similar to R. setosum (see below), but the leaf margin of that species usually has bristles, and its funnel-shaped corolla is reddish-violet, whereas R. nivale has darker violet, smaller flowers, and no bristles on the leaves. Generally, R. nivale grows in drier areas than R. setosum.

 

 

Everest 2010
Everest 2010
Rhododendron nivale, photographed in the Khumbu region, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron pumilum
This plant rarely grows taller than 10 cm, reflected in its specific name, which is derived from the Latin pumilio (‘dwarf’). Its habitat is open slopes and rocks. It is distributed from eastern Nepal eastwards to south-western China, growing at altitudes from 3,600 to 4,300 m.

 

 

Nepal 1991a
Rhododendron pumilum, Barun Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron setosum
The funnel-shaped flowers of this dwarf shrub are usually reddish-violet, but a form with pink flowers is occasionally seen. It is quite similar to R. nivale (see above), but its leaf margin usually has bristles, whereas R. nivale has no bristles on its leaves, and darker violet, smaller flowers. R. setosum is found on alpine slopes at slightly lower altitudes than R. nivale, between 3,600 and 4,800 m. It is distributed from central Nepal eastwards to south-western China.

 

 

Everest 2010
Everest 2010
Rhododendron setosum, photographed in the Khumbu region, eastern Nepal. In the upper picture, the peak of Taboche (6367 m) is seen in the background. The lower picture shows the pink-flowered form, next to flowers of a normal colour. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron thomsonii
This shrub, growing to 5 m tall, is easily identified by its broadly bell-shaped, waxy, fleshy flowers, and the rather small, pinkish-red calyx. It grows in open areas, preferably near streams, at altitudes from 3,000 to 3,800 m. It is distributed from eastern Nepal to south-eastern Tibet.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Nepal 2013
These pictures are from the Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal, where Rhododendron thomsonii is quite common. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron triflorum
The flowers of this small shrub, growing to 3 m tall, are a very pale yellow with a greenish tinge, arranged in clusters of three, as indicated by its specific name. The bark peels off in thin, cinnamon-coloured flakes. This species is found in shrubberies from eastern Nepal eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, at altitudes from 2,400 to 3,300 m.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Rhododendron triflorum, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron wallichii 
Formerly, this species was regarded as a variety of R. campanulatum (see above), but generally its flowers are paler, and the underside of the leaves is not hairy. The specific name was given in honour of Danish physician and botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), who studied the Indian and Himalayan flora in the early 1800s.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Everest 2010
These pictures are from the Khumbu area, eastern Nepal, where Rhododendron wallichii is very common. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhododendron wightii
This plant, which grows to 4 m tall, forms shrubberies many places in the eastern Himalaya, from eastern Nepal eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, between 3,300 and 4,300 m altitude. Its leaves are large, to 20 cm long, with felt-like, rusty hairs beneath, whereas its bell-shaped flowers are white or very pale yellow, with crimson blotches within.

 

 

Nepal 1991a
Nepal 1991a
Rhododendron wightii, Barun Valley, eastern Nepal. In the upper picture, it is photographed in front of a dark rock, named Neh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Fabaceae (Leguminosae) Pea family
Flowers of this family have five petals, forming a unique structure. The upper petal, called the standard, is large and often reflexed, covering and protecting stamens and pistil. The two lateral petals, called the wings, are of equal size, surrounding the two bottom petals, which are free at the base, but fused at the tip, forming what is called the keel, as it resembles the keel of a boat. They enclose stamens and pistil.

 

Milk-wetch (Astragalus) is a huge genus, comprising more than 3,000 species of herbs or small shrubs, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Around 100 species are found in the Himalaya and Ladakh.

 

Astragalus oplites is a very spiny shrublet, often forming compact mats to 1 m across. The spines are the remains of old leaf-stalks, yellowish, 3-4 cm long. The leaves are pinnate, to 18 cm long, with 20-40 leaflets. This species is found from Kashmir eastwards to central Nepal, and in Tibet, at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,500 m.

 

 

In this landscape near Jharkot, Jhong River Valley, Mustang, central Nepal, shrubs of spiny Astragalus oplites are about the only plants left by grazing goats. The red building on the crest in the background is a gompa, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. – These buildings are dealt with in detail on the page Religion: Buddhism. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Astragalus candolleanus can often be identified by its reddish calyx, which is densely silky-haired. This plant is found from northern Pakistan eastwards to central Nepal, at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,500 m.

 

 

Astragalus candolleanus, Upper Langtang Valley, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Astragalus zanskarensis is similar to the two species above, but its flowers are pale yellow, and the leaves are very long, with up to 29 leaflets. It is restricted to very dry areas in Tibet, northern Pakistan, Ladakh, and Zanskar, up to an altitude of 4,800 m.

 

 

Astragalus zanskarensis, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Astragalus nivalis is a prostrate herb with violet or pink flowers, easily identified by the inflated pink calyx. It grows in dry areas, from Ka­zakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan eastwards through Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, and Tibet to Gansu, up to an altitude of 4,600 m.

 

 

This picture shows the inflated pink calyces of Astragalus nivalis, Pang, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Locoweeds (Oxytropis) are a genus of about 300 species, native to Eurasia and North America. They are very similar to Astragalus, but the tip of the keel has a beak. These plants are notorious for being toxic to grazing animals. Several species are widespread on the Tibetan Plateau.

 

 

Oxytropis microphylla is common in Ladakh. In the upper picture, numerous plants grow in a high-altitude desert near the Namsang La Pass. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Pea-shrubs (Caragana) are between 80 and 100 species of bushes, growing to a height of between 1 and 6 m. They are found in eastern Europe and the major part of Temperate Asia.

 

Caragana gerardiana is a shrub to 1.2 m tall, densely branched, very spiny. Like in Astragalus, old leaf-stalks form stiff spines, to 4 cm long. This plant grows in dry steppe country and semi-deserts, at altitudes between 2,600 and 4,200 m, from northern Pakistan eastwards to central Nepal. It is often collected as firewood. The specific name was given in honour of English herbalist John Gerard (c. 1545-1612).

 

 

Caragana gerardiana, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 
Erythrina Coral tree
The common name of this genus stems from the wonderful coral-red flowers of many of the species.

 

Erythrina stricta
This species is very common in the lower parts of the Himalaya, growing in forests and open areas up to 1,600 m altitude. It is widespread from India eastwards to China.

In March-April, this tree displays a profusion of gorgeous red flowers, in which various bird species feed, including Asian black bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus), red-whiskered bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus), and ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri).

 

 

Nepal 1998
Nepal 1998
Erythrina stricta, flowering near the village of Tatopani, Lower Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Indigofera heterantha
One among 16 members of this genus in the Himalaya. It is widely distributed, from Afghanistan eastwards to Bhutan and southern Tibet, and also in Sri Lanka and parts of East Africa. It often forms dense thickets in the western part of the Himalaya, where it may be found up to an altitude of 3,000 m.

Formerly, a blue dye, indigo, was extracted from a lowland relative, Indigofera tinctoria, but nowadays the dye is produced synthetically. Incidentally, indigo cannot be extracted from any of the Himalayan species.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Indigofera heterantha is a conspicuous element in Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lotus Bird’s-foot trefoil
This huge genus, comprising at least 130 species, is represented by a single species in the Himalaya. The trefoil part of the popular name refers to the tripartite leaves of the genus, whereas bird’s-foot alludes to their triple pods, which spread out from a common point, thus resembling a bird’s foot.

 

Lotus corniculatus Common bird’s-foot trefoil
This plant is widely distributed in Temperate Eurasia, growing in drier habitats with low vegetation. In the Himalaya, it is found between 1,500 and 4,000 m altitude, from Pakistan eastwards to central Nepal.

Other species of this genus are dealt with on the page In praise of the colour yellow.

 

 

The flowers of common bird’s-foot trefoil are usually yellow, but red or orange flowers are sometimes seen, as on this specimen from Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh, photographed after a rain shower. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Parochetus communis
This plant with bright blue flowers is common in open areas in the Himalaya, found between 900 and 4,300 m altitude. Its distribution area includes the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Africa. In Nepal, this plant is used for fodder, and is also utilized medicinally, as juice of the leaves is applied to wounds and boils.

 

 

Nepal 1994
Large growth of Parochetus communis, encountered near Tolka, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Thermopsis
This genus, often called false lupine, contains about 25 species, distributed in Central and East Asia, and in North America. The generic name is from the Greek therme (‘heat’) and opsis (‘appearance’), thus ‘appearing to be burned’, referring to Thermopsis barbata, which has blackish-purple flowers.

 

Thermopsis barbata
This extremely hairy plant is easily recognized by its blackish-purple flowers. It is very common on disturbed ground, including abandoned fields and heavily grazed slopes, between 3,000 and 4,500 m altitude. The generic name is explained above, whereas the specific name is from the Latin barbatus (‘bearded’), referring to the densely hairy stems and leaves.

 

 

Everest 2010
Everest 2010
Thermopsis barbata, photographed in a fallow field near the village of Namche, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Thermopsis inflata
This yellow-flowered species is easily identified by its broadly ovate, inflated, white-haired pods, to 5 cm long and 3 cm broad, which are curved downward. It grows on dry stony slopes between 4,000 and 5,000 m altitude, from southern Sinkiang southwards to Pakistan, Ladakh, Nepal, and Bhutan.

 

 

This picture from Honupatta, Ladakh, shows the characteristic inflated seed pods of Thermopsis inflata. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Gentianaceae Gentian family
This family is worldwide, comprising about 87 genera with c. 1,650 species, mostly herbs. Within the c. 18 genera, which occur in the Himalaya, the flower colour of most species are various shades of blue. Below, representatives from four genera, Gentiana, Gentianella, Halenia, and Swertia, are presented.

Gentians proper, Gentiana, are a huge genus, comprising c. 360 species. It used to contain c. 635 species, but certain authorities, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group System (APG IV), have split out c. 23 species of fringed gentians (Gentianopsis), with ciliate margins to the petals, and c. 250 species of dwarf gentians (Gentianella), without scales or lobules between the corolla-lobes, whereas some species have hairs or lobes in the throat.

Members of these genera are distributed almost worldwide, found in Europe, north-western Africa, Asia, the Americas, eastern Australia, and New Zealand. The flowers of most species are various shades of blue, whereas others are purple, violet, mauve, yellow, white, or, rarely, red. The four or five petals are usually fused, forming a trumpet-, funnel-, or bell-shaped flower.

The name gentian was derived from King Gentius, who ruled in Ancient Illyria 181-168 B.C., and who allegedly discovered the medicinal value of the great yellow gentian (Gentiana lutea). This species is described on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

 

Gentiana

 

Gentiana depressa
This species may be identified by is its greenish-white, black-dotted corolla, blue petal lobes, and whitish-blue lobules (the slightly smaller lobes between the lobes proper). It grows on open slopes at altitudes between 3,300 and 4,300 m, from central Nepal eastwards to south-eastern Tibet.

 

 

Nepal 2009
Gentiana depressa, photographed in the Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gentiana leucomelaena Blue-dotted gentian
This tiny plant, growing to 10 cm tall, has white or pale-blue, bell-shaped flowers, to 1.3 cm across, with a yellow throat, surrounded by numerous dark-blue spots. It is found in alpine grasslands, among shrubs, and along streams, between 1,900 and 5,000 m altitude, from Kazakhstan, Sinkiang, southern Russia, and Mongolia southwards to Pakistan, Ladakh, Nepal, and Sikkim.

 

 

Gentiana leucomelaena is common in Ladakh, here encountered at the saline lake Tso Kar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gentiana ornata
As its specific name implies, this is a beautiful plant, having a pale blue corolla with a whitish throat and black vertical stripes. It is very common at high altitudes between 3,400 and 5,500 m, from central Nepal eastwards to south-eastern Tibet. It blooms in autumn, adding a lovely blue hue to the otherwise rather drab landscape at this time of the year.

 

 

Nepal 2009
Gentiana ornata, photographed at an altitude of c. 4,200 metres, Ngegang Kharka, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gentiana pedicellata
Almost all Himalayan gentians bloom late in the summer or in autumn, but a few are flowering in spring, including this tiny, often mat-forming plant, which is very common on grazing grounds and in forest clearings at altitudes from 750 to 3,800 m. It is found in the entire mountain chain, and also in China, South India, and Sri Lanka.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Gentiana pedicellata, Khanjim, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Gentianella Dwarf gentians
This genus can be told from other gentians by their flowers, which often have lobes or tufts of hair in the throat, and no lobules between the corolla-lobes.

 

Gentianella moorcroftiana
This species is distributed in the western parts of the Himalaya, from Pakistan eastwards to central Nepal, growing in open, grassy areas at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,800 m. This pretty plant, which has rather large, pale blue flowers, white or yellowish towards the base, is very common in Lahaul and Ladakh. In traditional medicine, an infusion is applied to the forehead to relieve fever. It is also used for bile and liver problems.

 

 

Lahaul-Ladakh 2014
Gentianella moorcroftiana, encountered near Lake Deepak Tal, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh, at an altitude of c. 3,800 m. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Gentianopsis

 

Gentianopsis paludosa
This is a tall plant, to 40 cm, with a single blue or yellowish flower at the end of each stem. Leaves are mostly basal, but there may be 1-4 pairs of leaves up the stem. It grows in grassy areas, between 1,100 and 4,900 m altitude, from northern Tibet and Inner Mongolia southwards through Tibet and western China to Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Yunnan. A paste of its root is applied to wounds, and to the forehead to relieve headache. Other parts are used for bile and liver disorders, and fever.

 

 

Gentianopsis paludosa, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Halenia

 

Halenia elliptica Spurred gentian
This species is easily identified by its pale blue flowers, which have four spurs, projecting backwards. It is quite common in meadows and at forest edges in the Himalaya, between 1,800 and 4,500 m altitude. It is widely distributed, found in central and western Asia, eastwards to China and Myanmar.

 

 

Lahaul-Ladakh 2014
Spurred gentian, encountered below the Rohtang La Pass, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Swertia Felwort
This large genus, comprising c. 150 species worldwide, is also known by the popular name columbo. Many species have small, but very ornate flowers, usually with five petals, which are adorned with beautiful, intricate patterns in many species. About 28 species occur in the Himalaya, the majority growing in humid places.

 

Swertia angustifolia Narrow-leaved felwort
This plant may be identified by its long, narrow leaves, and by having only four petals, which are white with tiny purple spots, and a large green spot near the base. It grows in subtropical valleys, up to an altitude of 3,300 m, from Pakistan eastwards to China and northern Vietnam.

 

 

Nepal 2009a
Narrow-leaved felwort, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Swertia ciliata
The flowers of this plant are very spectacular, having five ovate, bluish-white petals, which are abruptly tapering to a long point, with a purple band near the base, and densely clustered, purple filaments. This species is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to Myanmar, growing in shrubberies and on open slopes at altitudes between 2,500 and 3,700 m.

 

 

Lahaul-Ladakh 2014
Swertia ciliata, Solang Nallah Valley, near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Swertia cordata Heart-leaved felwort
This species differs from most other felworts by its broadly heart-shaped leaves. It is widely distributed, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China, growing on grassy slopes between 1,700 and 4,000 m.

 

 

Nepal 2009a
Heart-leaved felwort, encountered near the village of Bratang, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Swertia paniculata
This felwort has gorgeous purplish-white flowers with a narrow purple band and two green spots on each of the five petals. It grows in forests and on open slopes between 2,800 and 3,300 m altitude, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China.

 

 

Nepal 2009a
Swertia paniculata, photographed at Danakju, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Swertia racemosa
Compared with other felworts, this species has rather dull, bell-shaped, whitish-purple flowers. It grows in grassy areas and on open slopes at high altitudes, between 3,200 and 5,000 m.

Formerly, this plant was called Kingdon-wardia racemosa, in honour of the English botanist and explorer Francis Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958), who, over a period of nearly 50 years, undertook about 25 expeditions to Assam, Myanmar, Tibet, and north-western China.

 

 

Nepal 2009
Swertia racemosa, photographed at c. 4,000 m altitude, Langshisha, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Geraniaceae Crane’s-bill family
This worldwide family contains 7 to 10 genera with 800-900 species of herbs, rarely shrubs.

 

Geranium Crane’s-bill
About 18 species of this genus are found in the Himalaya and Ladakh, almost all having reddish, pink, or violet flowers. After flowering, the style forms a long, straight or up-curved beak, which separates into 5 elastic, spring-like coils, each containing one seed that is thrown out when the style is touched.

 

Geranium himalayaense Himalayan crane’s-bill
This plant is found from Afghanistan eastwards to central Nepal, growing between 2,100 and 4,400 m altitude. It is quite similar to the meadow crane’s-bill (below), which grows in drier areas of the Himalaya. As a rule, Himalayan crane’s-bill is a larger plant, with petals up to 3 cm long, versus 2 cm in meadow cranesbill. Its fruits are also larger, up to almost 5 cm long, versus c. 3.5 cm in meadow crane’s-bill.

 

 

Nepal 2009
This picture shows the rear side of a Himalayan crane’s-bill flower, dotted with raindrops from a recent downpour. It was photographed during the peak of the monsoon, at Cholang Pati, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Geranium pratense Meadow crane’s-bill
Usually, this pretty plant has blue or bluish-purple flowers in dense clusters, although they may sometimes be red or white. It is widely distributed, found from Europe across Russia to Mongolia, and thence southwards to Afghanistan, Ladakh, and Nepal. In Central Asia, it grows in meadows and along irrigation canals, at altitudes between 1,400 and 4,500 m. An extract of the leaves is used for fever, pneumonia, swelling of limbs, dysentery, and diarrhoea.

 

 

In this picture, meadow crane’s-bill grows along a stone fence near Lossar, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. The yellow flower is a species of goat’s-beard, Tragopogon gracilis, of the composite family (Asteraceae). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Gesneriaceae Gloxinia family
Most Himalayan members of this family, comprising 11 genera, bloom during the monsoon. Five species are presented below.

 

Aeschynanthus
Many members of this genus, comprising c. 140 species, have gorgeous red flowers. These plants are epiphytes, growing on trees or rocks. They are distributed in warmer parts of Asia and on some Pacific islands.

 

Aeschynanthus parviflorus
This species, formerly known as Aeschynanthus sikkimensis, has long, hanging branches and thick, leathery leaves. It is distributed from eastern Nepal eastwards to Bhutan, at altitudes between 1,200 and 2,100 m.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Aeschynanthus parviflorus, growing on a rock near Chiruwa, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Chirita urticifolia
This pretty plant grows in humid forests and shrubberies at altitudes from 1,000 to 2,400 m. It is distributed from western Nepal eastwards to south-western China.

 

 

Nepal 2009
Chirita urticifolia, seen below the Burlung Bhanjyang Pass, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Didymocarpus oblongus
This plant grows on shady rocks between 1,000 and 3,000 m altitude, from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to Arunachal Pradesh. It may be identified by its small flowers, to 1 cm long.

 

 

Everest 2010a
Didymocarpus oblongus, encountered in Solu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Platystemma violoides
Another species, which grows on shady rocks between 1,500 and 3,000 m altitude, from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to Bhutan. It is easily identified by its single, broadly ovate leaf, from which a slender flower stalk is rising, having a single or few bluish-violet flowers.

 

 

Nepal 2000
Platystemma violoides, photographed in the Annapurna area, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Rhynchoglossum obliquum
Very widely distributed, found from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-western China, and southwards to montane areas in South India and Southeast Asia. It differs from most other species in the family by flowering in the autumn. It is very easily identified by its asymmetric, long-pointed leaves, and its long, spike-like cluster of small blue flowers. 

 

 

Nepal 2009a
Rhynchoglossum obliquum, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Grossulariaceae Currant family
This family has a single genus, Ribes, which includes currants and gooseberries. It contains about 150 species, which are native to temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Eleven species are found in the Himalaya. To most authorities, this genus constitutes a separate family, whereas others include it in the family Saxifragaceae.

 

Ribes alpestre Asian gooseberry
This shrub is easily identified by its stout thorns and reddish, hairy berries. It is found in forests and shrubberies in drier areas, from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan, and also in Central Asia and China, between 1,000 and 3,900 m altitude.

 

 

Himachal 2009
Asian gooseberry is heavily armed with spines on the branches. This one was photographed near Keylong, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ribes orientale
This much-branched shrub, growing to 2 m tall, has glandular-hairy, sticky twigs. The inflorescences, which are either male or female, are erect or ascending, male ones to 5 cm long, 15-30-flowered, female ones to 3 cm long, 5-15-flowered. The berries are orange at first, later deep red, globular, to 9 mm across, downy and glandular. It grows in forests, shrubberies, and open areas, and is widely distributed, both geographically and altitudinal, from the Balkans and the Middle East eastwards to south-western China, and from Russia southwards to the Himalaya, where it is found between 2,100 and 4,900 m.

 

 

Ribes orientale with berries, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Hydrangeaceae Hydrangea family

 

Deutzia
A genus of shrubs with pretty, fragrant flowers. Three species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Deutzia bhutanensis
The flowers of this shrub, which grows to 2 m tall, are purplish, as opposed to the other two species, which have white flowers. It has quite small leaves, to 4 cm long. It is found in a rather restricted area, from central Nepal eastwards to Bhutan, between 2,100 and 2,700 m altitude.

 

 

Everest 2010
Deutzia bhutanensis, Phakding, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Deutzia hookeriana
This species has the largest leaves of the Himalayan Deutzia, growing to 12 cm long. It occurs at forest margins and in shrubberies, between 2,000 and 3,500 m altitude, from Nepal eastwards to south-western China.

 

 

Annapurna 2007
This gorgeous specimen of Deutzia hookeriana was encountered in the Lower Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Deutzia staminea
This plant, which grows in shrubberies and on open slopes, is widely distributed, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China, between 1,700 and 3,000 m altitude. It is commonest in the western part of the Himalaya. In Nepal, juice of its root is used for fever, and the flowers are offered to gods by Tamang people.

 

 

Uttarakhand 2008
Deutzia staminea, photographed in the Lower Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Hypoxidaceae Yellow star-grass family

 

Hypoxis Yellow star-grass 
Members of this genus, also called star lily, are widely distributed, occurring in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Australia, with the greatest concentration in southern Africa. The name star-grass alludes to the star-shaped flowers and grass-like leaves of the genus. An African species, Hypoxis hemerocallidea, called African potato, is an important ingredient in traditional medicine.

 

Hypoxis aurea
This tiny species occurs in the entire Himalaya, growing in open grasslands between 1,500 and 2,900 m. It has a very wide distribution in Tropical Asia and is also found in New Guinea.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Hypoxis aurea, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Iridaceae Iris family

 

Iris Iris
This genus of wonderful plants, comprising 250-300 species worldwide, has about 13 members in the Himalaya. They are named after Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow, alluding to the colourful flowers of many of the species. These plants are toxic and therefore avoided by grazing animals. For this reason, they often form large growths in high-altitude meadows and grazing grounds.

 

Iris kemaonensis
This is the commonest iris in the Himalaya, often forming large growths on grazing grounds and in abandoned fields. It is found at altitudes between 2,500 and 4,300 m, from Pakistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet. Its leaves and root are used medicinally, and the leaves are occasionally cut for fodder. Presumably, they lose their toxicity when dried.

 

 

Nepal 2002
Iris kemaonensis is very common on grazing grounds, here in the Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 2013
Close-up of Iris kemaonensis with dew drops, photographed early in the morning, likewise in the Upper Langtang Valley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Iris milesii
This plant is confined to the western part of the Himalaya, from Kashmir eastwards to Uttarakhand, where it grows at altitudes between 1,600 and 2,700 m. The preferred habitat of this species is open coniferous forests. It is easily identified by its long, scimitar-shaped leaves, and the rather pale, purplish flowers.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Iris milesii, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Lamiaceae Mint family

 

Caryopteris bicolor Bluebeard
This handsome shrub, growing to 3 m tall, has large clusters of bluish, fragrant flowers at the end of branches, which later turn into globular fruits, dark-blue when ripe. It has a wide altitudinal as well as geographical range, growing in open forests and shrubberies, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China and Thailand, between 400 and 2,100 m.

 

 

Nepal 2008
Bluebeard is very common in the Annapurna area, central Nepal, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Clerodendrum Glorybower 
Seven species of this genus are encountered in the Himalaya, for the major part restricted to the foothills or lower, subtropical valleys.

 

Clerodendrum infortunatum
This is a very important plant in Ayurvedic medicine, where root and bark are utilized for respiratory problems, such as cough and asthma, and for fever. The root is also used as a laxative and to kill fly larvae in wounds, whereas juice of the plant is applied to snake bites and scorpion stings. In Nepal, the leaves are used as a potherb. It is widely distributed, found in the entire Indian Subcontinent and in Southeast Asia.

The specific name infortunatum was given by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus, also known as Carl von Linné (1707-1778), allegedly because he found the leaves of this plant rather ugly.

 

 

Nepal 1998
Clerodendrum infortunatum, photographed in Chitwan National Park, southern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Elsholtzia Late-summer mint 
A genus of c. 40 species, distributed in Europe, Asia, and North America. The generic name was given in honour of Prussian botanist and physician Johann Sigismund Elsholtz (1623-1688), who was a pioneer in the fields of hygiene and nutrition.

 

Elsholtzia eriostachya 
This variable plant, from 15 to 35 cm tall, has purplish-red stems, yellowish-green leaves, and terminal cylindric spikes, to 6 cm long and 1 cm broad, with numerous, minute, bright yellow flowers. It grows on slopes and river plains from Pakistan and Tibet eastwards to Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan Provinces, at altitudes between 3,500 and 4,600 m. It is quite common in Ladakh.

 

 

Elsholtzia eriostachya, Polo Kongga La Pass (4600 m), Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Nepeta Catmint
Catmints, comprising about 250 species, are found in temperate and subtropical regions of Asia, North Africa, and Europe, with the highest diversity around the Mediterranean region, in the Middle East, and in Central Asia. Many species grow on the Tibetan Plateau, where they are quite prominent.

 

Nepeta floccosa
This plant is common, especially where mountain slopes have been eroded to gravel. It is easily identified by its woolly leaves, which emit a lemon-like fragrance. The inflorescences are in dense whorls, widely spaced up the stem. This species is distributed from Sinkiang southwards through Tibet to Pakistan, Ladakh, and Uttarakhand, at altitudes from 2,100 to 3,800 m. In former days, it was used medicinally for bone fractures, muscular pains, skin infections, and lymphatic disorders. The leaves can be used as a spice.

 

 

Nepeta floccosa, photographed at Chomuthang (top) and near Leh, both in Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Nepeta laevigata 
A stout plant, to 80 cm tall, with terminal, cylindric spikes, up to 10 cm long, sometimes with purplish-red calyx. The flowers are much longer than the calyx, to 12 mm, whitish-blue. This species is found in grasslands, shrubs, and forest margins, from Afghanistan eastwards through southern Tibet and northern Himalaya to Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces of China, at altitudes between 2,300 and 4,100 m. In traditional medicine, it is used as a diaphoretic.

 

 

Nepeta laevigata, Keylong, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Nepeta podostachys
This species has many spreading stems, to 30 cm long, with terminal spikes of small white flowers, each about 8 mm long. It is distributed from Afghanistan through Ladakh to Himachal Pradesh, at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,300 m.

 

 

Nepeta podostachys is quite common in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Perovskia
This genus of 10 species is distributed in Central Asia and the Middle East. The generic name was given in honour of a Russian general, Count Vasily Alekseevich Perovsky (1794-1857).

 

Perovskia abrotanoides
This plant somewhat resembles lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). It occurs from eastern Iran and Turkmenistan eastwards to Tibet, Pakistan, and Ladakh. This species was formerly used in traditional medicine as a cooling agent.

 

 

Perovskia abrotanoides is very common in Ladakh, often adding a blue hue to the drab desert landscape, in these pictures near Ulley (top), and Basgo. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Phlomoides Lampwick plant
A genus with more than 100 species, native from southern Europe across the Middle East to Central Asia and China. Eight species occur in the Himalaya. Inflorescences of these plants are very characteristic, being arranged in dense whorls at intervals up the angular stem.

The generic name is derived from the Greek floga (‘flame’), probably referring to the former usage of the hairy leaves of this genus as lamp wicks.

 

Phlomoides bracteosa
The commonest species in the Himalaya, a hairy plant with pinkish-purple flowers, growing to 80 cm tall. It is found in open areas at altitudes between 1,200 and 4,100 m, from Afghanistan eastwards to south-western China.

 

 

Lahaul-Ladakh 2014
Phlomis bracteosa, photographed below the Rohtang La Pass, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Phlomoides rotata
As a means of protection against the strong winds, which often blow on the Tibetan Plateau, the leaves of this plant are hugging the ground. One disadvantage of this adaptation is that if the plant grows on sandy soil, gusts of wind will blow sand onto the leaves, thus diminishing its ability to obtain energy from sunlight through photosynthesis.

This species grows on stony alpine meadows and along streams up to 4,900 m altitude, from Tibet eastwards to the Chinese provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan, southwards to Bhutan, Sikkim, and Nepal. It is utilized in traditional medicine for traumatic problems.

 

 

Phlomoides rotata, photographed in a dry valley beneath Imja Tse (Island Peak) (6189 m), Sagarmatha National Park, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Salvia Sage
Many species of this huge genus, comprising c. 1,000 species, are cultivated as ornamentals. These attractive plants are distributed on all continents, with the exception of Australia and Antarctica. Eleven species are found in the Himalaya, some with blue, others with yellow flowers.

The generic name is derived from the Latin salvere (‘to make well or healthy’), referring to the healing properties of the common sage (Salvia officinalis).

 

Salvia lanata
The pale-blue flowers of this beautiful plant are arranged in whorls up the stem. It is found in open areas in the western Himalaya, from Pakistan eastwards to western Nepal, between 1,500 and 3,000 m altitude. The specific name, derived from the Latin lana (‘wool’) and –atus (a suffix), refers to the woolly leaves. Locally, the plant is cooked as a vegetable, and also used in salads.

 

 

Uttarakhand 2008
Salvia lanata, Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Salvia nubicola
Due to its sticky, glandular hairs, this species was formerly called Salvia glutinosa, derived from the Latin gluten (‘glue’). It is easily identified by its spear-formed leaf-base and yellow flowers. This plant, which grows in open areas between 2,100 and 4,300 m altitude, has a very wide distribution, found from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan, in central and south-western Asia, and in southern Europe. In the Himalaya, its seeds are roasted and pickled, and juice of the root is given for fever.

 

 

Nepal 2009a
Salvia nubicola, Chame, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Stachys Woundwort
Counting at least 300 species, this genus, also known as hedge-nettles, is one of the largest in the mint family, distributed in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The generic name is from the Greek stachys (‘an ear of grain’), referring to the inflorescence, which is often a spike, like in many species of grain. The popular name woundwort refers to the former usage of several species in this genus for healing wounds, hedge-nettle to the nettle-like leaves of many species.

 

Stachys tibetica Tibetan woundwort
This rather woody, many-branched plant often forms clumps. The stems are up to 50 cm tall, slightly hairy. This plant grows in rocky areas, between 2,100 and 4,500 m altitude, in western Tibet, Pakistan, and Ladakh.

 

 

Tibetan woundwort is common in Ladakh, here photographed at Honupatta. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Leguminosae (pea family), see Fabaceae.

 

 

 

 

Liliaceae Lily family
Originally, this family contained several hundred genera, but, following genetic studies, the major part of these have now been moved to other families. Ten genera, which have been retained in the family, are found in the Himalaya.

 

Cardiocrinum giganteum Giant Himalayan lily
This spectacular plant, which can grow to a height of 3 m, is rather common in forests and shrubberies between 1,200 and 3,600 m altitude, from Kashmir eastwards to south-western China. A paste of its root is used in folk medicine to treat dislocated bones. Children make flutes from the hollow stem.

 

 

Annapurna 2007
Giant Himalayan lily, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Fritillaria cirrhosa
The commonest of two species of this genus in the Himalaya, this beautiful plant grows in alpine grasslands from western Nepal eastwards to south-western China. In traditional Nepalese medicine, its bulb is used for cough, asthma, and bleeding.

 

 

Annapurna 2007
Fritillaria cirrhosa is quite common in Annapurna Sanctuary, central Nepal, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Gagea Alplily, Yellow Star of Bethlehem
In former days, 11-12 species of alplily constituted a separate genus, Lloydia, named in honour of Welsh naturalist, linguist, geographer, and antiquary Edward Lhuyd (1660-1709), who discovered the Snowdon lily (Lloydia serotina) on Mount Snowdon in northern Wales – an Ice Age relict, and the only occurrence of this species in Europe outside the central European mountains.

Following genetic studies, Lloydia species have now been moved to the genus Gagea, comprising more than 200 species, the major part of which have yellow, star-shaped flowers. For this reason, the common English species, Gagea lutea, is popularly known as the Yellow Star of Bethlehem. The generic name honours English botanist Sir Thomas Gage, 7th Baronet of Hengrave (1781-1820).

 

Gagea longiscapa Himalayan alplily
This plant very much resembles the Snowdon lily (see above), but has larger brown spots in the throat. It is found in alpine grasslands, between 3,600 and 5,000 m altitude, from Kashmir eastwards to Bhutan.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Himalayan alplily, photographed in Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, where it is quite common. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Lilium nanum
This tiny plant was formerly placed in the genus Nomocharis. It is rather common on grassy slopes between 3,300 and 4,600 m, from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to south-western China.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Lilium nanum, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lilium nepalense Nepalese lily
This gorgeous plant is fairly common, growing on steep slopes at medium altitudes between 2,300 and 3,400 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-western China. It blooms in June-July.

 

 

Everest 2010a
Nepalese lily, Ringmo, Solu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Lythraceae Loosestrife family

 

Woodfordia fruticosa
A very widespread shrub with pretty orange flowers, found from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar, and also in most warmer areas of Asia, Australia, Africa, and Madagascar.

In the Himalaya, this species is common in subtropical valleys up to an altitude of c. 1800 m. It has a wide range of local usages. The branches are utilized as fuel, and a yellow dye is produced from leaves and twigs, a red dye from the petals. Bark, flowers, leaves, and fruit are used for treatment of various ailments. The leaves are mixed with tobacco and smoked. Children often suck the sweet nectar out of the flowers.

 

 

Nepal 1991
Woodfordia fruticosa, Birethanti, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Magnoliaceae Magnolia family

 

Magnolia
These magnificent trees, which display an abundance of gorgeous flowers in spring, has eight members in the Himalaya.

 

Magnolia campbellii
This species is quite common in the lower temperate zone in the eastern part of the Himalaya, from central Nepal eastwards to south-western China. When flowering in April-May, these trees are magnificent, displaying a profusion of gorgeous white flowers.

 

 

This flowering Magnolia campbellii was observed near the village of Bharku, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. The rocks in the background are slate, which has eroded into flakes. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 1987
A closer look at Magnolia campbellii flowers, Lukla, Solu-Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Mazaceae
Formerly, the genera Lancea and Mazus were regarded as belonging to the figwort family (Scrophulariaceae), later the lopseed family (Phrymaceae). However, following genetic studies, they have now been moved to the family Mazaceae, which was established in 2011.

 

Lancea tibetica
This species is widely distributed in Central Asia, growing in grasslands and fallow fields, between 3,000 and 4,800 m altitude.

 

 

Lancea tibetica, encountered in the Imja Tse Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Melastomataceae Melastoma family

 

Osbeckia
This genus of shrubs with pretty flowers, comprising about 50 species, are found in tropical areas of West Africa, and in tropical and subtropical parts of Asia. Seven species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

 

Osbeckia nepalensis
This plant is common in shrubberies and waste lands, and along trails, from central Nepal eastwards to south-western China, and also in Southeast Asia. In the Himalaya, it grows between 600 and 2,300 m altitude. As opposed to O. stellata (below), its calyx is not densely covered in hairs.

 

 

Nepal 2009a
Osbeckia nepalensis, photographed near Pokhara, central Nepal. A beetle is crawling about in one of the flowers. These insects are often seen eating stamens of Osbeckia flowers. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Osbeckia stellata
This is by far the commonest species in the Himalaya, often covering large areas in open country. It is found at altitudes between 1,200 and 2,400 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar. It is easily identified by its calyx, which is densely covered in star-shaped hairs, hence its specific name, from the Latin stella (‘star’).

 

 

Nepal 2009
Osbeckia stellata, observed near Kakani, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Nartheciaceae

 

Aletris
In later years, members of this genus have been placed in three different families. Originally, they belonged to the gigantic lily family (Liliaceae), which has since been divided into numerous families. Later, they were transferred to the trillium family (Melanthiaceae), but have lately been moved yet another time, to the family Nartheciaceae.

 

Aletris pauciflora
This handsome little plant is widespread in the Himalaya, found at altitudes between 2,500 and 4,900 m, from Kashmir eastwards to south-western China. Its tuber is used in folk medicine to treat cough and colds.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Aletris pauciflora, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Nitrariaceae

 

Peganum harmala Syrian rue
This plant is also known by a number of other names, including African rue, harmal, aspand, and esfand. Formerly, it was placed in the caltrop family Zygophyllaceae, later in a family of its own, Peganaceae. However, following recent genetic research, it has been moved to the family Nitrariaceae. The names Syrian and African rue refer to the similarity of its leaves to those of the common rue (Ruta graveolens), of the citrus family (Rutaceae).

Syrian rue grows in dry sandy areas and on saline flats, from southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East eastwards to Tibet, and thence southwards to Pakistan and Ladakh. In 1928, it was introduced to the United States, when a farmer in New Mexico wished to produce a dye, ‘Turkish red’, from its seeds. This dye is used in the Near East to dye textiles, including carpets. However, it soon escaped in the U.S. and has since become an invasive in many areas.

Seeds of this species are used medicinally for fever, stomach trouble, eye problems, measles, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatism, and menstrual disorders, and also as a disinfectant, as a narcotic, called harmal, and as incense, especially for keeping away bad evils. Burning leaves can be used as an insecticide.

 

 

Syrian rue, photographed at Leh (top), and near Thikse Gompa, both in Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Onagraceae Evening-primrose family

 

Chamerion Willow-herb
This small genus of 8 species, also known as fireweeds, is widespread in montane and arctic areas of the Northern Hemisphere, in Europe, North Africa, Asia, and North America. They were previously included in the genus Chamaenerion, and later in Epilobium.

 

Chamerion latifolium Red willow-herb
A gregarious plant, to 70 cm tall, forming large clumps. The gorgeous flowers are pink or rosy-purple, to 2.5 cm across, with narrow, reddish-purple sepals. This species mainly grows in gravelly areas along rivers, in Central Asia at altitudes between 1,600 and 5,200 m. It has a very wide distribution, found in all Arctic and Temperate Asia, southwards to Nepal and Pakistan, and also in Europe, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. In America, this plant is called dwarf fireweed.

 

 

Red willow-herb, photographed on the Rohtang La Pass, Himachal Pradesh (top), and on the Polo Kongga La Pass, Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Orchidaceae Orchid family
Counting c. 880 genera and more than 22,000 species, orchids comprise one of the world’s largest plant families. About 150 genera are found in the Himalaya, the vast majority distributed from Sikkim eastwards. Most Himalayan orchids are epiphytes, i.e. they grow on trees without harming them. Below, a number of epiphytic as well as terrestrial species are presented.

 

Calanthe
12 species of this pretty genus of ground-dwelling orchids are found in the Himalaya.

 

Calanthe tricarinata
One of the most common orchids in Himalayan oak forests, growing between 1,500 and 3,200 m altitude, from Pakistan eastwards to Thailand and China.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Calanthe tricarinata, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Coelogyne
Epiphytic orchids of this genus, comprising 12 species, are very common in subtropical and lower temperate regions of the Himalaya, the majority flowering between March and May. Most species have white flowers with yellow blotches on the mid-lobe.

 

Coelogyne cristata
A very common epiphyte, growing on trees or rocks at altitudes from 1,000 to 2,000 m. It is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to Sikkim. The specific name, meaning ‘crested’, refers to two raised plates on the mid-lobe of the flower, which somewhat resembles a crest.

 

 

Nepal 2008
Coelogyne cristata, Lower Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Coelogyne nitida
This species, by some authorities called C. ochracea, is very common in forests at altitudes of 1,500 to 2,500 m, growing on trees or rocks. It is found from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar.

 

 

Annapurna 2007
Coelogyne nitida, Lower Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Cypripedium Lady’s slippers
These plants are ground-living orchids, named after their flower shape, which resembles a small shoe. Insects are lured into this ‘shoe’, and in their effort to escape, they often pollinate the flower. Four or five species are found in the Himalaya.

 

Cypripedium cordigerum
This white-flowered species is fairly common in forests and shrubberies, from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan, between 2,100 and 4,000 m altitude.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Cypripedium cordigerum, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cypripedium himalaicum
This plant, with gorgeous, red or reddish-purple flowers, is quite common in open areas between 3,000 and 4,300 m altitude, from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-eastern Tibet.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Cypripedium himalaicum, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Dendrobium
About 26 species of these epiphytic orchids are distributed in subtropical and lower temperate regions of the Himalaya, the majority flowering between March and May.

 

Dendrobium amoenum
This species is common in forests at altitudes between 1,000 and 2,000 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar.

 

 

Annapurna 2007
Dendrobium amoenum, photographed in the lower temperate zone along the Modi Khola River, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Pleione
About 26 species of these pretty epiphytic orchids are distributed from Nepal eastwards to China, and thence southwards to the northern part of Indochina. Four species are found in the Himalaya, usually growing on moss-covered tree trunks, including toppled ones.

 

Pleione hookeriana
This plant is very common on oaks and conifers between 2,000 and 3,700 m altitude, from central Nepal eastwards to south-eastern Tibet.

 

 

Nepal 2002
Pleione hookeriana, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Satyrium nepalense
This very common ground-living orchid has a wide altitudinal distribution in the Himalaya, growing in grassy areas and forest edges between 600 and 4,600 m. It is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China.

 

 

Nepal 2009
In this photograph, several Satyrium nepalense grow among numerous pearly everlastings (Anaphalis) in a lush meadow at Magingoth, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Spathoglottis ixioides
This lovely plant mainly grows on moss-covered rocks or humid forest banks. It is distributed from central Nepal eastwards to Arunachal Pradesh, between 2,000 and 3,500 m altitude.

 

 

Rolwaling 2004
Spathoglottis ixioides, photographed in the Rolwaling Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Spiranthes sinensis Chinese ladies’ tresses
This ground-living species is easily identified by its red flowers, arranged in a spiral up the stem. It has a very wide distribution, from northern and central Asia southwards through the Himalaya, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia to Australia and New Zealand. In the Himalaya, it is rather common up to an altitude of c. 4,500 m.

 

 

Lahaul-Ladakh 2014
Chinese ladies’ tresses, Rohtang La Pass, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Orobanchaceae Broomrape family
This family of parasitic plants is huge, containing about 90 genera and more than 2,000 species. The family name is derived from the Greek orobos (‘vetch’) and ankhein (‘to strangle’), alluding to the bean broomrape (Orobanche crenata), which is a common parasite on the fava bean (Vicia faba).

 

Aeginetia
This small genus of c. 3 species is distributed in open areas on the Indian Subcontinent, eastwards to Japan and Korea, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia and New Guinea. One species is found in the Himalaya.

 

Aeginetia indica Indian broomrape
This plant is parasitic on roots of various grass species, including bamboo, rice, maize, and sugarcane. It is widely distributed, found from Uttarakhand eastwards to China and Japan, and in Tropical Asia. In the Himalaya, it grows up to an altitude of 1,700 m. In local folk medicine, its root and flowers are used for treating infections and skin problems.

 

 

Rolwaling 2004
Indian broomrape, Tamba Kosi Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Pedicularis Lousewort
The number of plants in this genus differs enormously according to various authorities, from about 350 to 600. They are distributed across almost the entire Northern Hemisphere, from the Arctic coasts southwards to Columbia, north-western Africa, Iran, the Himalaya, and southern China. The highest diversity is in China, which, according to eflora of China, has 352 species, of which 271 are endemic.

The generic name is derived from the Latin pediculus (‘louse’). According to an old superstition, louseworts could transfer lice to people and cattle, or, according to another belief, the exact opposite was the case, namely that they were able to rid people and cattle of lice! In Denmark, a decoction of these plants was used to expel lice from clothes. Usually, animals do not graze on these plants, as they contain poisonous glycosides.

 

Pedicularis bicornuta Horned lousewort
This common species of the Tibetan Plateau usually grows in drier areas than long-tubed lousewort (below). It is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to Uttarakhand, at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,400 m. Its flowers are utilized in Tibetan folk medicine for treatment of vaginal and seminal discharges. (Source: T.J. Tsarong, 1994. Tibetan Medicinal Plants)

 

 

Horned lousewort is abundant in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, here photographed near the village of Lossar, together with a blue species of vetch (Vicia). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Pedicularis longiflora ssp. tubiformis Long-tubed lousewort
A ubiquitous plant in wet alpine meadows and along lake-sides in dry Tibetan country, often forming huge growths. It is distributed from northern Pakistan eastwards to south-western China, found at altitudes between 2,700 and 5,300 m. Some authorities regard it as a separate species, P. tubiformis.

 

 

An alpine meadow with thousands of long-tubed louseworts, near the village of Honupatta, Ladakh. Rosa webbiana and Asiatic sea-buckthorn (Hippophaë rhamnoides ssp. turkestanica) grow on the dry slope in the background. Both are presented elsewhere on this page. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Paeoniaceae Peony family
Formerly, peonies (Paeonia) were included in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), but now form a separate family. The number of species is disputed, with numbers varying from 25 to 40, depending on authority. These gorgeous plants are native to Temperate Eurasia and western North America. Due to their showy flowers, many species are cultivated as ornamentals. A single species is found in the Himalaya.

 

Paeonia emodi
This plant, which has large, white flowers, grows in the lower temperate zone, between 1,800 and 2,500 m, from Afghanistan eastwards to western Nepal and extreme south-western Tibet.

 

 

Uttarakhand 2008
Paeonia emodi, photographed near the village of Sangam Chatti, Lower Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Papaveraceae Poppy family
Many members of the poppy family are presented on the pages In praise of the colour red, and In praise of the colour yellow.

 

Corydalis Corydalis
A huge genus, comprising about 470 species, which are native to temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, but with 3 species in subtropical Indochina and one in mountains of East Africa. The absolute stronghold of the genus is China with c. 357 species, of which 262 are endemic.

The generic name is from the Greek korudos, the ancient name of the crested lark (Galerida cristata), perhaps from korus (‘helmet’), referring to the crest of this bird. The upper petal of Corydalis species forms a helmet-like hood and is spurred, and the lower petal forms a boat-shaped, keeled lip. The two lateral petals are narrow.

 

Corydalis flabellata
This is a tall plant, to 90 cm, many-branched, with numerous fleshy, bluish-green leaves and terminal flower clusters, to 20 cm long, each with 10-30 yellow flowers. This species is found in stony areas between 2,700 and 4,500 m altitude, from south-western Tibet to Pakistan, Ladakh, and Nepal. It is very common in Ladakh.

 

 

Corydalis flabellata, Phanjila, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Meconopsis
This genus of gorgeous poppies, counting c. 43 species, are almost all restricted to central and eastern Asia. About 17 species of these bristly beauties grow in the Himalaya, and several are very common.

The generic name is from the Greek mekon (’moon’), and opsis (’resembling’), referring to the round, yellowish petals of the Welsh poppy, which French botanist Louis Viguier (1790-1867) separated from the genus Papaver in 1814, renaming it Meconopsis cambrica, mainly due to the structure of its style. However, a phylogenetic study from 2011 suggests that the Welsh poppy is a Papaver species, rather than a Meconopsis.

Some Meconopsis species are cultivated as ornamentals in the West.

 

Meconopsis aculeata
Several Meconopsis species with sky-blue flowers are found in Central Asia, from Kashmir eastwards to China, including this species, which is found in rocky areas in the western part of the Himalaya, from Pakistan eastwards to Uttarakhand, growing between 3,000 and 4,000 m altitude, and M. simplicifolia (see below).

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Meconopsis aculeata, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Meconopsis dhwojii 
Much hybridization takes place in the Meconopsis genus. It is not clear, whether M. dhwojii, and others, are to be regarded as hybrids or full species.

 

 

Nepal 2002
Meconopsis dhwojii, photographed near Kyanjin Gompa, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Meconopsis paniculata
This wonderful plant is the tallest of the genus, growing to a height of 2 m. It is very common on cattle grazing grounds throughout the higher parts of the Himalaya, from 3,000 to 4,100 m altitude. It is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-eastern Tibet.

 

 

In this picture, my guide Ganga Thapa is standing in a very lush mountain meadow in the Rolwaling Valley, central Nepal, with vegetation of Meconopsis paniculata (in front), besides Pleurospermum benthamii (the tall umbellifer with white flowers), Pedicularis megalantha (a red lousewort, in front), and ferns. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Meconopsis simplicifolia
This species grows in shrubland as well as in open areas, between 3,300 and 5,300 m altitude, from Nepal eastwards to south-eastern Tibet. It is easily recognized by its mostly undivided leaves.

 

 

Everest 2010
Meconopsis simplicifolia, Dole, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Pinaceae Pine family

 

Larix Larch
Larches, comprising 10-12 species, are among the few conifers, which shed their needles in winter. They are often tall trees, some species reaching a height of 45 m. They are native to the Temperate Northern Hemisphere, restricted to mountains in the southern populations.

 

Larix griffithii East Himalayan larch
Of the two Himalayan larches, this species is distributed from eastern Nepal eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, in places forming forests at altitudes between 2,800 and 4,000 m. The second species, the Nepalese larch (Larix himalaica) is restricted to a small area in northern central Nepal and adjacent southern Tibet, at altitudes from 2,400 to 4,000 m.

Both are handsome trees, growing to a height of 20 m, their branches covered in pale green needles, which turn yellow in autumn, then fall. The wood of the eastern species is used for construction, furniture, and fuel, and the bark yields tannin.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Nepal 2013
East Himalayan larch is very common in the Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal, where these pictures were taken, showing trees with new foliage (top), and unripe cones. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Tsuga dumosa Himalayan hemlock
This tree, which grows to 40 m tall, is very common in the Himalaya, found at altitudes between 2,000 and 3,600 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-western China, with an isolated population in northern Vietnam. Its cones are very small, to 2.5 cm long, with rounded scales. The timber is used for construction, furniture, and foot-bridges, and the foliage is burned as incense in Hindu and Buddhist shrines.

 

 

Magnificent moss-clad trunks of Himalayan hemlock on the mountain ridge Propang Danda, near Gosainkund, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Plantaginaceae Plantain family

 

Hippuris vulgaris Common mare’s-tail
This striking plant, which grows in shallow freshwater, is distributed across northern Eurasia, southwards to the Himalaya, northern China, and Japan, in Greenland, and in northern and western North America, southwards to California, New Mexico, Illinois, and New England. It is utilized in herbal medicine for treatment of wounds, stomach ulcers, and internal and external bleeding.

The generic name is from the Greek hippos (‘horse’) and oura (‘tail’), thus horsetail. In English, it is also sometimes called horsetail, although this name is usually reserved for species of the genus Equisetum. Previously, Hippuris was the only genus in the family Hippuridaceae, but has now been moved to the plantain family.

 

 

Common mare’s-tail, growing in a waterhole beneath Shey Palace, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Picrorhiza kurroa Black hellebore
This strange, low plant, growing to 15 cm tall, has 3-cm-long stamens, projecting from its tiny flowers. It has a restricted distribution, from Pakistan eastwards to Uttarakhand, found in rocky areas between 3,300 and 4,300 m altitude. Rhizomes of this species are utilized in traditional medicine against dysentery, and it is highly threatened by excessive collecting.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Black hellebore, encountered in Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Wulfeniopsis amherstiana
This small plant, to 15 cm tall, was formerly included in the genus Wulfenia. It may be identified by its tiny bluish flowers, arranged in a long, one-sided spike. It grows on shady rocks between 1,500 and 3,000 m altitude, from Afghanistan eastwards to central Nepal. Juice of its root is used for stomach ache.

 

 

Himachal 2009
Wulfeniopsis amherstiana, Solang Nallah Valley, near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Plumbaginaceae Sea-lavender family

 

Acantholimon lycopodioides Prickly thrift
As a means of protection against wind, cold and evaporation, this species forms cushions, to 1 m across. Ashes from burned plants are taken with milk for cardiac disorders. It is threatened by excessive use for fuel.

 

 

Prickly thrift is still quite common in Ladakh, here seen near Honupatta. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Polygonaceae Pinkweed family

 

Smartweed, pinkweed, knotweed, bistort, knotgrass – plants of the genus Polygonum have many popular names. This huge genus, comprising c. 230 species, is distributed worldwide. They vary from prostrate, 10 cm tall species, to large, shrubby herbs, growing to 3 m tall. Formerly, they were divided into several genera, including Polygonum, Bistorta, Persicaria, and Aconogonum. Today, some authorities place them in a single genus, Polygonum, which I follow here.

 

Polygonum affine
Also known as Bistorta affinis, this creeping, mat-forming, densely tufted plant has erect cylindric spikes, to 7.5 cm long, of pink or purplish-red flowers, borne on stalks to 25 cm high. It is quite common on open slopes and in rocky areas, from Afghanistan eastwards through Tibet and northern Himalaya to Myanmar. Its rhizome is used for brewing tea, and also taken for stomach disorders. The brilliant autumn foliage of this species is shown in a picture at the top of this page.

 

 

This picture was taken on the Rohtang La Pass, Himachal Pradesh, where Polygonum affine is very common. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Polygonum alpinum Alpine knotgrass
This erect herb, growing to 2 m tall, was previously often called Aconogonum alpinum. It has numerous much-branched clusters of terminal inflorescences, to 30 cm long, containing countless tiny flowers. It is distributed from central Europe eastwards to Central Asia, growing in shrubberies, on open slopes, and along streamsides. In the Himalaya, it is found eastwards to Himachal Pradesh, at altitudes from 1,500 to 3,000 m. Its stems are edible when cooked.

 

 

Himachal 2009
Alpine knotgrass, growing at a stream near Keylong, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Polygonum amplexicaule
Also named Bistorta amplexicaulis, this erect herb grows to 1 m tall and is sometimes branched. Its lower leaves are large, to 10 cm long and 5 cm wide, ovate and long-pointed, and numerous slender, deep red or pink flower spikes are situated at the end of long stalks. It has a wide altitudinal as well as geographical range, found between 1,500 and 4,800 m, from Afghanistan eastwards to China. The rhizome is utilized for tea, and a paste of the plant is applied to wounds.

 

 

Lahaul-Ladakh 2014
Polygonum amplexicaule, photographed on the Rohtang La Pass, Himachal Pradesh. A species of mugwort (Artemisia) is seen in front. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Polygonum capitatum
This prostrate, tufted herb, which is found in open areas, on rocks, and in stone fences, has several creeping stems, to 25 cm long, ovate or elliptic leaves, often with a blackish spot in the centre, and inflorescences of pink terminal globular heads, to 1.3 cm across. It has a very wide altitudinal as well as geographical range, from the Indian Subcontinent to the Far East and Southeast Asia, in the Himalaya growing between 600 and 3,500 m altitude. Previously, this plant was known as Persicaria capitata.

 

 

Nepal 2008
In this picture from Helambu, central Nepal, Polygonum capitatum grows in a crack in a stone fence. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Polygonum tortuosum
This plant, by some authorities called Aconogonum tortuosum, grows on dry slopes in Central Asia and the Middle East, up to an altitude of 5,600 m. The specific name is from the Latin tortus (‘twisted’) and osus (‘plenty’), referring to the twisted leaves. This species is used in folk medicine to treat dysentery. The yellow autumn foliage of this species is shown in a picture at the top of this page.

 

 

Polygonum tortuosum is common in Ladakh, here photographed at Ulley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Rheum Rhubarb
Several species of wild rhubarb are indigenous to Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau.

 

Rheum moorcroftianum
The leaves of this plant are large, to 30 cm across, growing directly from the rootstock, as do the numerous green-flowered spikes, which are up to 60 cm long. This species is found on slopes and river banks up to 5,300 m, from Tajikistan and Afghanistan eastwards through south-western Tibet to central Nepal. It is common in Ladakh. The dried leaves are used for treatment of sinusitis.

 

 

The greenish flowers of Rheum moorcroftianum later turn into reddish-brown nutlets. – Pang, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rheum webbianum Gilgit rhubarb
The yellowish-white inflorescences of this species are borne in dense terminal clusters on leafy stems, which can be from 30 cm to 2 m long. The basal leaves are huge, to 60 cm across, shorter than wide, rounded. This spectacular plant grows on dry slopes in south-western Tibet, Pakistan, Ladakh, Lahaul, and western Nepal, up to 4,500 m altitude. The stalk is edible. Root, stem, and leaves are taken as a purgative, the root also for stomach trouble and intestinal disorders, and for boils and wounds. It can also be used for dyeing.

 

 

In July, Gilgit rhubarb is flowering profusely on barren slopes below the Konze La Pass (4905 m), Ladakh, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Primulaceae Primrose family

 

Androsace Rock-jasmine
These plants are closely related to primroses (below), but may be identified by their very short corolla-tube (a tube, formed by the petals). This genus contains about 100 species, distributed across cooler areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with no less than 73 species occurring in China.

These plants are ubiquitous in the Himalaya, where c. 23 species have been encountered, the major part growing at high altitudes.

 

Androsace muscoidea
A mat-forming plant, whose flowers, to 1 cm across, are white, mauve-pink, or lilac, with a yellow eye, which later turns red. They are arranged in short-stalked, 1-3-flowered umbels, and the flowering stalk is absent or at most 1 cm long. This species is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to Himachal Pradesh, growing at altitudes between 2,200 and 5,200 m.
Flower colour White, mauve-pink, or lilac.
Height to 3 cm.
Habitat Stony slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Many species of rock-jasmine are mat-forming, like this Androsace muscoidea, photographed in Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Primula Primrose
These plants, also called cowslip, are found in most parts of the world. They probably originated in the Himalaya, where a bewildering array of species is found, about 72 in total, ranging from 5 cm high dwarfs to robust plants almost 1 m tall.

The generic name is a diminutive of the Latin prima (’first’), referring to the early flowering of several European primrose species. The name cowslip stems from an Old English word, cuslyppe, meaning ‘cow dung’, probably referring to the fact that many primrose species grow on cattle grazing grounds. This is also the case in the Himalaya.

 

Primula atrodentata
Resembles P. denticulata (see below), but is overall a much smaller plant. It grows in open areas between 3,500 and 4,900 metres altitude, distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-eastern Tibet.
Flower colour Bluish-violet.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Alpine slopes.
Flowering May-Jun.

 

 

Everest 2010
Primula atrodentata, photographed in the Khumbu region, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Primula denticulata
This is the most abundant primrose species in the Himalaya, growing in forest clearings and grassy areas. It has a broad altitudinal range, found between 1,500 and 4,500 metres, from Afghanistan eastwards to Myanmar and south-eastern Tibet. As a rule, the inflorescences of this very variable species become larger and denser with higher altitude.
Flower colour Blue to bluish-violet.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Alpine slopes, shrubberies.
Flowering Apr.-Jun.

 

 

Annapurna 2007
Primula denticulata is abundant around Annapurna Base Camp, central Nepal, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 1987
Primula denticulata, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Primula edgeworthii
Abundant in forests in the western Himalaya, from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to central Nepal, growing between 2,100 and 4,100 metres altitude. Its bluish-violet flowers sprout directly from the leaf rosette.
Flower colour Bluish-violet.
Height to 5 cm.
Habitat Forested slopes.
Flowering Apr.-May.

 

 

Nepal 2008
Primula edgeworthii, photographed in the Annapurna area, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Primula floribunda
This species is easily identified by its golden-yellow flowers, which are arranged in several umbels up the stem. It is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to western Nepal, at altitudes between 800 and 2,000 m.
Flower colour Golden-yellow.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Wet rocks and cliffs.
Flowering Mar.-Jul.

 

 

Uttarakhand 2008
Primula floribunda, growing on a humid rockface, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Primula geraniifolia
As its specific name implies, the leaves of this species resemble those of certain species of geranium. It mainly grows on wet banks in forests, between 2,700 and 4,600 metres altitude, from central Nepal eastwards to south-western China.
Flower colour Red.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Forested slopes.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Nepal 1994-95
Primula geraniifolia, photographed near Gorjegaon, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Primula glomerata
The inflorescence of this plant is a very dense, globular head. It is distributed from western Nepal eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, growing at altitudes from 3,000 to 5,000 m. This is one of the few primroses blooming in autumn.
Flower colour Blue.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Aug.-Nov.

 

 

Nepal 2009-1
Primula glomerata, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. Leaves of a cinquefoil, Potentilla peduncularis, and a dwarf rhododendron, are seen in the background. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Primula irregularis
This pretty plant grows at altitudes between 2,700 and 3,500 m, from western Nepal eastwards to Sikkim. It is easily identified by its pink flowers, which has a yellow eye, bordered by white.
Flower colour Pink.
Height to 5 cm.
Habitat Forested slopes.
Flowering Apr.-May.

 

 

Snow, falling the previous night, has partly buried these Primula irregularis flowers, growing near Tharepati, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Primula macrophylla
This stout plant is found from Afghanistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, often forming large growths in meadows between 3,300 and 4,800 m altitude. Its leaves are lanceolate and entire, to 30 cm long, farinose beneath.
Flower colour Lilac or purple.
Height to 25 cm.
Habitat Damp slopes, meadows.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Everest 2010
Primula macrophylla, photographed in the Khumbu area, eastern Nepal, where this species is very common. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Primula primulina
This tiny species is easily identified by its flowers, which have a tuft of white hairs in the throat. It grows in open areas at high altitudes, between 3,600 and 5,000 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-eastern Tibet.
Flower colour Lilac or purple, rarely white.
Height to 8 cm.
Habitat Open slopes, rocks.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Everest 2010
Primula primulina, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. Another primrose, P. atrodentata, is seen to the left. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Primula rotundifolia Round-leaved primrose
A small species, which grows on rocks between 3,500 and 5,000 m altitude. It has a rather limited distribution, from Nepal eastwards to south-eastern Tibet.
Flower colour Pinkish-purple.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Rocks.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Everest 2010
Round-leaved primrose, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Primula sessilis
This species may be identified by its serrate, strongly wrinkled leaves and the rounded petals, which end abruptly in a single small tooth. It is fairly common, growing in forests in the western part of the Himalaya, from Kashmir to western Nepal, at altitudes between 2,100 and 3,700 m.
Flower colour Pinkish-purple.
Height to 5 cm.
Habitat Forested slopes.
Flowering Apr.-May.

 

 

Uttarakhand 2008
Uttarakhand 2008
Uttarakhand 2008
Primula sessilis, partly covered in snow, Dodi Tal, Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. In the lower picture, a frozen waterdrop is hanging down from a flower. Snow, which fell on the plant the previous evening, partly melted, but froze again during the night. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Primula sikkimensis Sikkim primrose 
This stately plant, growing to almost 1 m tall, is found in wet meadows between 2,900 and 4,800 metres altitude, from western Nepal eastwards to south-western China.
Flower colour Yellow.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Wet meadows, damp slopes.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Everest 2010
This beautiful Sikkim primrose was encountered in the Khumbu region, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Primula strumosa Golden-eyed primrose
Usually, this species has bright yellow flowers, but from eastern Nepal and eastwards, it hybridizes freely with the purple P. calderiana, with which it was formerly regarded as being conspecific. This hybridization may result in yellow, white, blue, and purple flowers in a single population. Golden-eyed primrose is distributed from western Nepal eastwards to China, at altitudes between 3,500 and 4,300 m.
Flower colour Yellow.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Nepal 2013
Nepal 2013
These pictures are from the Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal, where golden-eyed primrose is abundant. In the lower two pictures, inflorescences have been bent to the ground by snowfall. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Primula stuartii

This plant is distributed from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to Sikkim, growing at altitudes between 3,600 and 4,500 m.  It is common on cattle grazing grounds, especially in the western Himalaya.

Flower colour Yellow.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Himachal Pradesh 2007
Primula stuartii is very common in the Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, where these pictures were taken. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

In the picture below, Hindus are placing a flower offering, consisting of yellow Primula stuartii, yellow Geum elatum, and blue and white Anemone obtusiloba, on a stone cairn – a shrine dedicated to a local Hindu goddess atop Rakhundi Peak (3622 m), Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. This goddess is probably a form of Devi, the god Shiva’s shakti (female aspect), as the trident is a symbol of Shiva. Such offerings to stone cairns, sacred trees, etc., indicate remnants of pre-Hindu and pre-Buddhist animism. You may read more about this belief elsewhere on this website, see Religion: Animism. – Geum elatum and Anemone obtusiloba are both described on this page, see Rosaceae, and Ranunculaceae, respectively.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Primula wollastonii
With its broadly bell-shaped flowers, this species differs significantly from most other species in the genus. It has a rather limited distribution, found in central and eastern Nepal, and in southern Tibet, between 3,600 and 4,900 m altitude.
Flower colour Blue.
Height to 20 cm.
Habitat Open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Everest 2010
Everest 2010
Primula wollastonii, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. In the lower picture, Primula atrodentata is seen in the background. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Ranunculaceae Buttercup family

 

Anemone Windflower
Altogether c. 17 species of this genus are encountered in the Himalaya. The vast majority has white flowers, a few species red, yellow, or blue.

 

Anemone obtusiloba
The flowers of this species come in three colour morphs: blue, white, and yellow. The yellow form, however, is restricted to Kashmir. This species is found at altitudes between 2,100 and 4,300 m, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China. It is very common in Nepal, where juice of its root is used for eye trouble.
Flower colour Blue, white, or yellow.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Grasslands; open forests.
Flowering May-Sep.

 

 

Nepal 2009
Blue form of Anemone obtusiloba, photographed in Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Anemone tetrasepala
This tall plant mainly grows on rocky slopes between 2,100 and 3,600 m altitude, from Afghanistan eastwards to Himachal Pradesh and extreme south-western Tibet.
Flower colour White.
Height to 75 cm.
Habitat Rocks; open coniferous forests.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Anemone tetrasepala is very common in Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Aquilegia Columbine
This genus, altogether comprising 60 to 70 species, is characterized by the peculiar shape of the flowers, with five spurs on the inner petals, pointing backwards. These spurs are often curved, hence the generic name, of the Latin aquila (‘eagle’), where the spurs are likened to eagle claws. The common name columbine is derived from the Latin columba (‘dove’), referring to the alleged resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves, clustered together. Another popular name is granny’s bonnet, again referring to the flower shape.

Four species are found in the Himalaya, all restricted to the western half of the mountains.

 

Aquilegia fragrans
This species is quite common, from Pakistan eastwards to Uttarakhand, growing in forests, shrubberies and grasslands at altitudes between 2,400 and 3,600 m. The specific name alludes to its fragrant flowers.
Flower colour White or cream-coloured.
Height to 80 cm.
Habitat Grasslands; open forests.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Aquilegia fragrans has white or cream-coloured flowers. This picture is from Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Aquilegia moorcroftiana
This species is found from northern Asia southwards through Central Asia to Pakistan, Ladakh, and western Nepal, growing in shrubberies or on open slopes, at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,200 m.
Flower colour Bluish-white, blue, or purplish.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Open slopes, shrubberies.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Aquilegia moorcroftiana, Chiling, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Aquilegia pubiflora
A quite common plant, found from Pakistan eastwards to western Nepal, at altitudes between 2,400 and 3,300 m.
Flower colour Purple or purplish-blue.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Forests; shrubberies; grasslands.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Aquilegia pubiflora, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Clematis Clematis
This genus of climbers, comprising about 300 species, is widespread throughout the world. No less than 147 species are found in China, of which 93 are endemic.

 

Clematis tibetana Tibetan clematis
Very common in Ladakh, climbing on bushes along trails, or on stone fences around fields. It has very pretty, golden-yellow flowers with brown spots, in which the style, growing to 1.5 cm long, is densely silky-haired. This plant is distributed in south-western Sichuan, Tibet, Pakistan, Ladakh, Lahaul, and Uttarakhand, at altitudes between 1,700 and 4,800 m.
Flower colour Golden-yellow.
Habitat Open areas.
Flowering Jul.

 

 

Tibetan clematis is common in Ladakh, here growing on stone fences around fields near Chomuthang (top) and Honupatta. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Delphinium Larkspur
Members of this genus may be identified by their irregular flowers, having five coloured sepals, the upper one with a large, back-pointing spur, and four inner petals, of which the upper two have nectar-producing spurs that are enclosed in the larger spur. About 25 species occur in the Himalaya, many of them very difficult to identify.

 

Delphinium brunonianum
This rather low plant, which grows to 30 cm tall, has deeply dissected leaves, and terminal infloresences with 3-6 blue or purplish-blue flowers. It grows on stony slopes between 4,300 and 5,500 m altitude, from Pakistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet. It is quite common in Lahaul and Ladakh.
Flower colour Blue or purplish-blue.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Open, stony slopes, screes.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Delphinium brunonianum, Taglang La, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Delphinium denudatum
This tall plant has rather small, pale blue flowers, to 2.5 cm across. It grows in open forests and grassy areas between 1,500 and 2,700 m, distributed from Pakistan eastwards to central Nepal.
Flower colour Pale blue.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Open forests; grassy areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Delphinium denudatum, Sainj Valley, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Delphinium glaciale
This species may be identified by its whitish-blue, hairy flowers. It grows on open slopes at altitudes between 3,300 and 6,000 m, from central Nepal eastwards to Bhutan and southern Tibet.
Flower colour Whitish-blue.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Gravelly slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Nepal 2009
Delphinium glaciale, photographed at an altitude of c. 4,000 m, Langshisha, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Delphinium kamaonense
The inflorescences of this plant have few, large, dark-blue flowers, to 4 cm across, and the stem is smooth. It is common between 3,000 and 4,300 m altitude, from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-western China. In Nepal, a decoction of the plant is applied to scabies.
Flower colour Whitish-blue.
Height to 45 cm.
Habitat Grasslands.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Delphinium kamaonense, photographed in Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Thalictrum Meadow-rue
Members of this genus are distributed in the major part of the Northern Hemisphere, and also in southern Africa and South America. They are commonest in temperate regions. There is great controversy concerning the number of species. Accounts vary between 120 and 200. About 20 species are encountered in the Himalaya.

The name meadow-rue stems from the similarity of the twice or thrice divided leaves of these plants to those of the genuine rues (genus Ruta).

 

Thalictrum cultratum
This tall plant has several branched inflorescences, each with numerous tiny, greenish-white flowers, whose stamens are purple with yellow tips. It is very common in open areas between 1,700 and 4,200 m altitude, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China.
Flower colour Greenish-white.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Shrubberies; grasslands; open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Himachal 2009
Thalictrum cultratum, Solang Nallah Valley, near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Rosaceae Rose family

 

Comarum salesovianum
A rather shrubby herb, which belongs to the cinquefoils (see Potentilla below). This species, which is widespread in Central Asia, is one of the few white-flowered cinquefoils of this area. It is closely related to the circumboreal marsh cinquefoil (C. palustre), but contrary to that species, it grows in dry conditions.

 

 

Comarum salesovianum, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Geum Avens
This genus of about 50 species is widespread in Eurasia, Africa, New Zealand, and the Americas. Most species have yellow flowers, some red, orange, or white. A picture, depicting a gorgeous orange species, may be seen on the page Travel episodes – Chile 2011: The white forest.

At maturity, a silky tuft of brownish hairs grows from the styles, which has given rise to a popular German name of these plants, Petersbart (‘Peter’s beard’), probably referring to St. Peter.

 

Geum elatum
A large-flowered species, growing to 50 cm tall. It is very common in alpine meadows at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,400 m, distributed from Pakistan eastwards to Sikkim and extreme southern Tibet. In Nepal, a paste of its pounded leaves is applied to wounds.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Geum elatum, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. Leaves of Potentilla argyrophylla (see above) are also seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Potentilla Cinquefoil
The word cinquefoil is an Anglicization of the Latin quinque (‘five’) and folium (‘leaf’), thus ‘five-leaf’ – a name, which was originally referring to those species of the genus Potentilla that have five finger-like leaflets. Today, however, cinquefoil is a name which refers to the entire genus, and also to marsh cinquefoils, of the genus Comarum (see above).

There are no less than c. 40 species of these mostly small and ground-hugging plants in the Himalaya, many of which are widespread and common. The vast majority are yellow-flowered, but a few have orange, pink, red, or white flowers. The fruits are called achenes. They are small, hard, and nut-like, densely clustered in a fruit-head.

 

Potentilla argyrophylla
The flower colour of this species varies greatly, from yellow or orange to crimson (var. atrosanguinea), or purplish. It can be told from other cinquefoil species by the strawberry-like leaves, which are usually densely silky-hairy. In some forms, however, the leaves are hairless, in which case they are dark green with paler undersides. It is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to Sikkim, at altitudes between 2,400 and 4,500 m.

 

 

Nepal 1987
Annapurna 2007
These pictures of Potentilla argyrophylla are both from Annapurna Sanctuary, central Nepal. The lower picture shows var. atrosanguinea. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Potentilla bifurca 
This prostrate plant grows on stony or grassy slopes and at the edge of fields. It may be identified by its pinnate leaves, with broad, egg-shaped segments. It is widely distributed, from central Europe eastwards to Central Asia, where it is found between 3,500 and 5,200 m altitude.

 

 

Potentilla bifurca, encountered near Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Potentilla fruticosa Shrubby cinquefoil
The largest of the genus, this shrub, which grows to 1.2 m tall, is a very variable plant with a wide distribution and altitudinal range, found in the entire northern temperate zone. It is common in the Himalaya and on the Tibetan Plateau, found at altitudes between 2,400 and 6,000 m. Locally, juice of the root is used for indigestion, tea is made from the leaves, and dried leaves and branches are burned as incense.

 

 

This picture shows Tibetan shrubby cinquefoil, var. pumila, observed near Honupatta, Ladakh. This variety is prostrate, and its flowers are rather small. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Potentilla peduncularis 
This plant is common on high altitude grazing grounds, found at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,500 m. It is distributed from western Nepal eastwards to south-western China.

 

 

Nepal 2009
The achenes of Potentilla peduncularis are dark brown or blackish, forming what looks like a bramble berry. – Dukpu, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Rosa Rose

 

Rosa sericea
This rose is widespread in the Himalaya and is also found in drier Tibetan borderlands, from 2,100 to 4,600 m altitude, growing in forests as well as open areas. It is an erect shrub to 2 m tall, with prickles in pairs below the leaves, or none at all. The cream-coloured flowers are up to 6 cm across, with 4 petals. The edible hip is globular or pear-shaped, bright red, to 1.5 cm across, hairless. This species is often cultivated as an ornamental or in hedges. A paste of the petals is used for headache and liver problems, and the leaves are lopped for fodder.

 

 

Rosa sericea is abundant in the Jhong River Valley, Mustang, central Nepal, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Hips of Rosa sericea are ball- or pear-shaped, here photographed in the Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rosa webbiana
This pretty rose, which grows in drier areas than R. sericea, is very common in Ladakh  and Lahaul, found up to an altitude of c. 4,500 m. It grows to 2.5 m tall, with scattered, straight, stout, yellow prickles, also in pairs below the leaves. The flowers have 5 petals, pink or reddish. The hip is ovoid or flask-shaped, bright red.

 

 

Rosa webbiana, with the village of Kaza in the background, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Rosa webbiana, Sumdah Chu, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Hips of Rosa webbiana are ovoid or flask-shaped, to 3.5 cm long, with persistent, spreading calyx. These were photographed at Hemis Gompa, Ladakh (top), and near Keylong, Lahaul. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Rubus Bramble
In the Himalaya, there are no less than c. 45 species of bramble, or raspberry, most of which are large, rambling, prickly shrubs, whereas a few are creeping, unarmed shrublets. Their fruit is highly distinctive, being a globular head on the domed tip of the flower-stalk, consisting of fleshy carpels, among which numerous nutlets are situated.

 

Rubus ellipticus
The orange fruits of this species are delicious, sweet, and slightly acid at the same time. It is very common in open, slightly eroded areas of the subtropical and lower temperate zones, up to an altitude of 2,600 m, from Pakistan to Myanmar, in the Far East, and in Tropical Asia. In several places, it is planted to prevent soil erosion. Medicinally, it is used for various ailments, including fever, diarrhoea, gastric problems, and dysentery. The leaves are used for fodder, and marmalade is made from the fruits.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Rubus ellipticus has delicious orange fruits. – Pati Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 2009a
Stems of Rubus ellipticus are covered in long, stiff, red hairs. – Pokhara, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rubus hoffmeisterianus 
This large, rambling shrub is fairly common in thickets and along trails at altitudes between 1,500 and 2,400 m, from Afghanistan eastwards to central Nepal. Its red or orange berries are edible, with a slightly acid taste.

 

 

Nepal 2009
Rubus hoffmeisterianus, Pati Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rubus nepalensis 
A very common dwarf shrub at altitudes between 2,100 and 3,200 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Sikkim, creeping along the ground in open forests and along trails. In this habit, it resembles the circumboreal cloudberry (R. chamaemorus), but has bright red fruits, which are slightly sour, but nevertheless delicious.

 

 

Nepal 2009-1
Rubus nepalensis, photographed together with a species of spikemoss (Selaginella) and Cyanotis vaga, a blue flower of the dayflower family (Commelinaceae). – Gul Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Rubiaceae Bedstraw family

 

Rubia manjith Indian dyer’s madder
With the help of hooked prickles on the underside of its leaves, this climber scrambles over other plants. The stems are green or yellowish, whereas the tiny flowers are deep purple, yellowish, or orange. A red dye, manjith, is obtained from its root, which is also used in traditional medicine as an astringent. A paste of the stem is applied to scorpion bites. This plant is found from Pakistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, at altitudes from 1,200 to 2,700 m.

 

 

Everest 2010a
Indian dyer’s madder, Surkhe, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Lahaul-Ladakh 2014
Close-up of flowers of Indian dyer’s madder, near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Ruscaceae (lily-of-the-valley family), see Asparagaceae.

 

 

 

 

Salicaceae Willow family

 

Populus Poplars
These trees, also called aspen or cottonwood, are a genus of between 25 and 35 species, some of which are indeed majestic, growing to 50 m tall, and with a trunk diameter up to 2.5 m. Poplars are native to the major part of the Northern Hemisphere, from subarctic areas southwards to Mexico, North Africa, Iran, the Himalaya, and China. They are deciduous, and several species display brilliant yellow foliage in the autumn, examples of which may be seen on the page In praise of the colour yellow.

 

Populus ciliata Himalayan poplar
This large tree grows to 20 m tall, with a thick, fissured bark on older trunks. The leaves are ovate to heart-shaped, long-pointed, finely toothed, to 25 cm long and 15 cm broad, with a very long stalk, to 13 cm. This species grows in forests, along streams, and in open areas between 1,500 and 3,600 m altitude, from Pakistan eastwards through southern Tibet to the Yunnan Province in China. It is widely cultivated in Tibetan areas, its wood used for construction, the branches to make roofs, and the foliage for fodder. A paste of the bark is applied to muscular swellings.

 

 

The Muktinath Temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, is situated in a growth of old Himalayan poplars in the Jhong River Valley, Mustang, central Nepal. – This important temple is described on the page Religion: Hinduism. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Autumn foliage of Himalayan poplar, near Hemis Gompa, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Sapindaceae Soapberry family

 

Acer Maple
Previously, maples constituted a separate family, Aceraceae, but, following genetic studies, they have been moved to the soapberry family.

 

Acer cappadocicum Cappadocian maple 
This tree has a very wide distribution, found from Turkey eastwards to Central Asia and China, with an isolated population in southern Italy. In the Himalaya, it grows between 2,100 and 3,000 m altitude.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh 2007
Young leaves of Cappadocian maple are a pretty red before turning green. This picture is from the Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Saxifragaceae Saxifrage family
This worldwide family contains about 80 genera with c. 1,200 species.

 

Bergenia
Popular names of these plants include large rockfoil, elephant’s ears, which refers to the large leaves, and pigsqueak, referring to the sound produced, when two leaves are rubbed together. This genus consists of 10 species, indigenous to Central Asia, of which three are found in the Himalaya. The generic name honours German botanist and physician Karl August von Bergen (1704-1759).

 

Bergenia ciliata Hairy bergenia
The commonest of the Himalayan species, often growing on rock faces. It is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet. Due to its pretty flowers, it is widely cultivated in the West, where it is generally regarded as an anti-inflammatory and antidiabetic, and it may also be effective in treatment of cancer. In Nepal, juice of the plant is taken for urinary disorders, and an extract of the rhizome is used for fever, cough, colds, asthma, haemorrhoids, urinary disorders, diarrhoea, and backache, and it is also applied to boils. People of the Gurung tribe drink a decoction of the rhizome for gout, and to improve digestion.

 

 

Nepal 2008
Hairy bergenia, growing on a rock face, Chomrong, Upper Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Uttarakhand 2008
Due to its luxurious growth and pretty flowers, hairy bergenia is widely cultivated as an ornamental in the West. – These flowers were photographed at Dharkot, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Saxifraga
This is by far the largest genus of the family, counting around 450 species, which are distributed in Asia, Europe, North America, and the Andes Mountains of South America. Most species grow in alpine areas. In the Himalaya, no less than c. 86 species have been encountered. Other species are described on the page Plants – Mountain plants: Flora of the Alps.

Literally, the generic name means ‘stone-breaker’, from the Latin saxum (‘rock’) and frangere (‘to break’). Rather than referring to the rocky habitat of many saxifrage species, it probably indicates the usage of one or more species for treatment of kidney stones and the like.

 

Saxifraga brunonis 
This is a most characteristic species, easily identified by its numerous red runners. It is widespread in the Himalaya, found from Kashmir eastwards to south-western China, between 2,400 and 5,600 m altitude.

 

 

Rolwaling 2004
Saxifraga brunonis, photographed after a heavy monsoon shower, Upper Rolwaling Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Saxifraga mucronulata
This tiny plant, also called S. flagellaris, has densely glandular-hairy stems, 2-4 cm tall, and bright yellow terminal flowers. It can be identified by its thin, red runners, arising from the axils of basal leaves. It grows in rocky meadows and among boulders, between 2,800 and 5,400 m altitude, from Pakistan and Tibet eastwards to Sikkim and south-western China.

 

 

Saxifraga mucronulata, encountered on the Bara Lacha La Pass, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Saxifraga strigosa 
A bristly-hairy and glandular-hairy plant, growing to c. 30 cm tall. It spreads easily by bulbils in the leaf axils. This species is quite common in Nepal, growing in forests and shrubberies, and on mossy rocks between 1,800 and 4,300 m, commonest at lower altitudes. The geographical distribution is from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-western China.

 

 

Nepal 2009
Saxifraga strigosa, Kutumsang, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Scrophulariaceae Figwort family

 

Oreosolen wattii
Like Phlomoides rotata (see Lamiaceae), the leaves of this plant are hugging the ground, as a means of protection against the strong winds, which often blow on the Tibetan Plateau. This plant grows in alpine grasslands and on dry slopes in southern Tibet and the northernmost parts of Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan, up to an altitude of 5,100 m.

 

 

Oreosolen wattii, photographed in a dry valley beneath Imja Tse (Island Peak) (6189 m), Sagarmatha National Park, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Solanaceae Nightshade family

 

Hyoscyamus niger Black henbane
This famous plant is indigenous to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Central Asia, but has become naturalized in most of Europe and in parts of North and South America. In Central Asia, it grows in open areas and fallow fields between 2,000 and 3,600 m altitude, eastwards to China.

All parts of this plant are very poisonous, containing the toxic alkaloids hyoscyamine and scopolamine. A Danish proverb, from 1682, says: “Adultery is like henbane seeds: the more you eat of it, the madder you become.” The generic name is derived from the Greek hys (‘swine’) and kyamos (‘bean’), thus ‘hog bean’. Supposedly, pigs could eat this plant with impunity.

Formerly, henbane was widely used in folk medicine for the production of sedatives, and also to make magic and love potions. Necklaces were made from the root, worn by children as charms to prevent fits and to cause easy teething. In Denmark, people with toothache (popularly called ‘worms in your teeth’) would inhale the vapours from boiling henbane seeds. These vapours would undoubtedly ease the pain, but the effect might just as well have been psychological, because after the treatment, the patient could see the killed ’worms’, lying between the henbane seeds in the bowl, in which they had been heated. The explanation is that the heating would burst the seed coat, exposing the white, curved germs – not unlike fly larvae.

In Greek mythology, the dead in Hades were crowned with henbane, as they wandered hopelessly along the River Styx.

You may read an amusing account of this species on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

 

 

Fruiting black henbane, Keylong, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Physochlaina 
A genus of about 11 species, most of which are restricted to Central Asia, with one species in the Middle East and one in Mongolia and Siberia.

 

Physochlaina praealta
This species is found in stony areas of south-western Tibet, Pakistan, and Ladakh, at altitudes between 2,400 and 4,600 m. It is utilized in local folk medicine, the seeds as a vermifuge, the leaves for treatment of ulcers and eye diseases.

 

 

Fruiting Physochlaina praealta, Ulley, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Theaceae Tea family

 

Schima wallichii
In Nepal, this tree is called chilaune (’itching’). Beneath the bark, mature specimens have a layer of hairs, which irritate the skin. The toxic bark of this species can be used when fishing. It is chopped up and sprinkled into the water, anaesthetizing the fish, which float to the surface. This species grows up to an altitude of 2,100 m, from central Nepal to south-western China, and thence southwards to Southeast Asia.

The specific name was given in honour of Danish physician and botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), who studied the Indian and Himalayan flora in the early 1800s.

 

 

Nepal 2002
Schima wallichii, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Thymelaeaceae Daphne family

 

Stellera chamaejasme 
This pretty herb, which grows to 50 cm tall, is very common on the Tibetan Plateau, as it is avoided by grazing animals. Its habitat is open stony slopes and fallow fields. The root is used in traditional medicine to treat asthma, aching joints, and skin problems, and to expel phlegm and intestinal parasites. Paper and rope are made from the root.

 

 

Stellera chamaejasme, growing near the Hindu temple of Muktinath, Mustang, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Umbelliferae, see Apiaceae.

 

 

 

 

Violaceae Violet family

 

Viola Violet
This huge genus, comprising maybe 600 species, is found in most parts of the world, with the largest concentration in the northern temperate zone.

The majority of violet flowers are white or various shades of blue, but some species have bright yellow flowers, such as Viola wallichiana, which is fairly common in humid forests of the Himalaya, from central Nepal eastwards to Bhutan and south-eastern Tibet. The specific name was given in honour of Danish physician and botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), who studied the Indian and Himalayan flora in the early 1800s.

Pictures of other yellow-flowered violets are presented on the page In praise of the colour yellow.

 

 

Everest 2010
Viola wallichiana, Surkhe, Khumbu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Zingiberaceae Ginger family
This is a huge pan-tropical and -subtropical family of herbs, with 46-52 genera and 1,100-1,300 species. One characteristic of this group is their basal sheaths, which overlap to form a stem-like pseudostem. Besides cultivated species such as ginger, turmeric, and cardamom, members of c. 9 genera of this family are encountered in the Himalaya.

 

Zingiber chrysanthum
Many members of the ginger family have fruits at ground level. One such example is Zingiber chrysanthum, whose fruits are bright red, enclosing pure white seeds with an irregular black patch, which sometimes resembles a fly. This plant is found up to an altitude of c. 2,000 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Sikkim.

 

 

Nepal 2009a
Zingiber chrysanthum, photographed near the village of Chamje, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Roscoea
Seven purple or lilac species of this genus occur in the Himalaya, a majority of which grow in humid, open areas. Two species, presented below, are both 

 

Roscoea alpina
This gregarious species is found at high altitudes, between 2,400 and 4,000 m, from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar. It is common in Nepal.

 

 

Everest 2010a
Roscoea alpina, Surkhe, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Roscoea capitata 
This plant is restricted to central Nepal and adjacent areas of southern Tibet, between 1,200 and 2,600 m altitude. It is fairly common.

 

 

Everest 2010a
Roscoea capitata, Kendja, Solu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cautleya spicata
The pseudostem of this plant is up to to 60 cm tall, with pretty yellow flowers in a terminal erect spike, to 23 cm long. It is common between 1,000 and 2,800 m altitude, growing in forests, often on rocks, and sometimes as an epiphyte, from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to south-western China. Local people cook the pseudostem as a vegetable, and juice of the rhizome is used for stomach ache.

 

 

Everest 2010a
Cautleya spicata, Goyum, Solu, eastern Nepal. Another member of the ginger family, Roscoea alpina (see above), is seen in the background. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Zygophyllaceae Caltrop family
This family of trees, shrubs, and herbs contain 22 genera with about 285 species, which mainly grow in dry habitats.

 

Tribulus terrestris Caltrop
A widely distributed species, from southern Europe and North Africa eastwards through a major part of Asia to northern Australia. It is very common in Ladakh.

Fruits of this species have 2 to 4 very strong spines, which are able to penetrate a bicycle tyre, giving rise to a popular name of this plant, puncture vine. When the fruit is lying on the ground, at least one thorn is always pointing upwards, so that it may stick to a foot of a passing animal. If a furry animal, like a sheep, lies down in an area with these fruits, several of them will stick to its fleece. In this way, the seeds are dispersed. Much damage has been done to the feet of livestock by these fruits.

The generic name is from the Greek tribolos, meaning ’caltrop’, a small metal object with several spikes, of which one is always pointing upwards. In the old days, these weapons were spread on roads and footpaths to prevent traffic of the enemy’s soldiers, horse riders, and horse-drawn vehicles.

 

 

Caltrop, photographed near Ulley, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Lichens

 

Parmeliaceae

 

Usnea Old-man’s-beard lichen
This large, worldwide genus contains about 600 species, most of which are greyish-green and grow on trees. They are ubiquitous in wetter areas of the Himalaya, where they often drape trees, hanging down from twigs and branches, waving in the wind.

In his book Flora Danica, from 1648, Danish physician and herbalist Simon Paulli (1603-1680) gives this fascinating account of old-man’s-beard lichen: ”But above all other kinds of moss [lichens], which grow in the forests on trees, rocks and other places, the most famous one is Usnea, sev Muscus cranii humani, meaning: ’That moss which grows on human skulls’, which, although rarely, is sometimes found on the skulls of miscreants, who have been beheaded, or otherwise done away with, and whose heads have been placed on a stake.”

 

 

Everest 2010
Old-man’s-beard lichens often drape trees, like this Himalayan birch (Betula utilis), photographed near Pungi Tenga, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 1994-95
Old-man’s-beard lichens, waving in the wind, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Ferns
Ferns are ubiquitous in the Himalaya, with hundreds of species growing from the hottest valleys to alpine areas.

 

Gleicheniaceae

 

Diplopterygium giganteum
Cleared areas in the Himalaya, which lie fallow, are often invaded by large growths of this huge fern, which was formerly known as Gleichenia gigantea. It belongs to a group of ferns, often called forked ferns. It is distributed from Nepal eastwards to China and Southeast Asia.

 

 

Nepal 1994-95
Large growth of Diplopterygium giganteum, Gorjegaon, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 2008
Young shoots (‘fiddleheads’) of Diplopterygium giganteum, Bheri Kharka, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Polypodiaceae Polypody family

 

Drynaria propinqua 
This epiphytic basket fern has a wide distribution, from the Himalaya eastwards to China, and thence southwards to Southeast Asia. It is much utilized in traditional Nepalese medicine, in which a paste, made from the rhizome, is applied to treat backache, headache, sprains, and dislocated bones. In traditional Chinese medicine, it has been utilized for various ailments, including deafness, tooth ache, diarrhoea, involuntary urination, bone fractures, and hair loss.

 

 

Nepal 1994-95
Withering leaves of Drynaria propinqua, illuminated by the sun, Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Annapurna 2007
Light and shadow on a row of ferns. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Annapurna 2007
The youngest parts of this fern leaf, hanging down from a rock in the Lower Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal, are red, but later turn green. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Glossary
Below, the ‘technical’ botanical terms used on this page are explained.

 

Achene 1-seeded fruit, often many together in a cylindrical or globular head (e.g. Ranunculus).
Anther Top part of the stamen (q.v.), containing the pollen (q.v.).
Aril Outer covering of a seed, often fleshy (e.g. Taxus, Zingiberaceae).
Auricle Ear-like extension at base of leaf.
Axil Angle between a branch or a leaf-stalk, and the stem.
Axillary Growing from an axil.
Beak Projection on a fruit.
Beard A tuft of hairs on the outer petals (q.v.) of some species of Iris.
Bipinnate Twice pinnate (q.v.).
Bloom Wax-like coating.
Bract Much reduced leaf, often scale-like.
Calyx Sepals (q.v.) collectively, often fused to form a tube.
Capsule Dry fruit consisting of 2 or more fused carpels (q.v.), splitting open when ripe. (Fig. xx)
Carpel Leaf-like, seed-bearing part of female flower. 2 or more carpels are often fused together to form a capsule.
Catkin Inflorescence of numerous tiny flowers, clustered around a central axis, usually pendent.
Column Fusion of stamens (q.v.) and ovary (q.v.) in Orchidaceae. Anthers (q.v.) and stigma (q.v.) are separated by a beak-like structure, the rostellum.
Cone Fruit, usually woody (sometimes leathery), consisting of many overlapping scales, opening when seeds are ripe (e.g. Alnus, Pinaceae).
Corolla Petals (q.v.) collectively, often fused to form a funnel-like structure, the corolla-tube.
Crest Elevated irregular ridge, e.g. in flower of Iris.
Cyathium Cup-like floral structure, consisting of several true flowers resembling a single flower (e.g. Euphorbia).
Deciduous Shedding leaves at a certain season, mostly winter.
Drupe, drupelet Fleshy fruit with an inner hard stone, enclosing the seed (e.g. Juglans, Prunus).
Elliptic, ellipsoid Oval in outline or shape, with rounded ends.
Entire Margin not lobed, serrated, or toothed.
Epicalyx A number of bracts on the outer surface of the true calyx (q.v.), and resembling it (e.g. Malvaceae, Rosaceae).
Epiphyte Plant growing on another plant, in most cases without harming it.
Fall 3 outer, down-pointed petals (q.v.) of Iris.
Family See Genus.
Farinose Covered with farina, i.e. tiny, flour-like grains.
Filament Thread-like stalk of the male flower, with the button-like anther (q.v.) at the apex.
Fringed Margin with twisted threads or strips.
Follicle Fruit resembling a pod (q.v.), but opening along 1 seam only (e.g. Crassulaceae, Paeonia).
Genus Group of closely related species, several genera (sometimes only one genus) comprising a family.
Globular Globe-shaped.
Inflorescence Flower, flower-stalk, and bract (q.v.), collectively.
Lanceolate Lance-shaped, with broadest part near the base, and narrowed to a pointed tip.
Latex Milky sap.
Linear Long and narrow, with parallel sides.
Lip Large lower lobe on the corolla (q.v.) (e.g. Lamiaceae, Orchidaceae, Zingiberaceae).
Mucronate Rounded in outline, with a short, sharp tip.
Node Point on the stem, from where a leaf or a flower-stalk grows, often swollen.
Nut, nutlet 1-seeded fruit with a hard outer shell.
Ob- Prefix that indicates inverted form, with broadest part near the tip.
Obcordate Inverted heart-shaped.
Oblong Longer than broad, with nearly parallel sides.
Ovary Lower part of the female flower containing ovules (q.v.) and, later, seeds.
Ovate, ovoid Outline or shape resembling a hen’s egg, broadest at the base.
Ovule Part of the female flower containing egg-cells.
Palmate Leaf-shape with more than 3 leaflets arising from the same point, spread out fan-like.
Panicle Long, branched inflorescence (q.v.), consisting of several racemes (q.v.).
Petal One of several sterile blades surrounding the fertile part of the flower. Often strongly coloured.
Pinnate Leaf-blade divided into 2 rows of pinnae on either side of the rachis (the continuation of the leaf-stalk). Sometimes the pinnae are again divided, making the leaf bipinnate.
Pinnatifid Cleft in a pinnate manner.
Pistil Female organ of the flower, consisting of ovary, style (q.v.), and stigma (q.v.).
Pod Long, cylindric or flattened fruit, at maturity splitting open along 2 seams (e.g. Fabaceae).
Pollen Tiny grains containing the male cells.
Pome Fruit of 5 capsules (q.v.), surrounded by a fleshy layer (e.g. Cotoneaster, Pyrus, Sorbus).
Prostrate Stem(s) on or close to the ground.
Pseudobulb Bulb-like stem above the ground, or on epiphytes (e.g. Orchidaceae).
Pseudostem Stem-like structure, consisting of densely packed leaves or sheaths (e.g. Zingiberaceae).
Raceme Long unbranched inflorescence (q.v.) with stalked flowers, lower ones unfolding first.
Rachis See Pinnate.
Rhizome Root-like underground or basic stem, often scaly or with remains of old leaves.
Rootstock Part of the rhizome, which is above the ground.
Rostellum See Column.
Scale Small, modified leaf, sometimes transparent.
Sepal One of several outer blades on a flower, protecting the bud. Usually green, rarely coloured.
Sheath Tubular structure, mostly around stem.
Spadix Club-shaped structure inside the spathe (q.v.) of Araceae, on which the flowers are clustered.
Spathe Large bract (q.v.), covering the flower or the inflorescence (e.g. Alliaceae, Araceae, Iridaceae).
Spatulate Shaped like a narrow spoon.
Spike Long cluster of numerous stalkless flowers, or a cluster of spikelets.
Stamen Part of the male flower bearing the pollen (q.v.), consisting of the thread-like filament (q.v.) and the button-like anther (q.v.).
Standard Upper petal (q.v.) in most flowers of Fabaceae. 3 inner, erect petals of Iris.
Stigma Top part of the female flower that receives the pollen.
Style Elongated part of the female flower, with the stigma (q.v.) on top.
Tepal Term used collectively for petals (q.v.) and sepals (q.v.), when similar. For simplicity, the term petal is used on this page, when petals and sepals are similar.
Trifoliate With 3 leaflets.
Umbel Inflorescence (q.v.) with several stalks arising from a common point (e.g. Alliaceae, Apiaceae, Araliaceae).

 

  

(Uploaded September 2018)

 

(Latest update June 2020)