Himalayan flora 2

 

 

Fabaceae to Primulaceae

 

 

Central Asia is a core area of primroses (Primula), and about 72 species have been encountered in the Himalaya. In this picture, Primula irregularis grows among withered leaves of Rhododendron arboreum, photographed early in spring at Magingoth, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Meconopsis is a genus of gorgeous poppies, counting about 43 species, almost all restricted to central and eastern Asia, with c. 17 species in the Himalaya. Meconopsis dhwojii is rather common in the Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal, here encountered below the mountain Langtang Lirung (7234 m). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Hypericum oblongifolium, observed near Fakot, Uttarakhand. About 15 species of this genus, popularly known as St. John’s wort, occur in the Himalaya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Engelhardia spicata is a deciduous tree of the walnut family (Juglandaceae), growing to 20 m tall. This picture shows catkins and new leaves, observed at Himalpani, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Introduction on page Himalayan flora 1.

 

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

On this page, Tibet (in Chinese Xizang), Qinghai, and Xinjiang are treated as separate areas. The term ‘western China’ indicates Chinese territories just east of Tibet and Qinghai. The term ‘south-western China’ encompasses the provinces Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan.

I would be grateful to receive information on any errors on this page, or if you are able to identify any of the species left unidentified. You may use this address: respectnature108@gmail.com.

 

 

Fabaceae (Leguminosae) Pea family
This almost worldwide family of herbs, climbers, shrubs, or trees is the third-largest plant family, with about 760 genera and 19,000 species. Only Orchidaceae and Asteraceae are larger. About 90 genera are encountered in the Himalaya. Leaves are pinnate, palmate, or trifoliate. The fruit, the legume or pod, is usually much longer than broad, splitting open along 2 seams.

Members of this family are able to obtain nitrogen from the air, and many are cultivated for this purpose. When the plant dies, the nitrogen is released into the soil, for other crops to utilize. In his delightful book All about Weeds, American botanist Edwin Spencer (1881-1964) writes about sweet clover (Melilotus): “It feeds some nitrogen-fixing bacteria that live in nodules (little knots) on its roots, and these bacteria give to the plant as fast as they die (and they die rapidly) all the nitrogen they have fixed. It is impossible to make living cells without nitrogen, and it is impossible for a plant, or any other living thing, to grow without the addition of cells. The size of the plant depends upon the number of its cells, and the number of its cells depends upon the nitrogen supply. Sweet clover is one of those legumes that has worked out the problem of getting its nitrogen indirectly from the air by feeding the dwarfs that know the secret of taking it from the air.”

According to the latest revision, this family now includes 6 subfamilies (3 are dealt with below):

Caesalpinioideae (including the former subfamily Mimosoideae) with 148 genera and about 4,400 species.

Cercidoideae with 12 genera and about 335 species.

Detarioideae with 84 genera and about 760 species.

Dialioideae with 17 genera and about 85 species.

Duparquetioideae with 1 genus and 1 species.

Faboideae (Papilionoideae) with 503 genera and about 14,000 species.

 

Subfamily Caesalpinioideae (including the former Mimosoideae)

 

Albizia Silk tree, siris
Albizia is a genus of 140-160 species of trees and shrubs, distributed worldwide in subtropical and tropical areas, most abundantly in the Old World tropics. 7 species occur in the Himalaya.

The genus was named by Italian physician and botanist Antonio Francesco Durazzini (1740-1810) in honour of an Italian nobleman, Filippo degli Albizzi, who introduced Albizia julibrissin to Europe in the mid-1700s. It was initially spelled Albizzia, but today the correct spelling of the genus is with a single z.

 

Albizia chinensis
A deciduous tree, to 30 m tall, with greyish or yellowish bark, often breaking into small pieces on older specimens. Leaves large, twice-pinnate, with 6-20 pairs of pinnae, each with 20-40 pairs of sessile, oblong or linear leaflets, to 1 cm long and 3 mm wide, with hairy margin and downy underside. At the base of each leaf-stalk is a very conspicuous stipule, green, yellow, or red, to 3 cm long, heart-shaped with a sharp point. The flowers are arranged in globular heads, yellowish, to 6 mm long, with white filaments, to 2.5 cm long, sometimes tinged with purple. The pod is brown, flat, to 18 cm long and 2 cm broad.

It is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to southern China, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia. In the Himalaya, it grows up to an elevation of 1,300 m.

This species is often planted as a shade tree in tea gardens. The wood is used as timber, and the foliage is lopped for fodder. The bark is strewn in rivers to stupefy fish.

 

Flower size and colour Flowers to 6 mm long, yellowish, with white filaments to 2.5 cm long, sometimes tinged with purple.
Height to 30 m.
Habitat Forests, open areas, riversides.
Flowering May-Jun.
Fruiting Jun.-Dec.

 

 

Albizia chinensis, Sundarijal, Kathmandu Valley. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Albizia chinensis, Sinuwa, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. The bottom picture shows the bright red stipules. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Caesalpinia
A genus with about 100 species of trees, shrubs, or climbers, usually with prickles. They are found in tropical and subtropical areas around the world, with 5 species in the Himalaya.

The generic name honours Italian physician, philosopher, and botanist Andrea Cesalpino (in Latin Andreas Caesalpinus) (1519-1603), who was the first botanist to classify plants according to flowers and seeds. In 1555, he became director of the botanical garden in Pisa. His most important botanical publication was De plantis libri XVI, from 1583.

 

Caesalpinia decapetala
Heavily prickled, scrambling or climbing shrub to 10 m long. Leaves bipinnate, to 38 cm long, with 5-10 pairs of opposite pinnae, to 10 cm long, with ovate stipules and prickles in pairs at the base. Each pinna has 8-12 pairs of oblong, blunt, hairless leaflets, to 2.5 cm long and 1.2 cm broad. Flowers are arranged in erect spike-like clusters from the leaf axils, to 40 cm long, flower-stalk to 3 cm long, hairy. Flowers bright yellow, to 3 cm across, petals rounded, of unequal size, to 1.4 cm long. The pod is woody, oblong, chestnut-brown, shining, to 12.5 cm long and 3 cm broad, with 4-9 brown seeds, to 1 cm long and 6 mm broad.

This species is widely distributed, from Pakistan eastwards to Japan and Taiwan, southwards to Sri Lanka and Malaysia. In the Himalaya, it is found up to an elevation of 2,200 m.

It is widely cultivated as an ornamental, and the bark is used for tanning. The prickly branches are utilized as a goat-proof fence. Medicinally, root, stems and pod are used to relieve pain, and the root is taken for constipation. A paste of the root is applied to sprains in cattle.

The specific name is Greek, meaning ‘with ten petals’.

 

Flower size and colour Flowers to 3 cm across, petals to 1.4 cm long, bright yellow.
Length to 10 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Dec.-May.
Fruiting Apr.-Oct.

 

 

Caesalpinia decapetala, Thulo Shyabru, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Entada
A genus with about 30 species of trees, shrubs, or woody climbers, with a pantropical distribution. A single species occurs in the Himalaya.

 

Entada rheedii Sea bean, African dream herb
This huge woody climber, previously known as E. scandens or E. phaseoloides, was originally a native of Africa, growing along rivers and in swamp forest. The seeds have a thick coat, which allows them to survive lengthy periods of immersion in seawater, and the species has spread to tropical and subtropical areas in Asia and northern Australia. In the Himalaya, it may be encountered at altitudes up to 1,400 m.

This plant grows so large that the stems sometimes resemble tree trunks. The leaves are twice-pinnate, with 1-2 pairs of pinnae and 3-5 oblong leaflets in each pinna, to 9 cm long and 4 cm wide, the rachis ending in a forked tendril. The tiny flowers, to 3 mm across, are borne in long, axillary spikes to 23 cm long, corolla cream-coloured or pale yellow. The pods are huge, woody, flat, sometimes up to 2 m long and 15 cm broad, breaking down into single-seeded segments. The seeds are very hard, almost globular, to 5 cm across.

The seeds are utilized in African traditional medicine to induce vivid dreams, enabling communication with the spirit world. The meat of the seed could be consumed directly, or would be chopped, dried, and mixed with other herbs like tobacco. This mixture was smoked just before sleep to induce the desired dreams. (Source: entheology.org)

The plant is also used medicinally for jaundice, toothache, ulcers, and to treat muscular-skeletal problems.

The specific name honours naturalist and colonial administrator of the Dutch East India Company, Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede tot Drakenstein (1636-1691). In the period 1669-1676, he served as governor of the Dutch Malabar coast. During his stay, he employed 25 people to work on his book Hortus Malabaricus, describing 740 plant species of the region.

 

Flower size and colour Tiny, cream-coloured or pale yellow, in a spike to 23 cm long.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering Apr.

 

 

Entada rheedii, Naggar, south of Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Mimosa
About 500 species of shrubs or herbs, rarely trees or climbers, usually prickly. Most species are native to tropical America. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from the Latin mimus (‘to mime’) and osus (a suffix), given in allusion to the sensitiveness of the leaves of some species, which fold up when touched, seemingly mimicking the movement of an animal (see M. pudica below).

 

Mimosa pudica Sensitive plant
A shrubby herb, sometimes to 1 m tall, but usually low and spreading, the stems with curved prickles and glandular hairs. The leaf-stalk is grooved, prickly, to 2.5 cm long. The leaves are palmate and pinnate, to 8 cm long, with 12-22 pairs of linear or oblong, pointed leaflets, to 1.5 cm long and 6 mm broad, with hairy margin. The flower-stalk is densely hairy, to 2.5 cm long, flowers tiny, pink or purplish, in axillary, globular heads to 1 cm across, solitary or in pairs. Stamens 4, much exserted. The slightly recurved pods are arranged in a star-like cluster, each pod to 2.5 cm long and 5 mm broad, with 3-5 joints, covered with stiff yellow hairs.

It is native to Tropical America, but is widely cultivated and has become naturalized worldwide in warm areas. In the Himalaya, it grows up to an altitude of 2,000 m.

In Nepal, it is utilized for a large number of ailments, including gout, asthma, cough, dysentery, haemorrhoids, and kidney problems. The seeds are chewed for sore throat. Elsewhere, leaves and root are used as a sedative and sleep aid.

This plant got the popular name sensitive plant due to its leaves, which fold up and bend downwards, when touched. The specific name, meaning ‘modest’ or ‘ashamed’, also alludes to this reaction.

 

Flower size and colour Tiny, pink or purplish, in globular heads to 1 cm across.
Height to 1 m, but usually much lower.
Habitat Fallow fields, edges of rice terraces, along trails.
Flowering Mar.-Oct.
Fruiting May-Nov.

 

 

Mimosa pudica, Pokhara, Nepal. In the lower picture, the leaves have been touched, causing them to fold up. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Mimosa rubicaulis
This straggling shrub, also known as M. himalayana, grows several metres long. The stems are grooved, prickly, densely hairy. Leaf-stalk to 23 cm long, grooved, with hooked prickles, leaves bipinnate, with 5-12 pairs of pinnae to 6.5 cm long, each with 6-15 pairs of oblong leaflets, to 8 mm long and 2 mm broad. The flower-stalk is to 6 cm long, hairy, flowers tiny, pink at first, fading to white, in globular heads to 1.5 cm across, in terminal and axillary clusters. Stamens 8, much exserted. The pods are sickle-shaped, to 10 cm long and 1.3 cm broad, sometimes prickled, arranged in clusters of 4-10.

This plant is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to Bhutan, and is also widespread on the Indian Peninsula. In the Himalaya, it grows up to an elevation of 2,000 m.

In Nepal, it is utilized medicinally for a number of ailments, including peptic ulcer, haemorrhoids, and fever. A paste of the root is applied to sprains and dislocated bones. Tent pegs and charcoal are produced from the wood. The prickly stems are used as a goat-proof hedge.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘with a stem like bramble’, alluding to the prickly stem.

 

Flower size and colour Tiny, pink, fading to white, in globular heads to 1.5 cm across.
Length several metres.
Habitat Streamsides, open areas.
Flowering Jun.-Oct.
Fruiting Aug.-Nov.

 

 

Mimosa rubicaulis, Lower Bhote Kosi Valley, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Senna
A large genus of herbs, shrubs, or trees, containing 260-350 species, native to tropical and subtropical areas, with a few species in temperate regions. Leaves are pinnate. The flower has 5 sepals and 5 usually yellow petals. Stamens 10, straight.

The generic name is derived from Arabic sana, a term covering plants with catharitic and laxative properties.

Initially, in 1753, these plants were included in the genus Cassia by Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-78), but already the following year, in his fourth edition of The Gardeners Dictionary, Scottish botanist Philip Miller (c. 1691-1771) placed a number of Cassia species in the genus Senna. For many years, most botanists did not recognize this genus, and only recently has it been re-established.

The obsolete generic name is derived from Ancient Greek kassia, the spice made from the bark of members of the genus Cinnamomum other than the true cinnamon (C. verum), especially Chinese cinnamon (C. cassia).

A number of pictures, depicting the wonderful Cassia fistula, is presented on the page In praise of the colour yellow.

 

Senna occidentalis
This plant, previously named Cassia occidentalis or Senna laevigata, is an erect shrub, or sometimes an annual, to 2 m tall, with few, longitudinally ribbed branches. Leaves are stalked, up to 20 cm long, with a brown ovoid gland near the base. Leaflets 3-5 pairs, ovate or oblong, to 10 cm long and 3.5 cm wide, base rounded, tip pointed. They emit a rotten smell when crushed. The flowers are in axillary or terminal clusters, bracts whitish or brownish, longer than the buds, soon falling. Corolla is yellow or orange-yellow, to 2 cm across, sepals yellowish, unequal, outer ones rounded, to 6 mm across. inner ones ovate, to 9 mm long. Fertile stamens 7, sterile ones 3. The ripe pod is brown, with pale thick margins, falcate, flattened, to 13 cm long and 1 cm wide.

This species is native to Tropical America but has been widely introduced elsewhere in tropical and subtropical regions. In the Himalaya, it may be encountered up to an elevation of 1,400 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘from the West’, alluding to the place of origin.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 cm across, yellow or orange-yellow.
Height to 2 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering May-Aug.
Fruiting Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Senna occidentalis, Dana, Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. Leaves of air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) are also seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Senna occidentalis, Ngadi, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Subfamily Cercidoideae

 

Bauhinia Orchid tree, camel’s-foot tree
A large genus of 300-500 species of trees, shrubs, or climbers, distributed in tropical and subtropical areas worldwide. 6 species are found in the Himalaya.

The leaves of this genus are characterized by the apex, which is split into 2 broad lobes, the outline thus resembling a camel’s footprint, giving rise to one of the popular names.

The generic name was applied by Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-78) in honour of Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin, in Latin Casparus Bauhinus (1560-1624), who described thousands of plant species in his monumental work Phytopinax (1596), in a form, which equals the binominal nomenclature, introduced in 1753 by Linnaeus.

 

Bauhinia purpurea
This small tree, growing to 10 m tall, has thick, smooth, greyish or brownish bark. The leaves are stalked, rounded, to 15 cm long and 14 cm wide, stiff, with 9-11 primary veins, lobes slightly pointed. The inflorescence is an axillary or terminal cluster with up to 20 flowers, petals pink, pale pink, or sometimes whitish, oblanceolate, to 5 cm long, clawed. Fertile stamens 3, filaments about as long as the petals. The pod is linear, flat, to 25 cm long and 2.5 cm wide.

This species is probably originally native from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Indochina, but is very commonly cultivated elsewhere. In the Himalaya, it is found up to an elevation of 1,600 m.

In Nepal, the foliage is lopped for fodder, and the plant is also utilized medicinally. Fibres are obtained from the bark, which is also used for tanning.

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 5 cm long, pink, pale pink, or sometimes whitish.
Height to 10 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering Sep.-Oct.
Fruiting Jan.-Mar.

 

 

Bauhinia purpurea, Ghermu, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Bauhinia variegata
A deciduous tree, to 15 m tall, with brownish, nearly smooth bark. In most respects, it very much resembles B. purpurea, but the leaves are generally smaller, to 9 cm long and 11 cm wide, and the flowers are white with red, pink, or purplish streaks or blotches on the upper mid-petal. Fertile stamens 5. It blooms in spring, whereas B. purpurea blooms in autumn.

It is probably originally native from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Indochina and southern China, and is very commonly cultivated elsewhere. In the Himalaya, it is found up to an elevation of 1,800 m.

The bark is used medicinally, and for dyeing and tanning. The wood is used for construction, and the foliage is lopped for fodder. The flowers are edible, cooked or pickled.

 

Flower size and colour Petals white with red, pink, or purplish streaks on the upper mid-petal.
Height to 15 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Feb.-May.
Fruiting Mar.-Jul.

 

 

Bauhinia variegata, Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Subfamily Faboideae (Papilionoideae)
Flowers of this subfamily 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.

 

Abrus
A genus of about 17 species of shrubs or climbers, native to sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Tropical Asia, Australia, and islands in the south-western Pacific.

The generic name is derived from Arabic abruz or afruz (‘that gives flaming colours’), alluding to the bright red seeds.

 

Abrus precatorius Rosary pea, crab’s eye
This woody climber is probably native to sub-Saharan Africa, Yemen, Tropical Asia, and Australia. At an early stage, it was introduced to many other countries, and today it has a pan-tropical and -subtropical distribution. In the Himalaya, it is found up to an elevation of 1,100 m. In many areas, including Belize, West Indies, United States, Hawaii, and Polynesia, it is proclaimed an invasive weed.

The branches are slender, smooth or downy. Leaves alternate, short-stalked, to 13 cm long, pinnately divided into 10-20 pairs of oblong or ovate leaflets, to 2.2 cm long and 6 mm wide, apex rounded, margin entire. Flowers are in axillary clusters, usually shorter than the leaves. Calyx to 2.5 mm long, smooth or sparsely silky-hairy, teeth very short. Corolla is pinkish-white or pink, to 1 cm long. The pod is oblong, to 4 cm long and 1.3 cm broad, containing 3-8 highly distinctive, ovoid seeds, to 8 mm long, usually bright scarlet with a black spot at the base, sometimes white with black base, or uniformly black or white.

The seeds are very poisonous – ingestion of a few may be fatal. You may read about their multiple usage, including murder, on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘prayer’, alluding to the usage of the seeds in rosaries, which is also reflected in one of the common names. The name crab’s eye refers to the likeness of the seeds to a crab’s eye.

 

Flower size and colour To 1 cm long, pinkish-white or pink.
Height/length to 3 m or more.
Habitat Open areas.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.
Fruiting Sep.-Nov.

 

 

The seeds of Abrus precatorius are used medicinally for a large number of ailments, but as they are extremely poisonous, they should never be eaten. – Dehra Dun, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Astragalus Milk-vetch
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, of which a few are spiny shrublets, forming clumps or mats.

The leaves of the vast majority of species are pinnate, with numerous leaflets. The calyx is tubular, with 5 short teeth or lobes, often of unequal length. The keel of the flower is blunt-tipped, as opposed to members of the genus Oxytropis (below), which are very similar, but whose keel has a beaked tip. The pod is often longitudinally divided into 2 chambers.

In Ancient Greece, astragalos was the term applied to one of the bones in the ankle joint, called the ball bone. Dice were made from the ball bones of certain animals. However, astragalos was also the name for a member of the pea family, Lathyrus niger. A possible explanation is that to the Greeks, the seeds of this plant resembled the dice made from the ball bones.

The name vetch stems from Anglo-Norman French veche, a corruption of the Latin vicia. Milk-vetches are quite similar to true vetches of the genus Vicia. The prefix milk refers to an old belief that cows fed with milk-vetch would yield more milk.

 

Astragalus candolleanus
A spiny shrublet, forming small clumps, to 50 cm across, with downy branches and numerous yellowish, straw-coloured, or brownish spines, to 10 cm long, which are the remains of old leaf-stalks. The pinnate leaves are to 12.5 cm long, with 17-25 oblong or ovate leaflets, hairless or downy, to 1.3 cm long. The yellow flowers are in dense, almost stalkless clusters, calyx reddish or green, densely silky-hairy, to 1.3 cm long, teeth to 6 mm long. The standard is hairless, to 2.5 cm long, wings to 2.3 cm long, keel very short. Pod downy, to 2.6 cm long.

This plant is found from northern Pakistan eastwards to central Nepal, at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,500 m. It is quite common in Chamba, Himachal Pradesh, and in the Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal.

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

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, yellow, calyx often reddish.
Height to 25 cm.
Habitat Open areas in dry valleys.
Flowering May-Aug.
Fruiting Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Astragalus candolleanus, Kyanjin Gompa, Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Astragalus concretus
An erect, hairy herb, to 1 m tall, but often much lower, stem branched, with a dense cover of white or brownish hairs. Leaves pinnate, to 20 cm long, with elliptic stipules, to 2 cm long, fused below. Leaflets 21-29, oblong or narrowly elliptic, blunt or notched, sparsely hairy, blunt, to 3 cm long and 1 cm wide. Inflorescences in axillary, very long-stalked clusters, stalk to 10 cm long, flowers yellow, standard, wings, and keel of almost equal length, to 1.5 cm. Calyx hairless or downy, to 9 mm long, teeth of uneaual length, to 3 mm. Pod ellipsoid, straight or curved, hairless, to 4 cm long, with a beak to 1 cm long.

This plant is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan and south-eastern Tibet, growing at elevations between 2,500 and 4,000 m.

What the specific name refers to is not clear.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.5 cm long, yellow.
Height to 1 m, but often much lower.
Habitat Open areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.
Fruiting Jul.-Sep.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Astragalus nivalis
This prostrate herb, sometimes to 25 cm tall, is easily identified when in fruit, by the greatly inflated, pink calyx. Stems are green or reddish, loosely covered with adpressed white hairs. The pinnate leaves are to 4 cm long, with 9-19 ovate or elliptic leaflets, to 8 mm long and 4 mm wide, rounded, both surfaces densely covered with white adpressed hairs. Inflorescences are dense terminal clusters of up to 20 flowers, pink, or violet with a white base, to 2 cm long. After flowering, the pink calyx, to 1.3 cm long, is greatly inflated, resembling a tiny balloon. The pod, to 9 mm long and 3.5 mm wide, is enclosed in the calyx. It is covered in white and black hairs.

It grows in dry areas at high altitudes, up to 4,600 m, from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan eastwards across Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, and Tibet to Gansu.

The specific name is Latin, from niv-, derived from nix (‘snow’), and‎ alis, a suffix, thus ‘of snow’, referring to the fact that this plant grows at high elevations.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 cm long, pink, or violet with a white base, calyx pink, greatly inflated after flowering.
Height to 25 cm, but often prostrate.
Habitat Deserts and semi-deserts.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.
Fruiting Jul.-Sep.

 

 

The inflated pink calyx of Astragalus nivalis is clearly seen in these pictures from Lossar, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh (top), and Pang, Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Astragalus oplites
A very spiny shrublet, similar to A. candolleanus, but forming larger, compact mats to 1 m across, with branches radiating from the centre. Spines are yellowish, to 4 cm long, leaves pinnate, to 18 cm long, with 21-41 obovate leaflets, blunt or notched, to 1 cm long and 2.5 mm wide. The calyx, to 1.5 cm long, is covered in black and white hairs, teeth to 5 mm long. Flowers are in clusters of 2-5, yellow, standard hairless, to 2.8 cm long, wings to 2.3 cm long, keel to 2.1 cm long. Pod hairy, to 2 cm long and 4 mm wide, with a straight beak to 5 mm long.

This species is found from Xinjiang southwards across western Tibet to Kashmir, and thence eastwards to central Nepal, growing at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,500 m.

The specific name is derived from Ancient Greek hoplites (‘heavily armed foot-soldier’), ultimately from hoplon (‘arms’, ‘weapon’), naturally alluding to the numerous spines.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.8 cm long, yellow.
Height to 25 cm.
Habitat Dry stony areas.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.
Fruiting Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Astragalus oplites, Jhong River Valley, Mustang, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

In this heavily overgrazed area in the Jhong River Valley, prickly shrubs of Astragalus oplites is about the only plant that has been avoided by goats. The red gompa (Tibetan Buddhist monastery) in the village of Jharkot is seen in the background. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Astragalus rhizanthus
This prostrate plant, which resembles A. candolleanus and A. oplites (above), is often described as a spine-less herb. However, according to the website botany.cz/cs/astragalus-rhizanthus, it may also be a spiny dwarf-shrub, stemless or with short stems. Leaves to 17 cm long, often in a rosette, rachis often snow-white, sometimes hardening to a weak spine. Leaflets many, up to 41, oblong or elliptic, to 1.4 cm long and 6 mm wide, hairless or hairy. Stipules to 1.5 cm long, obovate, margins hairy. Flowers yellow, often in dense, stalkless clusters at centre of the rosette. Calyx hairy, to 1.6 cm long, teeth to 8 mm long. Standard to 2.5 cm long, wings and keel slightly shorter. Pod to 2 cm long and 7 mm wide, hairy.

It is distributed from Xinjiang southwards through western Tibet to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ladakh, and Himachal Pradesh, at elevations between 1,800 and 5,000 m.

The specific name is Ancient Greek, meaning ‘producing flowers from a rootstock’.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, yellow.
Height to 20 cm, but often prostrate.
Habitat Open stony slopes, grasslands.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.
Fruiting Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Astragalus rhizanthus, Lossar, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Butea
A small genus with 4-5 species of trees or shrubs, distributed from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to southern China and Indochina. 2 species occur in the Himalaya. The leaves are trifoliate.

The genus was named in honour of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713-1792), who was a patron of botany.

 

Butea buteiformis
This species, previously named Butea minor, and by some authorities called Meizotropis buteiformis, is a small shrub, to 2 m tall. Stems are erect or scrambling, brownish silky-hairy when young, later becoming hairless. Leaves are long-stalked, trifoliate, leaflets very large, leathery, broadly ovate, pointed, with brownish hairs beneath, to 45 cm long and 35 cm wide, mid-leaflet long-stalked, lateral ones short-stalked. Inflorescences are very large, in terminal or axillary spike-like clusters, to 50 cm long. Petals and cup-shaped calyx brownish are silky-hairy. Corolla orange-red, to 2.5 cm long, standard broadly elliptic, pointed, recurved, wings falcate, keel blunt. The pod is to 10 cm long and 3 cm broad, covered in brownish hairs.

Distributed from western Nepal eastwards to Myanmar, northern Thailand, and south-eastern Tibet, found at elevations between 300 and 2,000 m.

In Nepal, the seeds are used to expel intestinal worms. Rope is produced from the bark fibres, and plates are made from the leaves.

A close relative, B. monosperma, is described on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, orange-red.
Height to 2 m.
Habitat Streamsides, open areas, rocks.
Flowering Apr.-May.
Fruiting Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Butea buteiformis, Bandipur, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Butea buteiformis, Lower Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of the inflorescence, Bandipur, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Caragana Pea-shrub
A genus of 80-100 species of spiny shrubs, found in eastern Europe and Temperate Asia. Leaves usually pinnate, in some species more or less palmate. Calyx much shorter than petals, with 5 equal lobes. Pod swollen, not constricted between seeds. About 7 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is the Mongolian name for C. arborescens.

 

Caragana brevifolia
A very spiny shrub to 2.5 m tall, erect or spreading, much-branched, with dark brown or greyish bark. The stipules consist of 3 spines, the longest one to 8 mm. The leaves are palmate, growing from dwarf shoots in axils of spines, with 4 lanceolate leaflets, to 1 cm long and 4 mm broad. Flowers are axillary, solitary or sometimes 2 together, to 1.6 cm long, yellow with red streaks. Calyx hairless, yellow or reddish, to 9 mm long, with short triangular lobes. The pod is cylindric, smooth, pointed, dark brown when mature, to 4 cm long.

This species is found from Pakistan eastwards to Uttarakhand, and across Tibet to the western parts of Yunnan and Sichuan, northwards to Qinghai, Gansu, and Ningxia, at elevations between 1,800 and 4,500 m. It is common in Ladakh.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘short-leaved’.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.6 cm long, yellow with red streaks.
Height to 2.5 m.
Habitat Open areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.
Fruiting Aug.-Sep.

 

 

Caragana brevifolia, Konze La, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of a flower, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Pods of Caragana brevifolia, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Caragana gerardiana
A compact shrub to 1.2 m tall, densely branched, very spiny. Leaves pinnate, downy, rachis to 4 cm long, persistent, on older leaves ending in a spine to 4 cm long. Leaflets 8-10 pairs, oblanceolate, densely silky-hairy, to 7.5 mm long. Stipules persistent, encircling the stem. Calyx densely hairy, with triangular teeth. Flowers yellow, very short-stalked, to 2.5 cm long, solitary or sometimes 2 together, arranged along the stem. The pod is densely hairy, grey, to 2.5 cm long.

This plant grows in dry steppe country and semi-deserts at altitudes between 2,600 and 4,200 m, from Afghanistan eastwards to central Nepal, and thence northwards across western Tibet to Qinghai. It is often collected as firewood.

The specific name was given in honour of English herbalist John Gerard (c. 1545-1612), who published a large work on herbal medicine, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, yellow.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Dry steppe country, semi-deserts.
Flowering May-Jul.
Fruiting Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Caragana gerardiana, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Caragana sukiensis
A shrub to 2.5 m tall, much like C. gerardiana, but distinguished by the yellow or orange-yellow flowers with recurved standard and ear-like extensions to the wings. Leaves are pinnate, to 4 cm long, with 8-10 pairs of oblong or elliptic leaflets, to 7 mm long, rachis spine-tipped. Stipules free, papery, soon falling. Flowers solitary or 2 together in upper leaf axils, very short-stalked, to 2.5 cm long. Calyx tubular, greenish-yellow or reddish, densely hairy, to 7 mm long, with tiny awl-shaped lobes. The pod is initially hairy, later hairless, to 4 cm long.

This species is found from Uttarakhand eastwards to Bhutan, at altitudes between 2,400 and 3,700 m. It is common in the Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal.

In Nepal, a paste of the root is applied to dislocated bones.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, yellow or orange-yellow.
Height to 2.5 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.
Fruiting Aug.-Sep.

 

 

Caragana sukiensis is very common in the Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal, where these pictures were taken. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Chesneya
A genus of about 21 species of herbs, occurring in the Middle East and Central Asia. About 6 species are found in the Himalaya.

The genus was named in honour of British general and explorer Francis Rawdon Chesney (1789-1872). In 1836, he led an expedition to test the proposition that large iron vessels could successfully navigate the river Euphrates from southern Turkey to the Persian Gulf. Among his companions was Bohemian physician, explorer and naturalist Johann Wilhelm Helfer, also known as Jan Vilém Helfer (1810-1840), who made collections of plants and animals from along the river. Helfer later participated in an expedition to the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, where a native shot him with a poisoned arrow, which ultimately killed him.

 

Chesneya cuneata
A prostrate herb with crowded silky-hairy stems, to 15 cm long. Leaves pinnate, hairy, often very short, but sometimes to 10 cm long, stalk to 4 cm long. Leaflets 5-17, obovate to oblong, to 1.6 cm long and 5 mm broad, tip blunt, sometimes notched, velvety-downy on both sides. Flowers long-stalked, solitary or up to 4 together in the leaf axils, stalk to 1 cm long, hairy. Calyx cylindric, to 1.7 cm long, hairy, with unequal teeth to 7 mm long, with black glands at tip. Corolla purple or pinkish-purple, standard to 3.2 cm long, hairy outside, wings to 2.9 cm long, keel slightly shorter. Pod linear, to 6 cm long and 1 cm broad, initially hairy, later smooth.

This plant is distributed from Xinjiang southwards across western Tibet to Pakistan and Ladakh, found at elevations between 2,400 and 4,300 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘wedge-shaped’. What it refers to is not clear.

 

Flower size and colour To 3.2 cm long, purple or pinkish-purple.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Dry stony slopes, dry riverbeds.
Flowering May-Sep.
Fruiting Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Chesneya cuneata, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Chesneya nubigena
A prostrate herb, branched, forming mats, stems to 15 cm high, woody, persistent. Leaves mostly short, to about 4 cm long, sometimes to 15 cm, pinnate, densely silvery-hairy, with 15-21 oblong leaflets, to 8 mm long and 4 mm wide, tip pointed. Stipules linear, to 1 cm long, hairy. Flowers solitary, stalked, yellow or orange, standard to 2.5 cm long, wings and keel slightly shorter. Calyx densely hairy, to 1 cm long, toothed. Pod ellipsoid, downy, to 3 cm long and 8 mm broad, stuffed with white hairs inside.

It is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar and the Yunnan Province, at altirudes between 3,600 and 5,300 m.

The specific name is derived from the Latin nubes (‘cloud’) and genus (‘born of’), alluding to the high altitudes this plant is growing at.

At some point, it was called Spongiocarpella nubigena.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, yellow or orange.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Stony areas, grasslands.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.
Fruiting Aug.-Sep.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Chesneya purpurea
Very similar to C. nubigena, and regarded as a subspecies of that species by several authorities, including Flora of China. However, it is a much lower plant, rarely above 6 cm tall, leaflets are smaller, to 5 mm long and 2 mm wide, and the flowers are purple. The seeds are eaten in Nepal.

This plant is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to Bhutan and south-eastern Tibet, at elevations between 4,700 and 5,200 m. It is common in the Khumbu area, eastern Nepal.

Previously, it was also known as Spongiocarpella purpurea.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, purple.
Height to 6 cm.
Habitat Stony areas, grasslands.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.
Fruiting Aug.-Sep.

 

 

Chesneya purpurea, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Chesneya purpurea, Tughla, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Chesneya purpurea, Chhukung, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cochlianthus
A tiny genus with 2 species of climbing herbs, distributed in the Himalaya and China. A single species occurs in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek kokhlias (‘spiral’) and anthos (‘flower’), alluding to the style and filaments, which are spiralled inward in the upper part.

 

Cochlianthus gracilis
A slender, climbing, twining herb, stems hairy when young, later smooth. Leaves trifoliate, leaflets thin, ovate-rhomboid, long-pointed, to 9 cm long and 6 cm broad, the terminal one symmetric, the two lateral ones assymetric. Calyx bell-shaped, yellowish-green, densely hairy, teeth triangular, to 7 mm long, upper 2 fused, shorter. Flowers pink, mauve, or pale purple, in short drooping clusters, standard and wings broad, to 2 cm long and 1.7 cm wide, keel longer, narrow, curved, with rounded tip. Pod linear, covered in dense brownish-black hairs, tip curved.

Distributed from central Nepal eastwards to Bhutan, south-eastern Tibet, and south-western China, at altitudes between 1,400 and 2,000 m.

In Nepal, a paste of the stem is applied to boils, pimples, and muscular swellings.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘slender’, referring to the stems.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 cm long, pink, mauve, or pale purple.
Habitat Forest margins, shrubberies.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.
Fruiting Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Cochlianthus gracilis, Burlung Bhanjyang, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Cochlianthus gracilis, Chipling, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Desmodium Tick-trefoil
About 280 species of herbs or shrubs, mostly distributed in subtropical and tropical regions. About 18 species occur in the Himalaya. The leaves are trifoliate, and the pods are flattened, conspicuously jointed between the seeds.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek desmos (‘chain’), referring to the jointed pod. The trefoil part of the popular name means ‘three-leaved’, alluding to the 3 leaflets, whereas the tick part refers to the pods, which easily break apart into segments, each one containing a single seed with small hooked hairs that stick to people’s clothes or the fur of an animal, similar to the way a tick clings on with its legs. (Source: en.wiktionary.org)

 

Desmodium elegans
A many-branched shrub to 3 m tall. Leaves trifoliate, long-stalked, downy, young leaves reddish, densely silvery-downy. Leaflets variable, ovate, rhombic, or rounded, hairy beneath, to 10 cm long and 7 cm broad, lateral leaflets sessile or very short-stalked, terminal one long-stalked, pointed, margin entire. Flowers in terminal clusters to 30 cm long, flowers stalked, to 1.7 cm long, corolla whitish, pink, lilac, or dark purple, or a combination. Calyx brownish, to 4 mm long, 4-lobed, shaggy-hairy. The pod is linear, to 6 cm long and 6 mm broad, smooth or hairy, lower part of the margin indented between the seeds.

This plant is widely distributed, from Afghanistan eastwards to Bhutan and south-western China, and thence northwards to Gansu, growing at altitudes between 1,000 and 4,000 m. It is often cultivated as an ornamental.

In Nepal, the root is used for cholera, and as a tonic, carminative, and diuretic. The foliage is cut for fodder.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.7 cm long, whitish, pink, lilac, or dark purple, or a combination.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open places.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.
Fruiting Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Desmodium elegans, between Changdam and Sherpagaon, Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Desmodium elegans, Solang Nallah (top), and Changa, Sainj Valley, both Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Young reddish leaves of Desmodium elegans, Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Erythrina Coral tree
A large genus with more than 100 species of deciduous trees, distributed in the tropics and subtropics. 3 species are found in the Himalaya. Leaves are trifoliate, flowers scarlet or crimson, standard much longer than wings and keel.

The flowers are much visited by birds, including Asian black bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus), red-whiskered bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus), and crimson sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja), which feed on the nectar, and ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri), which eats the entire flower.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek erythros (‘red’), like the common name referring to the wonderful scarlet or coral-red flowers of the genus.

 

Erythrina arborescens
A small tree to 6 m tall, with a few prickles on trunk and branches. Leaves very large, long-stalked, leaflets pointed, to 20 cm across, covered in brown velvet when young, margin entire. Inflorescences axillary, in dense erect clusters to 38 cm long, appearing in autumn with the leaves. Flowers scarlet, drooping, standard ovate, pointed, to 5 cm long, wings and keel much shorter. Pod lanceolate, curved, initially rusty-hairy, later smooth, to 23 cm long and 3 cm broad.

This species is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar, Bangladesh, northern Thailand, and western China. In the Himalaya, it is found at elevations between 1,500 and 3,000 m.

Widely cultivated as an ornamental, and also planted to retain landslides. The wood is utilized for construction, and juice of the bark is used medicinally for boils and to expel intestinal worms.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘becoming a tree’, referring to its small size.

 

Flower size and colour To 5 cm long, scarlet.
Height to 6 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes, villages.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.
Fruiting Sep.-Dec.

 

 

Erythrina arborescens, Langtang River Valley, near the village of Thulo Shyabru, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Erythrina arborescens, cultivated in Thulo Shyabru. A pole with a Buddhist prayer flag is seen in the background. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Erythrina stricta
Larger than the previous species, growing to 12 m tall, with numerous sharp, whitish prickles on trunk and branches. It blooms in spring, before the leaves unfold, flowers scarlet, in one-sided spike-like clusters to 13 cm long, at the end of branches. Standard to 5 cm long, twice as long as keel. Leaflets broader than long, to 19 cm long and 25 cm wide. Pod lanceolate, smooth, to 12 cm long and 1.5 cm broad.

This species is distributed from western Nepal eastwards to Indochina and south-western China. It is very common in the lower parts of the Himalaya, growing in forests and open areas up to 1,600 m altitude.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘tightened’ or ‘compressed’. What it alludes to is not clear.

 

Flower size and colour To 5 cm long, scarlet.
Height to 12 m.
Habitat Forests, open areas.
Flowering Mar.-May.
Fruiting Apr.-Jul.

 

 

In March-April, Erythrina stricta displays a profusion of flowers, here at the village of Tatopani, Lower Kali Gandaki Valley, and in the Lower Marsyangdi Valley (3rd from above), both in the Annapurna region, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gueldenstaedtia, see Tibetia.

 

 

 

Hedysarum Sweetvetch
This genus contains somewhere between 160 and 200 species of herbs, rarely shrubs distributed in Eurasia, North Africa, and North America. 7 species occur in the Himalaya. The pod is broad and flattened, constricted between the seeds and breaking into 1-seeded units at maturity.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek hedysaron (‘axe-weed’), the name of a plant described by Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist Pedanius Dioscorides (died 90 A.D.), author of De Materia Medica, five volumes dealing with herbal medicine. The connection with this genus is obscure.

 

Hedysarum microcalyx
An erect herb to 1 m tall, stem grooved, smooth. Leaves pinnate, to 20 cm long, upper ones in whorls, leaflets 11-13, oblong-lanceolate, smooth, to 4 cm long, tip blunt. Stipules large, elliptic, to 4 cm, encircling young shoots. Flowers in long, drooping, axillary clusters, to 10 cm long. As reflected by the specific name, the calyx is small, to 3.5 mm long, hairless, toothed. Flowers are purple or crimson-purple, to 2 cm long. The keel is longer than standard and wings. Pods 2- or 3-jointed, each joint to 1.6 cm long and 7 mm broad, winged.

This species is found in the western parts of the Himalaya, from Pakistan eastwards to Uttarakhand, at elevations between 2,700 and 4,000 m.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 cm long, purple or crimson-purple.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, streamsides.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.
Fruiting Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Hedysarum microcalyx, Kielang, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. The lower picture shows the pods, which are constricted between the seeds. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Hedysarum sikkimense
Stems several, usually to about 20 cm, sometimes taller. Stipules broadly lanceolate, to 1 cm long, united more than half of their length. Leaves to 10 cm long, with 13-23 ovate or oblong leaflets, to 1.6 cm long and 9 mm wide, smooth above, hairy below. Flowers in dense, long-stalked, terminal clusters, calyx bell-shaped, to 8 mm long, densely hairy, teeth narrowly triangular, of unequal length. Corolla purple, violet, or mauve, to 1.8 cm long, keel longer than standard and wings. Pods 1- or 2-jointed, each joint to 9 mm long and 7 mm broad, margin irregularly toothed.

This plant is found from eastern Nepal eastwards to Bhutan, and thence northwards to Gansu, at elevations between 3,100 and 4,700 m.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.8 cm long, purple, violet, or mauve.
Height usually to about 20 cm, sometimes taller.
Habitat Gravelly areas, stony riversides, grasslands, shrubberies.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.
Fruiting Aug.-Sep.

 

 

Hedysarum sikkimense, Kyangjin Gompa, Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Hedysarum sikkimense, Shomare (top), and Gokyo Valley, both in Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Indigofera Indigo plant
A huge genus with about 750 species of shrubs, rarely herbs, found almost worldwide in tropical and subtropical areas. About 16 species occur in the Himalaya. Leaves pinnate, pod linear, many-seeded.

Formerly, a blue dye, indigo, was extracted from a lowland species, I. tinctoria, but nowadays the dye is produced synthetically. This dye cannot be extracted from any of the Himalayan species. The generic name is derived from indicum, the Latin word for the dye, alluding to the fact that it was produced in India, and fero (‘I bear’).

 

Indigofera cassioides
As opposed to most other Himalayan members of the genus, this species blooms early in spring, often before the leaves unfold. It is an erect or straggling shrub, to 3 m tall. Leaves are short-stalked, to 15 cm long, leaflets 11-21, alternate or opposite, thick, bluish-green beneath, very broadly elliptic, to 2.5 cm long and 1.5 cm broad, with adpressed grey hairs. Inflorescences axillary, short-stalked, to 17 cm long, covered with brownish scales at base. Calyx cup-shaped, to 3 mm long, densely white-hairy. Bracts boat-shaped, to 1 cm long. Corolla pink, turning violet when aged, to 1.8 cm long. Pod straight, hairless, to 4 cm long and 4 mm broad.

This plant, which was previously named I. pulchella, is distributed from Kashmir eastwards to Indochina and southern China, and is also found in Peninsular India and Sri Lanka. In the Himalaya, it grows from the lower valleys up to an altitude of 1,900 m. It is common in Helambu, central Nepal.

In Nepal, the flowers are eaten as a vegetable, or pickled. In India, a decoction of the root is used for cough. The root is also dried and ground into powder, which is applied externally in case of chest pain.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘resembling Cassia’ (see Senna above).

 

Flower size and colour To 1.8 cm long, pink, turning violet when aged.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, forests, often mixed Pinus roxburghii-Shorea robusta.
Flowering Feb.-Apr. in the Himalaya, elsewhere from Sep.
Fruiting Apr.-Jun.

 

 

Indigofera cassioides, Dubichour, Helambu, central Nepal. Some leaves from the previous year still cling to the bush. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Indigofera cassioides, Kakani, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Indigofera cylindracea
An erect or ascending shrub, to 1 m tall, branches hairless or sparsely hairy. Stipules tiny, triangular, to 4 mm long, persistent, with adpressed brownish hairs. Leaves stalked, to 6 cm long, stalk and rachis with short brownish hairs, leaflets 11-15, opposite, elliptic or oblong, to 1.5 cm long and 5 mm wide, downy, tip rounded, with a tiny spine. Flowers are in ascending, spike-like clusters from the leaf axils, to 10 cm long, calyx tiny, to 1.8 mm long, brownish-hairy outside, teeth triangular, to 0.8 mm long. Corolla pink or reddish, to 1.3 cm long, standard and wings to 9 mm long, wings shorter. The pod is cylindric, smooth, to 5 cm long and 4 mm broad.

Distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to Bhutan and south-eastern Tibet, at altitudes between 2,100 and 2,700 m.

The specific name alludes to the pod.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.3 cm long, pink or reddish.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering May-Aug.
Fruiting Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Indigofera cylindracea, between Bharku and Shyabru, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Indigofera heterantha
An erect shrub to 2.5 m tall, stems and branches with short white hairs. Stipules tiny, linear, to 3 mm long, persistent, with adpressed brownish hairs. Leaves stalked, very variable, to 7 cm long, stalk and rachis with short hairs, leaflets 11-31, opposite, elliptic, obovate, or oblanceolate, thick, with white adpressed hairs above and below, to 2.5 cm long and 1.5 cm broad, blunt, tip with a tiny spine. Flowers are arranged in erect clusters, to 8 cm long, short-stalked. Calyx bell-shaped, downy, to 4 mm long, including triangular teeth to 2.5 mm long. Corolla pale pink, reddish, or purple, to 1.3 cm long, hairy outside. Pod brown, linear, sparsely hairy, to 2.5 cm long.

This species is widely distributed, from Afghanistan eastwards to Bhutan and south-eastern Tibet, and also in Sri Lanka and parts of East Africa. In the Himalaya, it grows at altitudes between 1,500 and 3,100 m. It is very common in the western part, often forming dense thickets.

In Nepal, the flowers are pickled, and the foliage is used for fodder.

The specific name is a term used for plants having different types of stamens in the same flower, from Ancient Greek hetera (‘different’) and anthos (‘flower’, in this connection ‘anther’).

 

Flower size and colour To 1.3 cm long, pink, reddish, or purple.
Height to 2.5 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering May-Jul.
Fruiting Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Indigofera heterantha is a conspicuous element in Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, where these pictures were taken. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lotus Bird’s-foot trefoil
This huge genus, comprising at least 130 species, is widespread in temperate and subtropical areas of Eurasia, Africa, Australia, and some western Pacific islands. Some species have been introduced and become naturalized elsewhere, including the Americas and New Zealand. A single species occurs in the Himalaya.

The generic name is of Semitic origin, in Ancient Greek lotos, denoting a type of clover or trefoil, described by Homer as food for horses. The trefoil part of the popular name was given in allusion to the seemingly tripartite leaves (in reality 5 leaflets, see below), whereas bird’s-foot refers to the often triple pods, which spread out from a common point, thus resembling a bird’s foot.

Other species of this genus are dealt with on the page In praise of the colour yellow.

 

Lotus corniculatus Common bird’s-foot trefoil
Very variable. Stems creeping or ascending, hairy or hairless, to 80 cm long. The leaves are seemingly trifoliate, giving rise to the popular name, but in fact they have 5 leaflets, the lower 2 widely separated from the terminal 3. The leaflets are obovate or linear-lanceolate, blunt or pointed, to 2 cm long and 1 cm broad. Inflorescences are axillary umbels, very long-stalked, to 12 cm, with 3-7 flowers. Corolla golden-yellow, often turning orange or red when ageing, to 1.8 cm long. Calyx to 6 mm long, often with unequal teeth. The pod is cylindric, to 3 cm long and 4 mm broad.

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.

It is much utilized as fodder.

The specific name is derived from the Latin corniculum, a diminutive of cornu (‘horn’), and atus (‘having’), thus ‘having little horns’, alluding to the pods.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.8 cm long, golden-yellow, often turning orange or red when ageing.
Height/length to 80 cm.
Habitat Open areas, grasslands, fallow fields.
Flowering Apr.-Sep.
Fruiting Jun.-Oct.

 

 

Lotus corniculatus, Kielang, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Flowers of Lotus corniculatus are usually yellow, but red or orange forms are sometimes seen, as on these specimens from Sissu, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh, photographed after a rain shower. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Medicago Medick, bur-clover
A genus with about 85 species of herbs, rarely shrubs, found in Europe, central and western Asia, and northern Africa, with a core area around the Mediterranean. 2 species occur in the Himalaya (+ M. sativa cultivated). The pod of these plants is curled-up or sickle-shaped.

The generic name (and with that one of the common names) is derived from the Latin medica, meaning a kind of clover introduced from Media’, referring to lucern (M. sativa). The common name bur-clover alludes to the spiny pods of some species of the genus. The term bur is from Middle English burre, from the Norse burre (‘burdock’). It is used for several plants with hooked or spiny fruits, which easily spread by attaching themselves to animals’ pelts, people’s clothes, etc.

 

Medicago falcata Sickle medick
The stem is erect or spreading, to 1 m tall, much-branched, hairless or sparsely hairy. The leaves are trifoliate, leaflets obovate or linear-lanceolate, toothed above, to 2 cm long and 6 mm broad. Flowers are in axillary, rounded, stalked clusters, to 4 cm long, corolla yellow, to 1.1 cm long. Calyx to 5 mm long, teeth often longer than tube. Pod usually sickle-shaped, sometimes nearly straight, to 2 cm long and 3.5 mm broad.

This plant grows in drier areas and is widespread in temperate areas of Eurasia. In the Himalaya, it is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to central Nepal, at elevations between 2,700 and 4,000 m. It is common in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, and in Ladakh.

It is widely cultivated as fodder.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘sickle-shaped’, alluding to the pod.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.1 cm long, yellow.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Open slopes, grasslands, fallow fields.
Flowering May-Aug.
Fruiting Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Medicago falcata, Riverside, Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Medicago falcata, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Meizotropis, see Butea.

 

 

 

Melilotus Melilot, sweet clover
About 20 species of herbs, distributed in temperate and subtropical areas of Eurasia and North Africa. 3 species are found in the Himalaya. Leaves trifoliate.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek meli (‘honey’) and lotus (see Lotus above). These plants are much visited by bees. The common name sweet clover refers to the sweet smell of the flowers. They are also widely cultivated as nitrogen-producers.

 

Melilotus officinalis Ribbed melilot
Stem erect, longitudinally ridged, usually below 1.5 m in height, occasionally taller. Leaves trifoliate, leaflets very variable in shape, linear to broadly ovate, to 2.5 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, with prominent lateral veins, 8-12 pairs, ending in small teeth. Flowers arranged in spikes, to 15 cm long, with 30-70 yellow flowers, to 7 mm long, standard, wings, and keel of almost equal size. Pod ovoid, dark brown, to 5 mm long and 2 mm broad, transversely ridged.

This plant is widely distributed in Temperate Eurasia. In the Himalaya, it is restricted to Pakistan and Ladakh, at elevations between 2,700 and 4,000 m. It is common in Ladakh, where it is also cultivated as a fodder plant and nitrogen-producer.

Originally, officinalis was derived from officina (‘workshop’, or ‘office’), and the suffix alis, which, together with a noun, forms an adjective, thus ‘made in a workshop’. However, in a botanical context, the word denotes plants species that were sold in pharmacies due to their medicinal properties.

A close relative with white flowers, M. alba, is also cultivated in the north-western part of the Himalaya. It is presented on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

 

Flower size and colour To 7 mm long, yellow.
Height usually below 1.5 m, occasionally taller.
Habitat Dry grasslands, sandy areas, riversides, forest margins.
Flowering May-Sep.
Fruiting Jun.-Oct.

 

 

Melilotus officinalis, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This woman is carrying a load of Melilotus officinalis, to be used as fodder, Leh, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Oxytropis Locoweed
A huge genus of more than 300 species of herbs, native to Eurasia, North Africa, and North America. About 18 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek oxys (‘sharp’) and tropis (‘keel’), referring to the beaked keel, as opposed to the blunt keel in the very similar flowers of the genus Astragalus (above).

The American term for these plants is locoweed, derived from Spanish loco (‘mad’, ‘crazy’). Early settlers noticed that cattle and horses, which had eaten these plants, would stagger around, acting strangely.

 

Oxytropis arenae-ripariae
This plant is endemic to Nepal, restricted to high altitudes between 4,500 and 4,700 m.

Stem absent, all leaves and flower stalks spreading out star-like from the rootstock. Leaves pinnate, to 7 cm long, leaflets oblong-elliptic, pointed, with white hairs below and along the margin. Flowers in compact terminal clusters on silky-hairy stalks to about 9 cm long, calyx bell-shaped, teeth pointed, to 3 mm long, corolla bluish-mauve or violet, to 8 mm long.

The specific name is derived from the Latin harena (‘sand’) and ripa (‘river bank’), thus ‘growing along sandy rivers’.

 

Flower size and colour To 8 mm long, bluish-mauve or violet.
Height to 9 cm, but often lower.
Habitat Stony areas.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Oxytropis arenae-ripariae, Machhermo, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Oxytropis microphylla
A prostrate plant. All leaves and flower stalks are spreading out star-like from the rootstock, some stalks rising to about 15 cm. Leaves very variable in length, from 4 to 18 cm, leaflets in numerous whorls, ovate or narrowly elliptic, to 8 mm long and 4 mm wide, hairy. Flowers are in compact to rather lax clusters, to 5 cm long, at the end of long stalks, which are densely silky-hairy. The calyx is cylindric, to 1 cm long, covered in black and white hairs, lobes to 2.7 mm long. Corolla mostly pinkish-violet, but may also be pink, bluish-purple, yellow, or white, standard to 2 cm long, apex rounded, wings and keel slightly shorter, keel with a beak to 1.6 mm long. The pod is stalkless, falcate or oblong, to 3 cm long and 7 mm wide, covered in white and black hairs.

This species is found from Kyrgyzstan eastwards to Inner Mongolia, and thence southwards across the Tibetan Plateau to Pakistan, Ladakh, and central Nepal, at elevations between 2,700 and 5,200 m. It is common in Ladakh.

The specific name is Ancient Greek, meaning ‘with small leaves’.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 cm long, mostly pinkish-violet, but may also be pink, bluish-purple, yellow, or white.
Height to 15 cm, but often much lower.
Habitat Dry stony areas, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Sep.
Fruiting Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Oxytropis microphylla, Tso Kar (top), and Tahungtse, Markha Valley, both in Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Oxytropis tatarica
Stem absent or much reduced, leaves all basal, to 5 cm long, pinnate, leaflets opposite, densely downy, oblong or oblanceolate, to 7 mm long and 3.5 cm wide, margin entire, tip with a tiny point. The flowers are arranged in a compact cluster at the end of a stalk to 10 cm long, densely hairy. The calyx is covered in black and white hairs, lobes pointed, to 2 mm long. Corolla blue, rarely purple or yellow, standard to 9 mm long and 3.5 mm wide, wings and keel slightly shorter. The pod is inflated, almost globular, to 1 cm long and 8 mm broad, covered in long white hairs.

This plant is found on the Tibetan Plateau, southwards to Pakistan, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, and northern Nepal, at altitudes between 4,000 and 5,000 m.

The specific name refers to an area in Asia, formerly inhabited by Tatar-speaking Turkic peoples, from the Volga River and Crimea eastwards to western Siberia and Kazakhstan.

 

Flower size and colour To 1 cm long, blue, rarely purple or yellow.
Height to 5 cm.
Habitat Dry stony areas.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.
Fruiting Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Oxytropis tatarica, Tso Kar, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Oxytropis williamsii
A densely tufted plant, covered in silvery-grey hairs on stems, leaves, and flower stalks. Leaves pinnate, to 8 cm long, leaflets numerous, elliptic, to 1 cm long. Flowers are in dense globular heads, to 2 cm across, very long-stalked, stalk longer than the leaves. Flowers violet, to 8 mm long. Calyx with bristle-like teeth, to 5 mm long. Pod inflated, globular, to 1 cm across, densely woolly-hairy.

This species is endemic to western and central Nepal, growing at elevations between 2,400 and 4,400 m. It is common in the Upper Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal.

The specific name commemorates British botanist John Williams (1915-1991), who made many contributions to the great work An Enumeration of the Flowering Plants of Nepal, edited by H. Hara, W.T. Stearn and L.H.J. Williams (London 1978).

 

Flower size and colour To 8 mm long, violet.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Dry riverbeds, stony areas.
Flowering May-Oct.
Fruiting Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Oxytropis williamsii, Kalopani, Upper Kali Gandaki Valley (top), and Manang (3500 m), Upper Marsyangdi Valley, both in the Annapurna area, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Parochetus communis
This is the sole member of the genus. The stems are creeping, slender, rooting at the nodes. The leaves are trifoliate, long-stalked, leaflets obcordate, to 2.8 cm across, tip notched. Flowers solitary or in pairs, long-stalked. Calyx bell-shaped, brown-hairy, with 5 lobes. Corolla bright blue or violet-blue, to 2.5 cm long, standard erect, stalked. Pod straight, hairless, to 2.5 cm long.

In the Himalaya, this plant is quite common between 900 and 4,300 m altitude, distributed from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to Myanmar and south-western China. It is also found in the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

In Nepal, juice of the leaves is applied to wounds and boils. It is also utilized as fodder.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek para (‘near’) and okhetos (‘stream’), alluding to a preferred habitat of the species. The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘common’.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, blue or violet-blue.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Open forests, along trails and streams.
Flowering Mar.-Nov.
Fruiting Nov.-Jul.

 

 

Parochetus communis, Sinuwa (top), and Kimrong Khola, both in the Upper Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Piptanthus
A small genus of 2 species of shrubs, distributed in the Himalaya and China. Leaves trifoliate. 1 species occurs in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek pipto (‘to fall’) and anthos (‘flower’), referring to the early falling of the flowers.

 

Piptanthus nepalensis
A shrub to 4 m tall, with dark green, shining bark. Leaves are long-stalked, trifoliate, leaflets variable in shape, ovate, elliptic, or lanceolate, to 10 cm long, pointed, dark green above, grey-hairy beneath when young, later hairless and shining. Flowers in short terminal clusters, hairy, to 8 cm long. Bracts elliptic, densely woolly-haired. Calyx bell-shaped, to 1.6 cm long, grey-woolly, with blunt lobes. Corolla long-stalked, to 3 cm long, bright yellow with brown dots on the rounded, reflexed standard. Pod long-stalked, linear-lanceolate, flat, to 15 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, not splitting.

Distributed from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to Myanmar and south-western China, nortwards to Gansu, at elevations between 1,600 and 4,000 m. It is widely cultivated elsewhere as an ornamental.

In Nepal, the foliage is collected for fodder, and the stems are used for light construction and to make walking sticks. Bark and leaves are strewn in rivers to stupefy fish.

 

Flower size and colour To 3 cm long, bright yellow with brown dots on the standard.
Height to 4 m.
Habitat Forests, open areas.
Flowering Mar.-Jun.
Fruiting Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Piptanthus nepalensis, Lukla, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Flowering Piptanthus nepalensis with pods from the previous year, Kutumsang, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This picture from Kutumsang shows the very hairy calyx. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of flowers, Lukla, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Unripe seed pods, Pungi Tenga, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Pueraria Kudzu
About 20 species of twining shrubs or herbs, distributed in tropical Asia and the Far East. 5 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name commemorates Swiss botanist and physician Marc Nicolas Puerari (1766-1845), a pupil of Danish botanist Martin Hendriksen Vahl (1749-1805). Although he spent the major part of his life as a professor in Copenhagen, he left his herbarium to a Swiss colleague, Alphonse Louis Pierre Pyrame de Candolle (1806-1893).

 

Pueraria montana var. lobata Japanese kudzu
A twining vine up to 8 m long, woody at the base, all parts covered in yellowish hairs. Leaves trifoliate, terminal leaflet broadly ovate, to 15 cm long and 12 cm wide, pointed, lateral ones smaller. Flowers in racemes to 30 cm long, 2 or 3 together at the nodes. Calyx to 2 cm long, covered in yellowish-brown hairs, with pointed lobes, slightly longer than the tube. Corolla to 4 cm long, purple or violet, with a large yellow spot on the broad standard, wings falcate, narrower than the keel. The pod is elliptic, to 14 cm long and 1.3 cm broad, flattened, covered in brown hairs.

This plant is a native of the Far East, but has become widely naturalized elsewhere. In the Himalaya, it is found in the lower subtropical areas. It is regarded as an invasive in many places around the world, described on the page Nature: Invasive species.

 

Flower size and colour To 4 cm long, purple or violet with a large yellow spot on the standard.
Length to 8 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.
Fruiting Oct.-Dec.

 

 

Pueraria montana var. lobata, Parvati River Valley, near Manikaran, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Sophora
About 70 species of trees, shrubs, or herbs, distributed almost worldwide, mainly in tropical and subtropical regions. 3 species occur in the Himalaya. The leaves are pinnate, and the pod is constricted between the seeds.

The generic name is derived from sophera, an Arabic name for a tree in the pea family.

 

Sophora moorcroftiana
An erect, many-branched, spiny shrub, usually below 1 m in height, occasionally taller. The branches, which end in spines, have a dense cover of grey hairs. Leaves are pinnate, to 6 cm long, stipules spiny, persistent. Leaflets 11-17, ovate or obovate, to 1.3 cm long and 6 mm wide, silky-hairy on both surfaces. Flowers in stalked, axillary or terminal racemes, to 5 cm long. Calyx bluish-white, densely hairy, to 7 mm long, with 5 teeth. Corolla to 1.5 cm long, usually blue, often with a white base, but yellow flowers are occasionally seen. Standard longer than wings and keel. Pod large, densely downy, to 10 cm long and 7 mm wide, constricted between the seeds.

This plant is found in dry areas at elevations between 2,800 and 4,500 m, distributed in Tibet, southwards to Pakistan and Ladakh, eastwards to Bhutan.

In Tibet, it is heavily exploited as a source of fuel and is now endangered here. The seeds are used for stomach trouble, and as an antidote to domestic animals which have eaten poisonous plants. It is also planted as a soil stabilizer in Tibet.

The specific name was given in honour of British veterinary surgeon and botanist William Moorcroft (1765-1825), who explored several areas in the Himalaya and Central Asia. He was the first European to make botanical collections in western Tibet and Kashmir.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.5 cm long, usually blue, often with a white base, occasionally yellow.
Height to 1 m, occasionally taller.
Habitat Shrubberies, dry stony areas.
Flowering May-Jul.
Fruiting Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Sophora moorcroftiana, Upper Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Spongiocarpella, see Chesneya.

 

 

 

Thermopsis False lupine, golden banner
This genus contains about 30 species of herbs, distributed in temperate areas of central and eastern Asia, and in North America. 3 species are found in the Himalaya. Leaves trifoliate.

The generic name is derived from the Greek thermos (‘heat’) and opsis (‘appearance’), thus ‘appearing to be burned’, referring to the blackish-purple flowers of Thermopsis barbata.

 

Thermopsis barbata
This plant, with stems to about 45 cm tall, is easily recognized by the chocolate-purple flowers and the trifoliate, long-stalked leaves, which have an extremely dense cover of white or rust-coloured hairs. The stipules are leafy, elliptic, leaflets lanceolate to elliptic, entire, to 3.5 cm long and 1.5 cm broad. The flowers are in terminal racemes, calyx to 1.7 cm long, densely hairy, lobes to 1 cm long. Corolla deep purple, rarely yellow, to 3 cm long, standard broadly ovate, often with a yellow centre. The pod is brown when ripe, oblong or elliptic, hairy, to 4.5 cm long and 1.8 cm broad.

It is very common on disturbed ground, including abandoned fields and heavily grazed slopes, distributed from Xinjiang and Qinghai southwards across the Tibetan Plateau to Pakistan, and thence eastwards to Bhutan and south-western China, at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,600 m.

The specific name is from the Latin barbatus (‘bearded’), referring to the densely hairy stems and leaves.

 

Flower size and colour To 3 cm long, chocolate-purple, rarely yellow.
Height to 45 cm.
Habitat Open disturbed areas, fallow fields.
Flowering May-Jul.
Fruiting Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Thermopsis barbata, photographed in a fallow field near the village of Namche, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of flowers, Sanasa, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Yellow-flowered form, Kyangjuma, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Thermopsis inflata
This yellow-flowered species is easily identified when in fruit by the inflated pods. It is a smallish plant, stems erect, branched, white or yellow, hairy, to 20 cm tall. Leaves sessile or very short-stalked, leaflets obovate, to 2.7 cm long and 1.6 cm broad. Flowers are in lax racemes, to 10 cm long, calyx to 1.7 cm long, hairy, teeth to 7 mm long. Corolla yellow, to 2.5 cm long. Pod pale brown, broadly ovate, inflated, white-haired, to 5 cm long and 3 cm broad, curved downward.

It grows in dry stony areas between 4,000 and 5,000 m altitude, from southern Xinjiang southwards across the Tibetan Plateau to Pakistan, Ladakh, and Himachal Pradesh, and also in northern Bhutan.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, yellow.
Height to 20 cm.
Habitat Dry rocky slopes, streamsides.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.
Fruiting Jul.-Aug.

 

 

This picture from Honupatta, Ladakh, shows the characteristic inflated seed pods of Thermopsis inflata. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Thermopsis lanceolata
Stems erect, silky-haired, to 40 cm tall. Leaves short-stalked, leaflets oblong or linear, blunt, to 7.5 cm long and 1.6 cm wide, hairless above, with adpressed hairs beneath. Stipules leafy, ovate or lanceolate. Flowers are in terminal racemes, to 17 cm long, calyx densely hairy, to 2.2 cm long, teeth lanceolate, as long as tube. Corolla yellow, to 2.8 cm long, standard rounded, deeply notched, wings linear-oblong. Pod brown when ripe, linear, flattened, hairy, to 9 cm long and 1.2 cm broad, with a beak.

Found from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Xinjiang, Mongolia, and southern central Siberia southwards across the Tibetan Plateau to extreme northern Nepal, at elevations between 3,600 and 4,300 m.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.8 cm long, yellow.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Dry open areas, often a weed in fields.
Flowering May-Jul.
Fruiting Jun.-Oct.

 

 

Thermopsis lanceolata, Xegar, southern Tibet. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Thermopsis lanceolata, Jharkot, Jhong River Valley, Mustang, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Tibetia
About 5 species of herbs, restricted to the Himalaya and China. A single species occurs in the Himalaya. The leaves are pinnate.

 

Tibetia himalaica
This herb, formerly known as Gueldenstaedtia himalaica, forms dense or lax mats of tiny, pinnate, densely silky-hairy leaves, to 7 cm long, leaflets 9-13, of variable shape, orbicular, elliptic, broadly obovate, or obcordate, usually less than 5 mm long, but sometimes to 1 cm. Flowers in groups of 1-3, sometimes 4, on thread-like stalks, calyx hairy, to 5 mm long, with tiny, unequal lobes. Corolla violet, blue, or deep mauve, sometimes red, to 9 mm long, standard to 8 mm long and wide, sometimes broader than long, wings obovate, to 7 mm long, keel very short. Pod linear, inflated, hairless or hairy, to 1.3 cm long.

It is found at elevations between 3,000 and 5,000 m, from Gansu and Qinghai southwards across Tibet to Pakistan, and thence eastwards to south-western China.

 

Flower size and colour To 9 mm long, violet, blue, or deep mauve, sometimes red.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Open drier areas.
Flowering May-Aug.
Fruiting Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Tibetia himalaica, Kyangjuma, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Tibetia himalaica, Fanga, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Trifolium Clover
A huge genus with about 250 species, found in temperate and subtropical areas of Eurasia, Africa, and America. Leaves trifoliate. 3 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is Latin, meaning ‘with 3 leaves’, referring to the leaflets. It was the classical name of clover.

 

Trifolium pratense Red clover
Stem erect or ascending, sparsely hairy, to 70 cm long. Lower leaves long-stalked, upper short-stalked, leaflets obovate to broadly elliptic, toothed, to 3 cm across, often with a whitish triangular marking near the base. Stipules leafy, ovate-lanceolate. Flowers in globular heads, to 3.5 cm across, calyx downy, lowest tooth longer than cup. Corolla reddish-purple to pink, rarely white, to 1.5 cm long, standard spatulate, tip rounded. Pod 1-seeded, opening by a lid.

This plant is native to Temperate Eurasia and North Africa, in the Himalaya from Pakistan eastwards to Himachal Pradesh. Elsewhere, it is widely cultivated as fodder, bee-plant, or nitrogen-fixer. In Nepal, it is utilized medicinally for various ailments, including cough and skin problems.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘growing in meadows’.

 

Flower size and colour Flowerhead to 3.5 cm across, corolla reddish-purple to pink, rarely white.
Length to 70 cm.
Habitat Open areas.
Flowering Apr.-Sep.
Fruiting Jun.-Oct.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Trifolium repens White clover, Dutch clover
This species is similar to T. pratense, but the flowerheads are smaller, to 2.5 cm across, white, or white with a pinkish flush. The flower-stalks are longer than the leaf-stalks. Stems slender, creeping, rooting at nodes. Leaflets to 2 cm across, often with a whitish triangular marking near the base. Pod 3-4 seeded.

It is native to Temperate Eurasia and North Africa, in the Himalaya from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar, growing at altitudes between 1,300 and 2,500 m. It is widely cultivated as fodder, bee-plant, or nitrogen-fixer.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘creeping’.

 

Flower size and colour Flowerhead to 2.5 cm across, corolla white or white with a pinkish flush.
Length to 50 cm.
Habitat Open areas, fallow fields.
Flowering and fruiting most of the year.

 

 

Trifolium repens, Bhandar, Solu, eastern Nepal (top), and Gul Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Vicia Vetch
A large genus with about 160 species of climbing herbs, mainly found in northern temperate areas, and also in South America, Hawaii, and mountains of East Africa. About 6 species occur in the Himalaya.

 

Vicia tenuifolia Fine-leaved vetch
Stem erect, branched, to 1 m long, leaves pinnate, with 6-13 pairs of leaflets, which are linear or linear-lanceolate, 1.5-3 cm long and to 6 mm wide, smooth above, downy below, margin entire, ending in branched tendrils. Inflorescence is a raceme with up to 30 flowers, usually 10-15 cm long, but sometimes to 30 cm, densely hairy. Corolla to 1.8 cm long, blue or purple, rarely white, but keel often white, standard to 1.5 cm long, keel a bit shorter.

A widely distributed species, found in the major part of Europe and northern Asia, eastwards to central Siberia, southwards to Morocco, Jordan, the Himalaya, northern China, and Japan, growing at forest edges and in open areas. In the Himalaya, it is usually found at elevations between 1,600 and 2,200 m.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.8 cm long, blue or purple, rarely white.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Forest edges, open areas.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Vicia tenuifolia, Cao Hai, Guizhou Province, south-western China. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Fagaceae Beech family
A family of trees or shrubs with 7-12 genera, depending on authority, and 900-1000 species. In most species, ripening of the fruits lasts more than a year. 4 genera are found in the Himalaya.

 

Castanopsis Chinkapin
About 120 species of evergreen trees, distributed in tropical and subtropical Asia. Male and female flowers are in separate spikes. The fruit is a nut, completely enclosed in a woody, spiny bract. 5 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek kastana, the classical name of the chestnut tree (Castanea sativa), and opsis (‘appearance’), thus ‘looking like a chestnut tree’.

The name chinkapin is a corruption of an Algonquian word, chechinquamin or chincomen, possibly from xinkw (‘great’) and mini (‘fruit’).

The spiny fruits may constitute a health hazard. Once, as I was walking in a forest near Pokhara, Nepal, a bunch of fruits of Castanopsis indica fell from a tall tree, landing on my bare arm, where they got stuck in the skin. Even though the spines do not possess barbs, it took some effort to loosen the fruits from the skin.

 

Castanopsis indica
An evergreen tree to 25 m, often gregarious, with silvery-grey bark, which is fissured on old trunks. Twigs, leaf-stalk, and flower stalk covered in rust-coloured or yellowish-brown hairs. Leaves stalked, oblong or ovate-elliptic, saw-toothed, hairy beneath, to 28 cm long and 10 cm broad, pointed, with 14-25 pairs of prominent veins. Flowering spikes erect, dense, cream-coloured, 25-40 cm long. Fruit cluster often branched, to 15 cm long. Fruit globular, hairy, to 4 cm across, covered with straight spines.

This species is found from central Nepal eastwards to Taiwan, and thence southwards to Southeast Asia. In the Himalaya, it grows at elevations between 1,000 and 2,900 m. The wood is used for roof-shingles, and as fuel. The foliage is lopped for fodder, and leaves are also wrapped around tobacco to smoke as a cigar. In Nepal, juice of the bark is used for indigestion, juice of the leaves for stomach troubles. Cotyledons and fruits are edible.

 

Flower size and colour Spikes erect, to 40 cm long, cream-coloured.
Height to 25 m.
Habitat Open forests, slopes.
Flowering Oct.-Nov.
Fruiting Sep.-Nov. the following year.

 

 

Flowering Castanopsis indica, Pokhara, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Leaves and young inflorescences, Chamje, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Young red leaves, Pokhara, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Fruits, Pokhara, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Castanopsis tribuloides
A smallish tree, usually below 10 m high, sometimes taller. Leaves usually narrowly lanceolate, but may be ovate or elliptic, long-pointed, to 25 cm long and 7 cm broad, covered in reddish-brown or greyish hairs beneath, with 11-14 pairs of prominent veins, margin entire or sparsely toothed. Flowering spikes erect or pendent, cream-coloured or white, male spikes densely clustered, to 20 cm long, female spikes solitary. Fruit cluster often branched, to 25 cm long. Fruit globular or ellipsoid, to 2.2 cm across, only partly covered with spines.

It is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to northern Thailand and the Yunnan Province, at altitudes between 500 and 2,300 m. The wood is utilized as timber. Leaves are lopped for fodder. The nut is edible, raw or roasted.

The specific name means ‘resembling Tribulus’, a plant of the family Zygophyllaceae (below). This word is derived 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. The name probably refers to the spiny fruits.

 

Flower size and colour Spikes erect or pendent, to 20 cm long, cream-coloured or white.
Height to 10 m, sometimes taller.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Mar.-May, less commonly Aug.-Sep.
Fruiting Sep.-Nov. the following year.

 

 

Flowering Castanopsis tribuloides, Pangma, Arun Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Quercus Oak
About 300-500 species, depending on authority, native to the Northern Hemisphere, distributed in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and North Africa. About 12 species occur in the Himalaya. Male flowers are in pendent catkins, females in mostly erect spikes. The fruit is a nut, called an acorn, partly enclosed in a cup-like structure, the cupule, consisting of overlapping bracts, with free tips.

The generic name is the classical Latin term for oaks.

 

Quercus floribunda
This species, previously named Q. dilatata, is an evergreen tree to 20 m tall, often gregarious. Bark grey or black, peeling off in strips. Leaves are variable, lanceolate or elliptic, hairless, to 12 cm long and 5.5 cm broad, with 9-12 pairs of veins, margin usually spiny-toothed, sometimes entire. Flowers yellowish, male catkins to 5 cm long. Cupule to 2.5 cm across, downy, covering half of the ovoid, brownish acorn, to 2 cm long, with a fine point.

It is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to central Nepal, at elevations between 1,800 and 2,900 m. The wood is used for many items, and also as fuel and for charcoal. The foliage is lopped for fodder.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘with an abundance of flowers’.

 

Flower size and colour Male catkins to 5 cm long, yellowish.
Height to 20 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Apr.-May, less commonly Sep.-Oct.

 

 

Quercus floribunda, near Beabra, Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

New foliage, near Beabra, Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Foliage, Tharke Ghyang (2600 m), Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Flowering Quercus floribunda, Tharke Ghyang (2600 m), Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Quercus glauca
An evergreen tree to 20 m tall, bark rough and fissured on older trees. Leaves short-stalked, obovate to oblong-elliptic, leathery, to 13 cm long and 5.5 cm broad, long-pointed, often wider and toothed towards the tip, with 9-13 pairs of veins. Male catkins solitary or in a lax cluster, to 8 cm long. Female spikes to 3 cm, long with 2-3 fruits. The cupule is bowl-shaped, to 8 mm long and 1.4 cm across, enclosing less than half of the acorn, outside sometimes with white hairs, bracts in 5-8 velvety rings, crowded. The acorn is ovoid or ellipsoid, to 1.6 cm long and 1.4 cm broad, glabrous or rarely hairy.

This tree, by some authorities called Cyclobalanopsis glauca, is very widely distributed, from Afghanistan eastwards to Japan, Taiwan, and northern Vietnam. In the Himalaya, it grows at elevations between 800 and 3,000 m, from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar. The wood is used as fuel, and the foliage is lopped for fodder.

The specific name is derived from Ancient Greek glaukos (‘blue-green’, ‘blue-grey’), presumably alluding to the foliage.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 20 m.
Habitat Humid forests, ravines.
Flowering Apr.-May.
Fruiting Oct.-Mar.

 

 

Flowering Quercus glauca, Amjilassa, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Quercus lanata
An evergreen tree to 30 m tall. Initially, twigs and the short leaf-stalks are covered in rusty-brown hairs, later smooth. Leaves alternate, leathery, ovate-lanceolate to elliptic, pointed, to 20 cm long and 8.5 cm broad, shiny dark-green above, rusty or greyish woolly-hairy beneath, with 12-17 pairs of veins, base rounded to wedge-shaped, margin saw-toothed. Male catkins woolly-hairy. Female inflorescences axillary on young shoots, 4-14 cm long. Cupule solitary or in pairs, to 1 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, with downy bracts, enclosing about half of the ovoid-conical acorn, to 2 cm long and 1.2 cm broad, hairless.

It is distributed at altitudes between 1,400 and 3,000 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to northern Indochina and south-western China.

The wood is used for construction and tool handles, and as fuel, and the foliage is lopped for fodder. In Nepal, juice of the bark is applied to sprains, and a paste of the cotyledon to scorpion bites. Powdered resin is used for dysentery, and it is also boiled and drunk as tea. The bark can also be boiled to make tea.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘woolly’, referring to the underside of the leaves.

 

Flower size and colour Female inflorescences to 14 cm long.
Height to 30 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.
Fruiting Jun.-Jul. the following year.

 

 

Quercus lanata, Melamchi Ghyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Leaves of Quercus lanata, Chipling, Helambu. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This picture shows the woolly underside of the leaves, Melamchi Ghyang. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Quercus leucotrichophora
An evergreen tree to 18 m tall, gregarious. The twigs are white-woolly. Leaves are stalked, leathery, dull-green above, white-woolly beneath, elliptic-lanceolate, long-pointed, to 15 cm long and 5 cm broad, with 11-20 pairs of veins, margin strongly saw-toothed. Male catkins to 14 cm long. Cupule solitary, to 1.5 cm across, covering half of the ovoid acorn, to 2 cm long.

This tree is common from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar, with a disjunct occurrence in Sri Lanka. In the Himalaya, it grows at elevations between 1,000 and 2,700 m. The wood makes excellent fuel. It is hard and strong, mostly used for agricultural tools. The foliage is lopped for fodder, and it also makes excellent compost. The acorns are utilized in traditional medicine.

The specific name is Ancient Greek, meaning ‘bearing white hairs’, referring to the underside of the leaves.

An obsolete name for this tree is Quercus incana. However, this name is today used for an American species.

 

Flower size and colour Male catkins to 14 cm long.
Height to 18 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Apr.-May.
Fruiting Aug.-Dec.

 

 

Quercus leucotrichophora, near Beabra, Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

New foliage, sprouting on a specimen of Quercus leucotrichophora, which has been heavily lopped for fodder, Agora, Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Quercus semecarpifolia
An evergreen, gregarious tree to 30 m tall, but much smaller at higher altitudes. The twigs have prominent star-shaped hairs, and the leaf-stalk is covered in brown hairs. Leaves alternate, leathery, elliptic to oblong, to 12 cm long and 7.5 cm broad, with 8-14 pairs of veins, tip rounded, blade dark-green and shining above, young leaves rusty-haired beneath, margin spiny-toothed, older leaves usually hairless beneath, with entire margin. Male catkins are dense and downy, to 8 cm long, female inflorescences to 7 cm long. The cupule is very short, to 8 mm long, acorn almost globular, sometimes purplish-brown or black, to 3 cm across.

This species is very common, found at altitudes between 1,700 and 4,000 m, from Afghanistan eastwards to Nepal and extreme southern Tibet.

The wood is used for construction, and as fuel. The bark yields tannin, and juice of it is applied to aching muscles. The foliage is cut for fodder, and the sap is drunk as tea.

The specific name means ‘with leaves like Semecarpus’, a genus of trees in the family Anacardiaceae. A popular name af the species is spiny-leaved oak, which is misleading, as the leaves of older trees usually have entire margins.

 

Flower size and colour Male catkins to 8 cm long, female inflorescences to 7 cm.
Height to 30 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering May-Jun.
Fruiting Aug.-Oct. the following year.

 

 

Two old specimens of Quercus semecarpifolia, between Changdam and Riverside, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. Many ferns of the species Drynaria propinqua are growing on the tree to the right. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Quercus semecarpifolia, below Ghumtarao, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Flowering Quercus semecarpifolia, with acorns from the previous year, between Changdam and Riverside, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Leaves of Quercus semecarpifolia with almost entire margins, showing the woolly-hairy underside, near Dodi Tal, Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Spiny leaves of Quercus semecarpifolia, Tharkeghyang, Helambu, central Nepal (top), and near Dodi Tal, Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Fallen acorns of Quercus semecarpifolia, some eaten by monkeys, between Changdam and Riverside, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gentianaceae Gentian family
An almost worldwide family, comprising about 87 genera with c. 1,650 species, mostly herbs, but some shrubs, climbers, or small trees. Within the c. 18 genera, which occur in the Himalaya, the flower colour of most species are various shades of blue.

 

 

An unidentified species of Comastoma or Gentianella, Bara Lacha La (3900 m), Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Comastoma
About 15 species of herbs, found in Asia, Europe, and North America. About 3 species occur in the Himalaya.

Members of this genus were previously placed in the genus Gentiana, but differ in the flowers, which often have tufts of narrow lobes or hairs in the throat, and no lobules between the corolla-lobes. In many species, the tuft in the throat is surrounded by a dark band.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek kome (‘hair of the head’) and stoma (‘mouth’), alluding to the flowers of some members having hairs in the throat.

 

Comastoma pedunculatum
Stems several, branched from the base, to 15 cm tall. Basal leaves few, short-stalked, oblong or spatulate, to 1 cm long and 3 mm wide, tip rounded. Stem leaves sessile, elliptic, ovate, or oblong, to 1.2 cm long and 5 mm wide, tip pointed. Flowers terminal, solitary, mostly with 5 spreading lobes, but sometimes only 4 on lateral branches. Calyx to 4 mm long, lobes slightly unequal, lanceolate or broadly lanceolate, margin sometimes blackish, tip pointed. Corolla dark blue to purplish-blue, tube yellowish with purple veins, to 1 cm long and 4 mm wide, elongating in fruit. Lobes ovate-oblong, to 1 cm long, spreading, pale blue with a dark band surrounding numerous narrow, white lobes in the throat. Anthers yellow.

This plant is found at elevations between 3,000 and 5,000 m, from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan and south-western China.

 

Flower size and colour Corolla lobes dark blue to purplish-blue, tube yellowish with purple veins, to 1 cm long and 4 mm wide.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Open slopes, river banks, meadows.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Comastoma pedunculatum, Langshisha (4000 m), Langtang National Park, central Nepal. Leaves of a species of cinquefoil (Potentilla) are also seen. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gentiana Gentian
A huge, almost worldwide genus with c. 360 species of herbs, found in Europe, north-western Africa, Asia, the Americas, eastern Australia, and New Zealand. The flowers of most species are various shades of blue. About 60 species occur in the Himalaya.

Formerly, this genus contained about 650 species, but about 250 have been moved to the genus Gentianella, c. 24 to Gentianopsis, and c. 15 to Comastoma.

The name of these plants 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 (G. lutea). This species is described on the page Plants: Flora of the Alps and the Pyrenees.

 

Gentiana capitata
Almost all Himalayan gentians bloom late in the summer or in autumn, but a few are flowering in spring, including this small, prostrate plant, which is easily identified by its short, usually unbranched stem, to 10 cm tall, with pale green or purplish-green, broadly ovate leaves, to 8 mm long, clustered beneath a terminal head of tubular, pale blue or white flowers with few black dots, tube to 1.1 cm long, lobes broadly ovate, to 1.2 mm long, rounded, lobules slightly shorter, with a few teeth. Calyx broadly ovate, pointed, with transparent edges.

Distributed from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar and south-estern Tibet, at elevations between 1,500 and 4,500 m. In Nepal, juice of the plant is taken for fever, a paste of the plant for headache.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘having a head’, referring to the dense inflorescence.

 

Flower size and colour Corolla pale blue or white with few black dots, tube to 1.1 cm long.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, forest edges, meadows.
Flowering Dec.-Apr.

 

 

Gentiana capitata, Ulleri, Annapurna (top), and Nagonde, Helambu, both in central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gentiana depressa
A low, tufted plant, to 6 cm tall, with spreading stems to 15 cm long, stem leaves short-stalked, broadly oblong to ovate, to 1.5 cm long and 9 mm broad, with a rounded tip, crowded beneath the solitary flowers. Corolla tube bell-shaped, to 3 cm long, greenish-white or yellowish with purple longitudinal streaks outside, and numerous dark green or purplish dots inside, lobes bright blue, to 7 mm long, pointed or rounded, alternating with pale blue or purplish, slightly smaller lobules.

It grows on open slopes at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,500 m, from central Nepal eastwards to Sikkim and south-eastern Tibet.

The specific name presumably alludes to the dense cluster of leaves near the ground.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 6 cm.
Habitat Open slopes, among rocks.
Flowering Aug.-Nov.

 

 

Gentiana depressa, Upper Langtang Valley (top), and Bratang (2800 m), Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, both in central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gentiana elwesii
Stem green or purple, to 20 cm tall, branched above, flowers urn-shaped, to 2.5 cm long, blue or bluish-purple, often with a white base, borne in 3-8-flowered clusters. Leaves short-stalked, oblong to elliptic, to 2 cm long and 8 mm wide, margin entire, sometimes hairy, tip blunt. Lower leaves are widely spaced, upper leaves crowded, surrounding the flower cluster.

This plant is found from Nepal eastwards to Arunachal Pradesh and south-eastern Tibet, growing at altitudes between 4,000 and 4,200 m.

It was named for British naturalist and explorer Henry John Elwes (1846-1922), who collected many plants, especially lilies, during trips to the Himalaya and Korea. He was among the first persons to receive the Victoria Medal of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1897.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, blue or bluish-purple, often with a white base.
Height to 20 cm.
Habitat Open slopes.
Flowering Sep.

 

 

Gentiana elwesii, Tawang area, Arunachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Ajai Saxena)

 

 

 

Gentiana leucomelaena Blue-dotted gentian
A small plant, often mat-forming, stems to 10 cm tall, branched from the base, spreading or ascending. Leaves are ovate or elliptic, to 8 mm long and 3 mm broad. Flowers are bell-shaped, to 1.3 cm across, blue when in bud, white or pale blue when opened, with numerous dark blue spots near the base and in the throat, which is sometimes yellow. Lobes are ovate, to 3 mm long, lobules slightly smaller, with several teeth.

This species is found between 1,900 and 5,000 m altitude, from Kazakhstan, Xinjiang, southern Russia, and Mongolia southwards to Pakistan, Ladakh, Nepal, and Sikkim. It is quite common in Ladakh.

The specific name is derived from Ancient Greek leukos (‘white’) and melaina (‘black’), presumably alluding to the dotted white petals. However, the dots are not black, but dark blue.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Grasslands, along streams.
Flowering May-Oct.

 

 

Gentiana leucomelaena, Tso Kar, Ladakh (top), and Lossar, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gentiana ornata
Stem ascending, to 7 cm tall. Basal leaves in a rosette, blade linear, to 3.5 cm long and 4 mm wide. Stem leaves elliptic to ovate, upper linear, to 1.5 cm long and 2.5 mm broad, uppermost surrounding the calyx. Flowers solitary, terminal, stalkless, to 4 cm long, sky-blue or pale blue, lower two-thirds of tube white or yellowish with dark blue or purple longitudinal streaks, lobes broadly triangular, to 3.5 mm long, tip blunt, lobules smaller, ragged at the tip.

As its specific name implies, this is a very pretty plant, and in autumn it adds a lovely blue hue to the otherwise rather drab landscape at this time of the year. It is very common at altitudes between 3,400 and 5,500 m, from central Nepal eastwards to Arunachal Pradesh and south-eastern Tibet.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 7 cm.
Habitat Open grasslands.
Flowering Aug.-Nov.

 

 

Gentiana ornata, Ngegang Kharka (4200 m), Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

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

 

 

 

Gentiana pedicellata
A tiny, often mat-forming plant. Stems are to 10 cm long, creeping or ascending, branched above. Leaves linear, lanceolate, or narrowly elliptic, to 2 cm long and 6 mm wide. Flowers to 8 mm long, pale yellow-green outside, blue or bluish-purple inside, lobes triangular, pointed, lobules a little shorter and more rounded.

This plant is very common on grazing grounds and in forest clearings in the entire Himalaya, at altitudes from 750 to 3,800 m, and is also distributed in south-western China, South India, and Sri Lanka. In Nepal, tender parts are cooked as a vegetable, and juice of the plant is taken to expel intestinal worms.

The specific name stems from the Latin pedis, genitive of pes (‘foot’), in botanical context referring to the flower stalk, and atus (‘having’), thus ‘with long flower stalks’.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 8 cm, but usually lower.
Habitat Grasslands, forest clearings.
Flowering Jan.-Jul.

 

 

Gentiana pedicellata, Shyabru (top), and Khanjim, both in Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gentianella Dwarf gentian
About 250 species, distributed in Eurasia, northern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the Americas. About 4 species are found in the Himalaya.

Members of this genus were previously placed in the genus Gentiana, but differ in the flowers, which often have tufts of narrow lobes or hairs in the throat, and no lobules between the corolla-lobes.

 

Gentianella moorcroftiana
Stem erect, branched from base, to 20 cm tall. Leaves stalkless, to 3 cm long and 5 mm wide, tip pointed or slightly rounded. Flowers are axillary or terminal, solitary or a few together, sepals linear, pointed, to 1.5 cm long, corolla funnel-shaped, to 1.5 cm long, dark blue or pale blue, with darker blue streaks towards the base, throat yellowish, lobes oblong, to 3.5 mm long, tip rounded.

This species is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to central Nepal, at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,800 m. It is very common in Lahaul and Ladakh. In Nepal, an infusion is applied to the forehead to relieve fever. It is also used for bile and liver problems.

The specific name was given in honour of British veterinary surgeon and botanist William Moorcroft (1765-1825), who explored several areas in the Himalaya and Central Asia. He was the first European to make botanical collections in western Tibet and Kashmir.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 20 cm.
Habitat Open areas, streamsides, meadows.
Flowering Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Gentianella moorcroftiana, near Darchu, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. A species of Euphrasia is also seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Gentianella moorcroftiana, near Lake Deepak Tal (3800 m), Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gentianopsis Fringed gentian
About 24 species of herbs, distributed in Eurasia and North America. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

Members of this genus were previously placed in the genus Gentiana, but differ in the flowers, whose petals are more or less fringed with hairs or pointed lobes.

 

Gentianopsis paludosa
A tall and slender plant, to 40 cm high, most leaves basal, spatulate, to 3 cm long and 9 mm broad, stem leaves 1-4 pairs, stalkless, lanceolate to oblong, to 5.5 cm long and 1.4 cm wide, base rounded, tip pointed. The flower-stalk is erect, to 30 cm long, to 40 cm in fruit. Calyx funnel-shaped, to 3.5 cm long, lobes variable, pointed, outer narrowly triangular, to 1.2 cm long, inner ovate, to 1 cm long, margin membranous, midvein keeled. Corolla broadly tubular, to 6.5 cm long, sky-blue or pale blue with pale yellow base, entire corolla sometimes yellowish-white or yellow, lobes broadly oblong, to 1.7 cm long, tip rounded, margin weekly fringed towards the base.

This plant is distributed from northern Tibet and Inner Mongolia southwards through Tibet and western China to Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and the Yunnan Province. In the Himalaya, it grows at elevations between 3,000 and 4,900 m. It is common in Ladakh. A paste of the root is applied to wounds, and to the forehead to relieve headache. Other parts are used for bile and liver disorders, and fever.

The specific name is derived from the Latin palus (‘swamp’, ‘marsh’) and osus (‘full of’), thus ‘fond of marshes’.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, grasslands, in dry country only.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Gentianopsis paludosa, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Halenia Spurred gentian
This genus with about 100 species is mainly American, with a few species in Asia and Europe, of which one is found in the Himalaya.

The generic name honours Swedish physician Jonas Petri Halenius (1727-1810), who was a pupil of the famous Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778).

 

Halenia elliptica
This species is easily identified by its pale blue flowers, which have four spurs, projecting backwards. It is an erect, hairless plant, simple or branched, sometimes growing to 90 cm tall, but usually much lower. The stem is 4-angled, sometimes narrowly winged. Basal leaves short-stalked, spatulate to elliptic, to 3 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, stem leaves opposite, very variable, oblong, elliptic, lanceolate, or ovate, to 7 cm long and 3.5 cm broad, tip of all leaves pointed or rounded. Flowers few together, axillary or terminal, corolla bell-shaped, pale blue to purple, to 2.5 cm long and 8 mm across, lobes elliptic or ovate, spurs about 1 cm long.

This plant is widely distributed, found in central and western Asia, eastwards to China and Myanmar. It is quite common in the entire Himalaya, at elevations between 1,800 and 4,500 m. In Nepal, juice of the plant is taken for fever.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 90 cm, but usually much lower.
Habitat Forest edges, open slopes, meadows.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Halenia elliptica, Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Halenia elliptica, Solang Nallah, near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lomatogonium Marsh felwort
A genus with 18 species of herbs, found in temperate areas of Asia, Europe, and North America. About 8 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is Greek, referring to the fringed margin of the ovary, formed by the stigma.

 

Lomatogonium carinthiacum
Stem erect or ascending, branched from below, to 30 cm tall, but usually much lower. Basal leaves are short-stalked, spatulate, tip rounded, stem leaves stalkless, lanceolate, elliptic, or ovate, all leaves to 2 cm long and 8 mm broad. Inflorescences are in long-stalked, lax, terminal or axillary clusters, sepals elliptic, ovate, or rarely lanceolate, to 8 mm long and 2.5 mm wide, tip pointed or obtuse. Corolla about 2 cm across, with a very short tube and 5 spreading, elliptic or ovate, pointed lobes, to 1.5 cm long, pale blue with darker blue or green veins, and fringed nectaries at the base.

This species is very widely distributed, from Europe eastwards across western, northern, and central Asia to Japan. In the Himalaya, it is found at altitudes between 3,000 and 5,400 m.

The specific name refers to the Austrian state Carinthia. Presumably, the type specimen was collected there.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 30 cm, but usually much lower.
Habitat Shrubberies, grasslands, open slopes.
Flowering Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Lomatogonium carinthiacum, Langshisha (4000 m), Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. A leaf of Potentilla argyrophylla (Rosaceae) is also seen. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Swertia Felwort, columbo
A large genus, comprising about 150 species, found almost worldwide, mainly in Asia and Africa, with few species in North America and Europe. Most species have small, but very ornate flowers, usually with 5 corolla lobes, often adorned with beautiful, intricate patterns and brightly coloured nectaries. About 28 species occur in the Himalaya, the majority growing in humid places.

The generic name was given in honour of Dutch painter and nurseryman Emanuel Sweert (1552-1612). In 1612, he published Florilegium Amplissimum et Selectissimum, a work depicting about 560 bulbs and flowers.

 

Swertia angustifolia Narrow-leaved felwort
This plant may be identified by its long, narrow leaves, and by having only 4 corolla lobes, which are white, pale blue, or pale yellow, with tiny purple spots, and a large green nectary near the base. The stem is erect, to 80 cm tall, but usually much lower, branched, 4-angled with narrow wings. Leaves are sessile, lanceolate or narrowly elliptic, to 6 cm long and 1.2 cm broad, with 1-3 veins. Inflorescences are in spreading, branched, many-flowered clusters, flowers to 9 mm across, tube 1-2 mm, lobes to 6.5 mm long, tip pointed.

It grows from subtropical valleys up to an altitude of 3,300 m, from Pakistan eastwards to China and northern Vietnam. It is very common in the Himalaya. In Nepal, juice of the root is taken for fever.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘having narrow leaves’.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 80 cm, but usually much lower.
Habitat Shrubberies, grazing grounds.
Flowering Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Swertia angustifolia, Ngadi (900 m), Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Swertia ciliata
The flowers of this plant are very spectacular, having 5 ovate, bluish-white or purplish corolla lobes, abruptly tapering to a long point, with a purple band surrounding the green nectaries at the base, and densely clustered, purple filaments with yellow tips. The stem is erect, to 50 cm tall, branched, 4-angled. Leaves are sessile or short-stalked, lanceolate or narrowly ovate, to 4.5 cm long and 2 cm wide, with 3-5 veins, tip pointed, margin slightly wavy. Inflorescences are in spreading, branched, many-flowered clusters, flowers stalked, to 1.2 cm across.

This species is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to Sikkim, growing at altitudes between 2,500 and 3,700 m.

The Latin name means ‘hairy’. What it alludes to is not clear.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 50 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Swertia ciliata, Solang Nallah Valley, near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Swertia cordata Heart-leaved felwort
The stem of this plant is erect, to 50 cm tall, branched, 4-angled, narrowly winged. Basal leaves soon wither, stem leaves are stalkless, broadly heart-shaped, pointed, to 2.3 cm long and 1.2 cm broad, with 3-5 veins. Inflorescences are dense, many-flowered clusters, to 40 cm long. Corolla is yellowish-white, to 1.5 cm across, the 5 narrowly elliptic lobes pointed, to 1 cm long, with many purple markings along the margin, and yellow nectaries at the base.

It is widely distributed, from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar and the Yunnan Province, growing between 1,700 and 4,000 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘heart-shaped’, referring to the leaves.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 50 cm.
Habitat Grasslands, open slopes.
Flowering Sep.-Oct.

 

 

Swertia cordata, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Swertia cordata, Solang Nallah, near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. Obviously, ants are fond of the nectar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Swertia cuneata
Stem erect, unbranched, to 30 cm tall, leaves mostly basal, spatulate to obovate, to 3.5 cm long and 1.2 cm broad, base gradually merging into the winged leaf-stalk, which is up to 3 cm long. Middle to upper stem leaves 2-3 pairs, sessile or short-stalked, narrowly elliptic, to 5.5 cm long and 1.1 cm wide, with 3-5 veins. Inflorescences in 5-7-flowered, raceme-like, lax clusters. Corolla to 3 cm across, tube very short, to 2 mm, lobes pale blue with dark-blue veins. 2 linear nectaries per corolla lobe, very small, often surrounded by numerous fuzzy, purplish-blue hairs.

This plant is distributed at elevations between 3,600 and 5,000 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Bhutan.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘wedge-shaped’, perhaps referring to the petals.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Open slopes, meadows.
Flowering Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Swertia cuneata, Ngegang Kharka (4200 m), Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. A species of pinkweed, Bistorta vacciniifolia, is also seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Swertia hookeri
A most striking plant, with a stout, hollow, angular stem to 1 m tall and to 3 cm in diameter. Leaves mostly basal, short-stalked, broadly spatulate or oblong, to 20 cm long and 5 cm broad, tip rounded. Stem leaves are in whorls of 3-6, sessile or short-stalked, broadly spatulate or oblong, to 12 cm long and 3 cm wide, tip pointed, margin slightly wavy. The many-flowered inflorescences are in stalked clusters above each whorl of leaves. Corolla bell-shaped, to 2.5 cm across, with 4 oblong lobes, variously coloured, yellow, purplish, or pale blue, with maroon or dark-blue veins, to 1.8 cm long and 1.1 cm wide, tip rounded. One round nectary per corolla lobe, naked.

This species has a rather limited distribution, from eastern Nepal eastwards to Arunachal Pradesh and south-eastern Tibet, at elevations between 3,600 and 4,300 m.

The specific name honours British botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911), who described numerous new plant species in the eastern Himalaya (see Rhododendron dalhousiae, Himalayan flora 1).

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Grasslands, shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Swertia hookeri, between Lachen and Thangu, western Sikkim (top), and between Tawang and Bum La, western Arunachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Ajai Saxena)

 

 

 

Swertia paniculata
Stem slender, erect, branched, to 1.2 m tall. Basal leaves soon wither, stem leaves nearly stalkless, narrowly lanceolate, to 5 cm long and 1.4 cm wide, margin fringed with tiny hairs. Inflorescences are many-flowered, spreading clusters, flower-stalks erect, to 1.5 cm long. Corolla tube very small, to 1.5 mm long, with 5 gorgeous, spreading, broadly ovate, pointed lobes, to 8 mm long, which are white, yellowish-white, yellowish-green, or purplish-white, with 2 bright green spots and a narrow purple band above each nectary.

This species grows at elevations between 2,800 and 3,300 m, from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar and the Yunnan Province. Parts of the plant are used for treatment of malaria and other types of fever, and a decoction is drunk as a tonic.

The specific name alludes to the inflorescences, which are arranged in panicles.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Swertia paniculata, Danakju, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Swertia petiolata
The stem is erect, sometimes to 60 cm tall, but usually lower. Basal leaves long-stalked, obovate, oblong, or broadly spatulate, to 15 cm long and 3 cm broad, stem leaves smaller. Flowers are borne in a lax, terminal, spike-like cluster. Corolla to 2 cm across, tube short, to 2 mm, with 5 spreading lobes, elliptic or oblong, yellowish-white or bluish-white, with dark-green veins, to 1.2 cm long and 3 mm wide, tip rounded, margin somewhat in-rolled. 2 greenish nectaries per lobe, encircled by a narrow green band and with numerous fuzzy hairs.

This plant is found at elevations between 2,500 and 5,500 m, from Afghanistan eastwards to western Nepal. It is common in Kashmir. Medicinally, it is utilized for bile and liver disorders, and for fever. In Pakistan, the root is used for eye diseases.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘having a leaf-stalk’.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 60 cm, but usually lower.
Habitat Grasslands, open slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Swertia petiolata, Rohtang La Pass, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of a flower, Kilanmarg, Kashmir. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Tripterospermum
A genus with about 25 species of herbaceous climbers, native to eastern and tropical Asia. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek tri (‘three’), pteron (‘wing’), and sperma (‘seed’), thus ‘the one whose seeds have three wings’.

 

Tripterospermum volubile
A climber with brown, slender, twining stems, several metres long. Leaves are short-stalked, ovate or lanceolate, to 9 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, pointed, margin wavy. Flowers are solitary or 2 together in the leaf axils. Calyx tubular, tube to 1 cm long, with lanceolate lobes of varying length, 0.7-1.3 cm. Corolla tubular, to 3 cm long, white with 5 broad, longitudinal, brown or reddish stripes, and with 5 ovate-triangular, pointed lobes, to 4 mm long, and 5 tiny, toothed lobules.

This plant is distributed from central Nepal eastwards to Myanmar and south-eastern Tibet, at elevations between 2,000 and 3,200 m.

The specific name is derived from the Latin volvo (‘I turn around’), alluding to its twining stems.

 

Flower size and colour To 3 cm long, white with 5 broad, longitudinal, brown or reddish stripes.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Aug.-Sep.

 

 

Tripterospermum volubile, Chipling, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Geraniaceae Cranesbill family
A family with 5-7 genera and 800-830 species of herbs, rarely shrubs, widely distributed in temperate regions, in subtropical and tropical areas restricted to mountains. 2 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Geranium Cranesbill
A large genus with about 380 species of herbs, mainly distributed in temperate areas, in the subtropics and tropics restricted to mountains. About 18 species occur in the Himalaya.

Stipules are often distinct on these plants. After flowering, the style forms a long, straight or up-curved beak, which separates into 5 elastic spring-like coils, each containing a single seed that is expelled, usually when the style is touched.

The generic name is derived from the Greek geranos (‘crane’), alluding to the fruit, whose shape resembles a crane’s bill.

 

Geranium himalayense Himalayan cranesbill
This plant, also known as G. grandiflorum, is found from Afghanistan eastwards to central Nepal, growing between 2,100 and 4,400 m altitude.

The stem is ascending, sometimes erect, downy, to 30 cm tall. The opposite leaves are to 5 cm long, with a stalk to 23 cm long on lower leaves, whereas upper leaves are smaller and stalkless. Stipules are distinct, lanceolate, to 9 mm long. Leaf-blade to 5 cm across, deeply cut into 5 rhombic-ovate lobes, which are again deeply cut. Flowers solitary or in pairs, 4-5 cm across, petals usually deep blue, sometimes purplish-blue or white, to 3 cm long, tip rounded. Flower-stalk to 14 cm long, glandular-hairy. Stigma pink to purplish. Ripe fruit to 4.7 cm long, reflexed when young.

This species is quite similar to meadow cranesbill (G. pratense, below), which grows in drier areas of the Himalaya. As a rule, Himalayan cranesbill is a larger plant, with petals up to 3 cm long, versus 2 cm in meadow cranesbill. Its fruits are also larger, to almost 5 cm long, versus c. 3.5 cm in meadow cranesbill. The leaves of Himalayan cranesbill have 5, sometimes overlapping segments, versus 5-7 in meadow cranesbill, and the leaf-stalks are relatively shorter. Himalayan cranesbill grows in wetter areas than meadow cranesbill.

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 3 cm long, deep blue, sometimes purplish-blue or white.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Open forests, meadows, in wetter areas only.
Flowering May-Aug.
Fruiting Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Nepal 2009
This picture shows the rear side of a flower of Geranium himalayense, 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 nepalense
Stems 1-4, slender, trailing or ascending, hairy, to 70 cm long, but usually shorter, sometimes rooting at the nodes. Stipules are distinct, lanceolate. Leaves are opposite, long-stalked, blade to 3.5 cm long and 6 cm wide, deeply cleft into 5-7 lobes, which are again 6-12-lobed. Flower-stalk to 8 cm long, flowers single or in pairs, to 6 mm across, petals 5, white or pinkish with violet longitudinal streaks, spreading, hairy, to 6 mm long, tip rounded or slightly notched. Filaments are whitish, anthers violet, stigma reddish. The fruit is to 1.8 cm long, erect when young.

This plant is very widely distributed, from Afghanistan eastwards to southern China and northern Vietnam, and also in montane areas of southern India, Sri Lanka, and northern Sumatra. In the Himalaya, it is quite common, found at elevations between 1,000 and 4,000 m. The fruit is edible. The root contains tannin. In Nepal, the plant is utilized medicinally for kidney trouble.

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 6 mm long, white or pinkish, streaked violet.
Height/length to 70 cm, but usually shorter.
Habitat Forest margins, shrubberies, streamsides.
Flowering Mar.-Sep.
Fruiting May-Nov.

 

 

Geranium nepalense, Shyabru, Langtang National Park, central Nepal (top), and near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Geranium ocellatum
The flowers of this species are very distinct, solitary or in pairs, to 2 cm across, stalked or stalkless, petals to 7.5 mm long, dark pink or purplish with a black, sharply defined centre, forming a pentagon, margin hairy near the base, tip rounded, filaments white, anthers and stigma purplish. The sepals are broad, pointed, to 7 mm long, glandular-hairy. The fruit is to 1.7 cm long, erect when young.

The stems are slender, erect or ascending, to 35 cm long, downy or glandular-hairy. Stipules distinct, lanceolate, hairy. Leaves are opposite, very variable, sometimes rounded in outline, to 6 cm across, palmately cleft, 5-7-lobed, the 2 outer smaller, lobes again divided into 3-19 segments.

This plant is very widely distributed, from northern Africa and the Middle East eastwards to Afghanistan, the Himalaya, and western China. In the Himalaya, it is found at elevations between 900 and 3,000 m. The plant is astringent and diuretic. In Nepal, the juice is used to treat amoebic dysentery.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘having small eyes’, alluding to the black centre of the flower.

The flowers are quite similar to those of G. procurrens (below), but smaller, to 2 cm across, and the dark centre is sharply defined, versus a diffuse black centre in G. procurrens. Also, it blooms in spring, versus during the monsoon in G. procurrens.

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 7.5 mm long, dark pink or purplish with a black centre.
Height to 35 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, grasslands.
Flowering Jan.-Apr.
Fruiting Mar.-May.

 

 

Geranium ocellatum, Bhatwari, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Geranium polyanthes
Stem erect, to 60 cm tall, but usually much lower, almost hairless. Stipules distinct, ovate, fused. Leaves alternate, opposite at inflorescences, stalked, rounded in outline, to 5.5 cm across, deeply cleft with 5-9 lobes, which are again divided into 3-9 blunt segments. Inflorescences are in dense umbel-like clusters, 2-3-flowered, flowers to 4 cm across. The sepals are to 8 mm long, covered in soft, spreading, glandular hairs. Petals are red, reddish-purple, or pinkish, to 1.4 cm long, margin hairy at the base, tip rounded. Filaments are white, anthers yellow, stigma pinkish. The fruit is to 2.1 cm long, erect when young.

This plant is found at elevations between 2,400 and 4,500 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Bhutan and south-western China.

The specific name is derived from Ancient Greek polys (‘many’) and anthos (‘flower’).

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 1.4 cm long, red, reddish-purple, or pinkish.
Height to 60 cm, but usually much lower.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.
Fruiting Aug.-Nov.

 

 

Geranium polyanthes with raindrops, Cholang Pati, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Geranium polyanthes, Magingoth, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Geranium pratense Meadow cranesbill
This pretty plant has dense clusters of usually blue or bluish-purple flowers, although they may sometimes be red or white. It is very similar to Himalayan cranesbill (G. himalayense, above), but stems are erect, the flowers are smaller and in dense clusters, the petals shorter, to 2 cm long, and the ripe fruit shorter, to 3.5 cm long.

This species is widely distributed, found from Europe across Siberia to Mongolia, and thence southwards to Afghanistan, Ladakh, and central Nepal. In the Himalaya, it grows in drier areas at altitudes between 1,400 and 4,500 m. It is common in northern Himachal Pradesh. In Nepal, an extract of the leaves is used for fever, pneumonia, swelling of limbs, dysentery, and diarrhoea.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘growing in meadows’.

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 2 cm long, blue or bluish-purple, sometimes red or white.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, grasslands, along irrigation channels, in drier areas only.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.
Fruiting Jul.-Sep.

 

 

In these pictures, Geranium pratense grows along a stone fence near Lossar, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. The yellow flower is a species of goat’s-beard, Tragopogon gracilis (Asteraceae). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Geranium procurrens
Stems to 2 m long, branched, ascending, scrambling, or pendent from banks. Leaf-blade to 6 cm across, cut three-quarters into 5 rhombic lobes, which are again cut into blunt or pointed segments. Stipules free, to 9 mm long. Flowers are to 4 cm across, arranged in umbel-like clusters, flower-stalk densely glandular-hairy, sepals to 8 mm long, covered in soft, spreading, glandular hairs, petals reddish-purple with a diffuse black centre.

This species is found from Uttarakhand eastwards to Arunachal Pradesh, at elevations between 2,100 and 3,500 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘running’, referring to the long, scrambling stems.

The flowers are quite similar to those of G. ocellatum (above), but are larger, to 4 cm across, and the dark centre is diffuse, versus a sharply defined black centre, forming a pentagon, in G. ocellatum. Also, it blooms during the monsoon, versus in spring in G. ocellatum.

 

Flower size and colour To 4 cm across, petals reddish-purple with a diffuse black centre.
Length to 2 m.
Habitat Shrubberies.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.
Fruiting Aug.-Nov.

 

 

Geranium procurrens, pendent from a bank, Shermatang (2500 m), Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Geranium procurrens, scrambling over a fern, Ghangyul (2500 m), Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

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

 

 

 

Geranium refractum
This plant is readily identified by its nodding flowers with reflexed petals and sepals. The stem is erect, to 50 cm tall, but usually lower. Stipules fused, ovate or oblong. Leaves opposite, to 6.8 cm across, deeply cleft into 5-7 rhombic lobes, which are again deeply cut into 6-18 segments. Flower-stalk long, glandular-hairy, flowers in pairs, nodding, to 4 cm across, sepals reflexed, to 1.1 cm long, downy, petals reflexed, white or pinkish with purple veins, to 2 cm long, stamens and style protruding, filaments reddish-purple to pink, anthers blackish, stigma pale pink to purplish. The fruit is to 3 cm long, nodding when young.

Found at elevations between 1,800 and 4,800 m, from central Nepal eastwards to Myanmar and south-western China. In Nepal, juice of the root is applied to wounds, a paste of the plant to boils.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘breaking up’. What it refers to is not clear.

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 2 cm long, white or pinkish with purple veins.
Height to 50 cm, but usually lower.
Habitat Shrubberies, grasslands, open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.
Fruiting Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Geranium refractum, Langshisha (4000 m), Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Geranium wallichianum
The stipules of this plant are very distinct, often reddish, broadly ovate, to 2 cm long and 1.2 cm broad. The stem is ascending, branched, to 1.2 m tall, but usually much lower. Leaves are opposite, with a stalk to 12 cm long. Leaf-blade to 11 cm across, cut into 3-5 rhombic-ovate and pointed lobes, which are again cut into toothed segments. Flower-stalk to 9 cm long, glandular-hairy. Flowers are in pairs, to 4 cm across, petals deep pink, purplish, or blue, with a whitish centre, or sometimes the entire flower is white, petals to 2 cm long. The ripe fruit is to 4 cm long, erect when young.

It is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to Bhutan and south-eastern Tibet, at altitudes between 1,600 and 4,200 m. In Nepal, the plant is cut for fodder. The root is taken for peptic ulcer. Juice of the plant is utilized to stop bleeding, and a paste of it is applied to aching joints.

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 size and colour Petals to 2 cm long, deep pink, purplish, or blue, whitish near centre, or sometimes entirely white.
Height to 1.2 m, but usually much lower.
Habitat Shady forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.
Fruiting Aug.-Nov.

 

 

Geranium wallichianum with rain drops, Ghora Tabela (3000 m), Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. The plants with white flowerheads are a species of pearly everlasting (Anaphalis, Asteraceae). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gesneriaceae Gloxinia family
An almost worldwide family with about 150 genera and c. 3,200 species of herbs, shrubs, or climbers, rarely trees. 11 genera occur in the Himalaya.

The family name commemorates Swiss physician, naturalist, and philologist Conrad Gessner (1516-1565).

 

 

Un unidentified member of Gesneriaceae, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Aeschynanthus
Members of this genus, comprising about 150 species, are epiphytes, growing on trees or rocks. Many species have gorgeous red flowers. These plants are distributed in warmer parts of Asia, from India and southern China southwards to Indonesia and New Guinea, and some Pacific islands. About 12 species are found in the Himalaya, restricted to the wet eastern part.

The generic name is probably derived from Ancient Greek aischyne (‘shame’) and anthos (‘flower’), alluding to the usually red corolla.

 

Aeschynanthus parviflorus
This epiphytic shrub, to 2 m long, has long, hanging branches and opposite, thick, leathery, lanceolate, long-pointed leaves, to 12 cm long, margin entire. Flowers are borne in dense clusters at the end of branches, corolla tubular, curved, to 3 cm long, crimson with short, black, longitudinal streaks towards the tip. Style and stamens are protruding from the flower, style white with a reddish-purple stigma, filaments and anthers usually reddish-purple, filaments sometimes white. The capsule is linear, to50 cm long, containing seeds with very long hairs.

This plant, previously known as A. sikkimensis, has a rather limited distribution, from eastern Nepal eastwards to Bhutan, at altitudes between 1,200 and 2,100 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘small-flowered’.

 

Flower size and colour To 3 cm long, crimson with short, black, longitudinal streaks towards the tip.
Length to 2 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, rocks.
Flowering May-Jun.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Aeschynanthus parviflorus, growing on a rock near Chiruwa, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Chirita, see Henckelia.

 

 

 

Corallodiscus
About 6 species, found in the Himalaya, southern China, and northen Indochina. About 3 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from the Greek korallion (‘coral’) and diskos (‘disc’), alluding to the coral-red nectary in many of the species.

 

Corallodiscus lanuginosus
A highly variable plant, distributed from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to northern Thailand and western China. In the Himalaya, it grows at elevations between 1,000 and 2,400 m. It is common in Nepal, where juice of the plant is used for measles.

A lax cluster of flowers rise directly from the rootstock, amidst a very dense rosette of wrinkled, elliptic, rhombic, ovate, or oblong leaves, hairy or hairless above, white- or brownish-woolly below, to 5 cm long and 3 cm wide, veins prominent, margin entire or toothed, tip pointed or rounded. Inflorescences are few- to many-flowered, flower-stalks to 17 cm long, rusty-hairy when young, later smooth. The corolla is tubular, to 1.5 cm long and 5.5 mm wide, blue, purple, white, or yellow, or a combination, lower lip, to 5 mm long, often with brownish spots inside.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘woolly’, alluding to the underside of the leaves.

This plant may constitute several species.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.5 cm long and 5.5 mm wide, blue, purple, white, or yellow, or a combination.
Height to 17 cm, but often lower.
Habitat Rocks in forests.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Corallodiscus lanuginosus, Changdam, Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Corallodiscus lanuginosus, near Chiruwa, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Corallodiscus lanuginosus, Rimche, Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Didymocarpus
About 100 species, distributed from India eastwards to southern China, and thence southwards through Indochina and Malaysia to northern Sumatra. About 12 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from the Greek didymos (‘twin’) and karpos (‘fruit’), referring to the two valves of the capsule.

Some members of the genus are known for their medicinal properties, especially the ability to cure kidney problems.

 

Didymocarpus aromaticus
Stem to 30 cm tall, but usually much lower. Leaves mostly opposite, short-stalked, ovate or elliptic, rarely triangular, to 10 cm long and 5 cm wide, thin and papery, sometimes with yellow glandular hairs above and below, 4-5 pairs of veins, margin irregular toothed. Terminal clusters of 2-5 stalked flowers, with short glandular hairs. Calyx dark purple, with 5 pointed, triangular lobes, to 3 mm long, margin entire. Corolla tubular, dark chocolate-coloured, purplish-red, or pink, to 1.6 cm long, lower lip to 5.5 mm long, upper lip to 2.2 mm.

This plant grows at elevations between 1,600 and 3,000 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar and south-eastern Tibet.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.6 cm long, dark chocolate-coloured, purplish-red, or pink.
Height to 30 cm, but usually much lower.
Habitat Grassy slopes, rocks.
Flowering Aug.

 

 

Didymocarpus aromaticus, Changdam, Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Didymocarpus oblongus
Easily identified by the terminal, branched cluster of few to several flowers, corolla pinkish-purple, tube cylindric, to 1 cm long, with 4-5 spreading, rounded lobes, 3 larger lower ones, upper 1-2 smaller, and by the pinkish-white calyx, to 5 mm long, which is bell-shaped, hairless, with rounded lobes. The leaves are also distinctive, strongly wrinkled, oblong or elliptic, to 10 cm long and 5 cm wide, with 7-10 pairs of nerves, margin irregularly toothed. They may be crowded at the tip of the hairy stem, or arranged up the stem.

This plant grows between 1,000 and 3,000 m altitude, from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to Arunachal Pradesh.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘inverted longish’, alluding to the leaves, which are often broadest above the middle.

 

Flower size and colour To 1 cm long, pinkish-purple.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Shady rocks in forests.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Everest 2010a
Didymocarpus oblongus, Solu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Didymocarpus primulifolius
Much like D. oblongus, but the dark purple corolla is larger, tube to 1.9 cm long, and the pink calyx is also a little bit larger, to 6 mm long. The broadly ovate, toothed, wrinkled leaves, to 8 cm long and 6.5 cm wide, are crowded at the tip of the sparsely hairy stem. They are sparsely covered above in yellow glandular hairs, and often also below. Inflorescence stalked, 6-15-flowered, lower lip of corolla to 8 mm long, upper lip to 1.6 mm.

This species is found at elevations between 1,900 and 3,200 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Sikkim and south-eastern Tibet.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘with leaves like Primula’ (primroses). Some species in this genus have strongly wrinkled leaves.

 

Flower size and colour Corolla to 1.9 cm long, dark purple, calyx to 6 mm long, pink.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Rocks in forests, sometimes epiphytic.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Didymocarpus primulifolius, Riverside, Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Didymocarpus primulifolius, Kuldi Ghar, Upper Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Henckelia
About 60 species, of which many were previously placed in the genera Chirita (today obsolete) and Didymocarpus. These plants are distributed in the eastern Himalaya, South India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, and southern China. About 15 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name was applied in honour of a German administrator, Count Leo Henckel von Donnersmark (1785-1861), who was a keen botanist.

 

Henckelia pumila
This species, previously known as Chirita pumila, sometimes grows to 50 cm tall, but is usually much lower. Stem erect, sometimes branched, with stiff hairs. Leaves 6-8, opposite, widely spaced, short-stalked, lanceolate, ovate, or elliptic, toothed, to 17 cm long and 6 cm broad, sparsely hairy, often with purple spots beneath, tip pointed, veins 6-9 pairs, conspicuous. Flowers may be single, or up to 7 together, stalked, calyx tubular, to 1.8 cm long, with 5 recurved, pointed lobes, densely covered in yellow or white hairs, corolla drooping, funnel-shaped, to 4.5 cm long, white or purple, with yellow streaks in the throat, densely hairy on the outside, with 5 spreading lobes, lower 3 to 1.5 cm long, upper 2 to 1 cm. The capsule is large, to 12 cm long.

This plant is distributed from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to northern Indochina and south-western China, found at elevations between 800 and 2,800 m.

The specific name is derived from the Latin pumilio (‘dwarf’).

 

Flower size and colour To 4.5 cm long, white or purple with yellow streaks in the throat.
Height to 50 cm, but usually much lower.
Habitat Rocks, shady banks, along streams.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Henckelia pumila, Pairo, Lower Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Henckelia urticifolia
This pretty plant, formerly known as Chirita urticifolia, grows in humid forests and shrubberies at altitudes between 1,000 and 2,400 m, distributed from western Nepal eastwards to Myanmar and the Yunnan Province. In Nepal, it is cut for fodder.

The stem is erect, unbranched, to 80 cm tall, but usually much lower, sparsely downy-hairy. The leaves are widely spaced, stalked, elliptic, rarely ovate or obovate, to 15 cm long and 8 cm broad, margin toothed, tip pointed, veins 5-10 pairs, conspicuous. Flowers single or in pairs, stalked, calyx to 3.5 cm long, with 5 lanceolate lobes, to 2 cm long, bristly-hairy, corolla funnel-shaped, to 6 cm long, pink or reddish-purple, with yellow markings in the throat, with 5 lobes, upper one very broad and to 1.5 cm long, lower 2 to 2.2 cm. The capsule is large, to 15 cm long.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘with leaves like Urtica’ (nettles).

 

Flower size and colour To 6 cm long, pink or reddish-purple, with yellow markings in the throat.
Height to 80 cm, but usually much lower.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, wet rocks.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Nepal 2009
Henckelia urticifolia, encountered below the Burlung Bhanjyang Pass, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Platystemma violoides
This is the sole member of the genus, growing on shady rocks in forests, at elevations between 1,500 and 3,400 m, from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to Bhutan and south-eastern Tibet.

It is easily identified by the solitary, broadly ovate, toothed leaf, to 8 cm across, which encircles the long and slender flower-stalk, to 15 cm tall, with a single or few terminal, funnel-shaped, bluish-violet or purplish-red flowers, green-and-white spotted in the throat, with golden-yellow anthers and a white, curved, protruding style. The corolla is distinctly 2-lipped, the lower lip spreading, with 3 ovate lobes, to 5.5 mm long and 3.5 mm wide, the upper lip with 2 smaller ovate lobes, to 2.5 mm long and 3 mm wide.

The generic name is derived from the Greek platys (‘flat’) and stemma (‘crown’, ‘corona’, or ‘flower garland’), alluding to the corolla, whose 3 lower lobes are spreading and flat. The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘violet-like’, alluding to the flowers, which somewhat resemble violets (Viola).

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Humid rocks or banks in forests.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Platystemma violoides, growing on a humid bank, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rhynchoglossum
Today, this genus contains about 13 species, as members of the former genus Klugia have been included in the genus. These plants are found from India and southern China southwards to New Guinea and some Pacific islands, and about 3 species in tropical America. A single species occurs in the Himalaya.

One characteristic of the genus is the asymmetric, long-pointed leaves.

The generic name is derived from the Greek rhynchos (‘beak’) and glossa (‘tongue’), the latter part alluding to the broad, tongue-like lower lip of the corolla, the former perhaps to the narrow corolla tube, or to the pointed petal tips.

 

Rhynchoglossum obliquum
Stem to 1 m tall, but usually much lower, smooth or sparsely downy. Leaves are short-stalked, to 12 cm long and 6 cm wide, very unequal-sided, one side being narrowly elliptic, the other side broadly ovate, margin entire, sometimes wavy, tip long-pointed. The small flowers are arranged in axillary, spike-like, many-flowered clusters, sometimes to 25 cm long, but usually shorter. Calyx bluish-green, to 8 mm long, with 5 lobes to 3 mm long, corolla cylindric, constricted at the mouth, pale blue, dark blue, or purple, to 1.1 cm long, 2-lipped, upper lip with 2 erect lobes to 2.5 mm long, lower lip entire or with 3 spreading lobes, to 5 mm long, 2 outer ones curved.

This plant differs from most other species in the family by flowering late in the autumn. It is very widely distributed, found from Uttarakhand eastwards to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards to montane areas in South India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. In the Himalaya, it grows at altitudes between 600 and 2,800 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘slanting’ or ‘awry’, referring to the asymmetric leaves.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.1 cm long, pale blue, dark blue, or purple.
Height to 1 m, but usually much lower.
Habitat Forests, shaded rocks and banks.
Flowering Jul.-Nov.

 

 

Rhynchoglossum obliquum, Ngadi (900 m), Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Grossulariaceae Currant or gooseberry family
This family contains only a single genus, Ribes, with about 160 species of shrubs, native to cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with some species in the Andes Mountains of South America. They are especially numerous in eastern Asia, with 11 species in the Himalaya. Some authorities include the genus in the family Saxifragaceae.

The fruit is highly distinctive, mostly globular, soft, juicy, sometimes brightly coloured or hairy.

The family name stems from an older Latin name of currant, grossulus, which, with the suffix aria, meant ‘resembling a small, unripe fig’. The generic name Ribes was a newer name of currant, derived from Arabic ribas, which, in that language, could mean ‘currant’ as well as ‘rhubarb’.

 

Ribes alpestre Asian gooseberry
This many-branched shrub, to 3 m tall, is easily identified by having 1-3 stout thorns, to 3 cm long, at each node, and by the reddish or purplish, globular or ellipsoid berries, to 1.5 cm across, with numerous stalked glandular hairs.

The branches may be smooth or with gland-tipped hairs. The long-stalked leaves are rounded in outline, 3-5-lobed, to 3 cm long and 4 cm broad, downy, especially along veins, base heart-shaped, margin with blunt or sharp teeth. Flowers are axillary, solitary or 2-3 together, to 1 cm long, calyx bell-shaped, greenish or reddish-brown, downy and glandular-hairy, or sometimes hairless, lobes to 7 mm long, petals white, greenish, or pinkish, elliptic or oblong, to 3.5 mm long.

This plant is distributed in drier areas, from Afghanistan eastwards to Bhutan, and also in Central Asia and western China. In the Himalaya, it grows at elevations between 1,000 and 3,900 m. The fruit is edible, and also used for jam, sauces, and wine.

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 3.5 mm long, white, greenish, or pinkish.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, drier areas only.
Flowering Apr.-Jun.
Fruiting Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Ribes alpestre is heavily armed with spines on the branches. This one was photographed near Kielang, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ribes glaciale
An erect shrub, 3-5 m tall, not spiny. Young branches sparsely hairy, older ones smooth. Leaves short-stalked, stalk glandular-hairy, blade heart-shaped, to 5 cm long and 4 cm broad, with 3-5 toothed lobes, mid-lobe pointed, lateral lobes rounded, margin strongly toothed. Flowers in ascending or upright racemes, to 5 cm long, male and female flowers in separate clusters, sometimes on separate plants, male racemes to 5 cm long, with 7-30 flowers, female racemes to 3 cm long, 4-10-flowered. Bracts ovate or lanceolate, to 5 mm long, margin glandular-hairy. Calyx tubular, brownish, sometimes green, smooth, tube to 2 mm long, lobes ovate, erect, to 2.5 mm long. Petals minute, reddish-brown, blackish-purple, or greenish, much shorter than the calyx-lobes. Berries red or scarlet, globular, smooth, to 7 mm across. They are edible, but sour-tasting.

This plant is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to Myanmar and western China, growing at elevations between 1,900 and 4,400 m.

 

Flower size and colour Petals minute, reddish-brown, blackish-purple, or greenish.
Height to 5 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open slopes, rocks.
Flowering Apr.-Aug.
Fruiting Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Flowering Ribes glaciale, Shomare, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ribes griffithii
An erect shrub, 2-3 m tall, not spiny. Young branches stout, smooth. Leaves long-stalked, stalk often red, leaves heart-shaped, to 7 cm long and 10 cm wide, with usually 5 triangular, long-pointed lobes, margin deeply and irregularly toothed, terminal lobe longer than lateral ones. Flowers are in lax, pendulous clusters, to 15 cm long, 10-20-flowered, bracts lanceolate or ovate, to 7 mm long, downy. Flowers bisexual, to 7 mm long and 6 mm across, yellowish-green or purplish-red, or a combination, calyx lobes reflexed, to 3 mm long. Petals tiny. Fruit red, ovoid or globular, to 1.2 cm across, smooth.

Distributed from western Nepal eastwards to Bhutan and south-western China, at elevations between 2,600 and 4,200 m.

The specific name honours British physician and botanist William Griffith (1810-1845), who spent most of his adult life in India and Myanmar. After a brief stay in Madras, he was assigned as a surgeon to Tenasserim, Myanmar. During the following years, he explored various parts of Myanmar, Sikkim, and the region around Shimla, north-western Himalaya. Subsequently, he was appointed as surgeon in Malacca, where he died of a parasitic liver disease, only 35 years old.

 

Flower size and colour Petals tiny, yellowish-green or purplish-red, or a combination.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Apr.-Jun.
Fruiting Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Ribes griffithii, near the village of Ghunsa, Upper Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ribes laciniatum
An erect shrub to 3 m tall, not spiny. Young branches grey, with blackish longitudinal streaks. Leaves stalked, heart-shaped in outline, to 5 cm long and 4.5 cm wide, glandular-hairy on both surfaces, with 3-5 rhombic lobes, margin deeply and irregularly toothed, terminal lobe longer than lateral ones. Male and female flowers are on separate plants, racemes erect, to 5 cm long, male ones 9–20-flowered, female ones with few flowers, entire inflorescence reddish-brown, sometimes with a green stalk. Bracts lanceolate or narrowly elliptic, to 6 mm long, margin with short hairs. Calyx tube to 2 mm long, with erect lobes, to 3.2 mm long. Petals tiny, to 0.6 mm long. The fruit is red to dark purple, globular, to 7 mm across.

This plant is found at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,300 m, from Nepal eastwards to Myanmar and the Yunnan Province.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘cut into deep, irregular, pointed lobes’, referring to the leaves.

 

Flower size and colour Petals tiny, to 0.6 mm long, reddish-brown.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, streamsides.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.
Fruiting Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Flowering Ribes laciniatum, Deboche, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ribes orientale
A much-branched shrub, to 2 m tall, not spiny, with glandular-hairy, sticky twigs. Leaf-stalk to 3 cm long, blade rounded or kidney-shaped, obscurely 3-5-lobed, to 3 cm long and 5.5 cm broad, with stiff glandular hairs, margin with blunt teeth. Male and female flowers in separate racemes (rarely bisexual), erect or ascending, male ones to 5 cm long, 15-30-flowered, female ones to 3 cm long, 5-15-flowered. Calyx-tube very small, to 2 mm long, purple or purplish-brown, hairy. Petals greenish, yellowish, or reddish-purple, spatulate, to 3 mm long. Fruit at first orange, later deep red, globular, to 9 mm across, glandular-hairy.

This species is widely distributed in drier areas, from the Balkans and the Middle East eastwards to south-western China, and from Siberia southwards to the Himalaya, where it is found at elevations between 2,100 and 4,900 m. It is common in Ladakh.

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 3 mm long, greenish, yellowish, or reddish-purple.
Height to 2 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, rocks, drier areas only.
Flowering Apr.-Jun.
Fruiting Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Ribes orientale with berries, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Orange autumn leaves of Ribes orientale, Manang (3500 m), Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ribes takare
A shrub to 3 m tall, not spiny, sometimes epiphytic. Leaves stalked, blade triangular or heart-shaped in outline, to 9 cm long and broad, sparsely glandular-hairy, with 3-5 pointed lobes, terminal lobe longer than lateral ones, margin deeply serrated. Male and female flowers in separate erect or ascending racemes, male ones to 10 cm long, female ones shorter, rachis and stalks densely glandular-hairy. Rachis from previous year often remaining on branches. Bracts lanceolate, to 7 mm long, margin glandular-hairy. Flowers purplish-red or reddish-brown, calyx tube to 2.5 mm long, lobes erect, spreading in fruit, to 3 mm long, petals smaller than calyx lobes. Initially, the fruit is yellowish-green, later turning reddish-brown, ovoid or globular, to 7 mm across, smooth or downy. They are edible.

This plant is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar and western China, at elevations between 2,200 and 4,000 m.

 

Flower size and colour Petals tiny, purplish-red or reddish-brown.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Open slopes, rocks, sometimes epiphytic.
Flowering Apr.-May.
Fruiting Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Flowering Ribes takare, Ghumna, Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Flowering Ribes takare, Pungi Tenga, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Hydrangeaceae Hydrangea family
In its broadest sense, as treated by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, this family includes 17 genera with 225-240 species of small trees or shrubs, rarely climbers or herbs. Some botanists divide the family into two, with 7 genera placed in a separate family, Philadelphaceae.

These plants are found in south-eastern Europe, Asia, and the Americas, and on some Pacific islands. 4 genera occur in the Himalaya.

The family name is derived from the Greek hydria, from hydor (‘water’), in Ancient Greece a container used for collecting, carrying, and pouring water. The name refers to the cup-shaped capsule of members of the genus Hydrangea.

 

Deutzia
A genus of shrubs with pretty, fragrant flowers, comprising about 60 species, which occur mainly in warm temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with no less than 41 species endemic to China, and 5 species in the Himalaya. Several species are cultivated as ornamentals.

The generic name was applied by Swedish naturalist and physician Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828) in honour of Dutch jurist and banker Johann van der Deutz (1743-1784), a keen botanist, who financed the travels of Thunberg to South Africa, Java, and Japan.

 

Deutzia bhutanensis
A small shrub to 2 m tall. The leaves are broadly lanceolate, to 4 cm long, green on both surfaces, with scattered star-shaped hairs. The pinkish-purple flowers are in axillary clusters, often appearing on bare branches before the leaves, or with the young leaves, fragrant, petals 5, elliptic, to 1.2 cm long.

This species is found in a rather restricted area, from central Nepal eastwards to Bhutan, between 2,100 and 2,700 m altitude.

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 1.2 cm long, pinkish-purple.
Height to 2 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Apr.-Jun.

 

 

Deutzia bhutanensis, Tharo Kosi, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Deutzia hookeriana
A small shrub to 2 m tall, formerly named D. compacta. Flowering branches reddish-brown, leaves stalked, lanceolate, elliptic, or ovate, long-pointed, to 12 cm long and 4 cm wide, with star-shaped hairs above and below, margin toothed. Flowers to 1.8 cm across, in dense axillary or terminal clusters, to 12 cm across, 20-80-flowered, fragrant. Calyx tube to 2 mm long, with blunt lobes to 2 mm long, petals white, elliptic or ovate, to 7 mm long.

This plant occurs at elevations between 2,000 and 3,500 m, from central Nepal eastwards to Myanmar and the Yunnan province.

The specific name honours British botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911), who described numerous new plant species in the eastern Himalaya (see Rhododendron dalhousiae, Himalayan flora 1).

 

Flower size and colour To 1.8 cm across, petals to 7 mm long, white.
Height to 2 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, forest edges.
Flowering May-Aug.

 

 

This gorgeous specimen of Deutzia hookeriana was encountered in the Lower Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Deutzia hookeriana, between Riverside and Ghora Tabela, Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Deutzia staminea
Shrub to 3 m tall, bark dark grey, often peeling off in thin strips. It is much like D. hookeriana, but the leaves are smaller, to 7 cm long and 3.8 cm broad, ovate-lanceolate, with grey star-shaped hairs beneath, tip blunt, margin finely toothed. Inflorescences are axillary, to 4 cm across, 9-25-flowered, on short twigs to 5 cm long, twigs 2-8-leaved. Flowers white, to 1.2 cm across, fragrant. Calyx-tube short, covered in greyish-yellow, star-shaped hairs, lobes pointed. Petals oblong or elliptic, to 1.2 cm long and 4 mm broad. Calyx lobes persistent on the rounded capsule, to 4 mm across.

This plant is widely distributed, from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan and south-western China, at altitudes between 1,100 and 3,200 m. It is commonest in the western part of the Himalaya. In Nepal, juice of the root is used for fever, and the foliage is cut for fodder. The flowers are offered to gods by Tamang people.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘with many stamens’.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.2 cm across, white, petals oblong or elliptic, to 1.2 cm long and 4 mm broad.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Mar.-Jun.

 

 

Deutzia staminea, near Sangam Chatti, Lower Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Dichroa
About 12 species of shrubs, restricted to eastern Asia, with a single species in the Himalaya. The flowers are bluish or violet, and the fruit is a berry.

The generic name, derived from the Greek dis (‘twice’) and chroa (‘colour’), probably refers to the flowers, which are white in bud, but blue when unfolded.

 

Dichroa febrifuga Chinese quinine, fever-flower
An erect evergreen shrub, to 3 m tall. Leaves short-stalked, opposite, lanceolate, elliptic, or obovate, to 30 cm long and 12 cm broad, papery, almost hairless, sometimes purplish beneath, base wedge-shaped, margin toothed, tip pointed. Inflorescence is a terminal, many-flowered, branched cluster, to 20 cm long and 25 cm across. Calyx tube bell-shaped, with 4-6 broad, triangular lobes. Flower buds white, obovoid, to 1 cm long, petals pale blue or violet when unfolded, oblong-elliptic, slightly fleshy, to 4 mm long, reflexed at maturity. Berries globular, sky-blue to dark blue when ripe, to 7 mm across, topped by the persistent calyx.

Widely distributed, from central Nepal eastwards to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to mountains of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Guinea. In the Himalaya, it is found at elevations between 900 and 2,500 m. It is very common in Nepal.

As the specific name implies, derived from the Latin febris (‘fever’) and fugare (‘to expel’), this species is widely utilized to treat fevers, including malaria. In Nepal, root, bark, and young shoots are also used for indigestion, and juice of the leaves for cough, colds, and bronchitis. The wood is cut for fuel.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Feb.-Jul.
Fruiting Most of the year.

 

 

Flowering Dichroa febrifuga, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park (top), and Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna (2nd), both in central Nepal, and Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal (3rd and 4th). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Fruiting Dichroa febrifuga, Sundarijal, Kathmandu Valley (top), and Chichila, Arun Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Philadelphus Mock-orange
A genus with 60-70 species of shrubs, native to Asia, south-eastern Europe, and North and Central America. 2 species occur in the Himalaya. The flowers are somewhat like those of Deutzia, but have only 4 petals.

The generic name probably refers to an ancient Greek king, Ptolemaios II (c. 308-246 B.C.), called Ptolemaios Philadelphos (‘Ptolemaios, friend of his siblings’). He was the Pharaoh of Egypt 283-246 B.C.

The English name was given in allusion to the flowers, which somewhat resemble those of Citrus species, and also have a fragrance similar to orange flowers.

 

Philadelphus tomentosus Fuzzy mock-orange
A deciduous shrub to 3 m tall, bark blackish-green on young branches, grey-brown on older branches, hairless or sparsely hairy. Leaves short-stalked, opposite, ovate or lanceolate, to 10 cm long and 5 cm broad, long-pointed, hairless above, densely yellowish-hairy beneath, with 5-7 prominent veins beneath, base rounded or wedge-shaped, margin irregularly toothed. Inflorescences in axillary clusters at the end of branches, 3-7-flowered. Flowers white, to 2.5 cm across. Calyx tube with ovate pointed lobes to 5 mm long and 3.5 mm broad, petals usually 4, ovate or oblong, to 1 cm long and 8 mm wide.

This species, previously named P. coronarius, is found at elevations between 1,800 and 4,400 m, from Kashmir eastwards to Bhutan and the Yunnan Province.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘having a mass of rough hairs’, alluding to the underside of the leaves.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm across, white, petals to 1 cm long and 8 mm wide.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Philadelphus tomentosus, between Bharku and Shyabru, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Hypericaceae St. John’s wort family
This family, comprising 6-9 genera and maybe 700 species of shrubs or herbs, rarely trees, are found worldwide, except in the coldests and driest regions. The major part of the genera are found in tropical areas. 2 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Hypericum St. John’s wort
A huge genus with about 460 species of herbs or shrubs, rarely trees, found almost worldwide, except in areas with arctic conditions, in deserts, and in most of the lowland tropics. About 15 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The major part of the species have yellow flowers. Leaves and flowers are often dotted with glands, though only in a few of the Himalayan species.

The generic name is derived from the Greek hyper (‘above’) and eikon (‘picture’), alluding to an old belief, that if these plants were hung above pictures, they would ward off evil spirits.

The popular name refers to Saint John the Baptist. In the Middle Ages, the blood-red juice of some species was seen as a symbol of the blood from the Saint’s beheading. John the Baptist had reproached King Herod for marrying his brother’s wife Herodias, hereby incurring Herodias’ wrath. Cunningly, her daughter persuaded the king to promise her anything she wanted, and, on request from her mother, she asked for John the Baptist’s head on a tray. (Mark, 6:18-28)

 

Hypericum choisyanum
Shrub to 2 m tall, stems red, erect or spreading, 4-lined. Leaves alternate, crowded up the stem, very short-stalked, ovate or lanceolate, pointed, to 9 cm long and 4 cm broad, pale beneath. Inflorescences are 1-7-flowered terminal clusters, flowers short-stalked, to 7 cm across. Sepals variable, lanceolate to broadly ovate or elliptic, pointed, to 8 mm long and 1 cm wide, petals deep golden yellow, sometimes tinged red, obovate to rounded, to 3 cm long and 2.2 cm wide, more than twice as long as the 60-80 stamens.

Distributed at elevations between 1,600 and 4,800 m, from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar and the Yunnan Province. In Nepal, it is cut for fodder, and juice of the root is taken for fever.

The specific name commemorates Swiss clergyman and botanist Jacques Denys Choisy (1799-1859).

H. hookerianum is very similar, but has rounded branches and blunt sepals. It is distributed from central Nepal eastwards to northern Indochina, at elevations between 1,500 and 3,400 m. It also occurs in montane areas of South India.

 

Flower size and colour Corolla to 7 cm across, deep golden yellow, sometimes tinged red, petals to 3 cm long and 2.2 cm wide.
Height to 2 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, forests, grasslands, rocky areas.
Flowering Apr.-Sep.

 

 

Hypericum choisyanum, Riverside, Langtang Valley (top), and between Gul Bhanjyang and Kutumsang, Helambu, both central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Hypericum cordifolium
Very like H. oblongifolium (see below), but smaller, to 1.2 m high, branches often pendent from banks. The tip of the leaves is always sharply pointed. Inflorescences are very dense, many-flowered, terminal clusters, versus few-flowered clusters in H. oblongifolium.

This plant is endemic to central Nepal, found at elevations between 900 and 1,900 m. It is common in Helambu. Juice of the plant is used for menstrual problems, juice of the root for diarrhoea and dysentery. Juice of the bark is applied to dislocated bones. The flowers are often brought as offerings at Hindu and Buddhist shrines.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘with heart-shaped leaves’.

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 3 cm long, yellow.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Open slopes, shrubberies.
Flowering Feb.-Apr.

 

 

Hypericum cordifolium, Dhobichour, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Hypericum cordifolium, Ramche, Lower Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Hypericum cordifolium, Kakani, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of flowers, Pati Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Hypericum elodeoides
The ribbed sepals and bracts of this herb, to 1 cm long, are very distinct, having numerous, long-stalked, black-tipped marginal glands. The stem is erect, smooth, to 75 cm tall, usually unbranched below the flower clusters. Leaves are stemless, opposite, lanceolate or narrowly elliptic, 2-3-veined, pointed or blunt, to 5 cm long and 1.7 cm broad, with numerous pale gland-dots beneath. Upper leaves usually have glandular-hairy auricles. Inflorescences are branched, 5-50-flowered clusters. Flowers golden-yellow, to 2 cm across, petals oblanceolate, to 1.5 cm long and 4 mm broad, dotted and streaked with black glands. Stamens numerous, up to 60, to 1.1 cm long.

Distributed from Kashmir eastwards to Myanmar and southern China, at elevations between 1,200 and 3,500 m. In Nepal, the plant is cut for fodder, and a paste of the root is used for fever.

The specific name might mean ‘resembling Elodea’, but as members of the genus Elodea are water plants with grass-like leaves, the connection is hard to see.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 cm across, golden-yellow, petals to 1.5 cm long and 4 mm broad.
Height to 75 cm, but often lower.
Habitat Forest margins, shrubberies, grasslands, edges of fields.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Hypericum elodeoides, Solang Nallah, near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This picture, likewise from Solang Nallah, shows the underside of the leaves, with numerous transparent glands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Hypericum japonicum
This species differs from most other members of the genus in that its many stems are creeping or ascending, 4-angled, to 45 cm long, often rooting at nodes. Leaves are clasping, variable in shape, ovate-triangular, oblong, or elliptic, to 1.8 cm long and 1 cm broad, but often much smaller, tip blunt or pointed, margin entire. The surface has many gland dots, although they are not very obvious. Inflorescences are few- to many-flowered, terminal clusters. The small flowers are pale to bright yellow, or orange, to 8 mm across, petals obovate, oblong, or elliptic, to 5 mm long and 3 mm wide, alternating with sepals about the same size.

This plant is quite common in the Himalaya, found at altitudes between 1,500 and 3,000 m. It is distributed from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to Korea and Japan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia, the Philippines, New Guinea, Australia, and New Zealand. It also occurs in southern India and Sri Lanka.

In Nepal, juice of the plant is used for asthma and dysentery, juice of the root for headache and fever.

 

Flower size and colour To 8 mm across, pale to bright yellow, or orange, petals to 5 mm long and 3 mm wide.
Length/height to 45 cm.
Habitat Marshes, grasslands, fallow fields, waste places.
Flowering Feb.-Oct.

 

 

Hypericum japonicum, Sinuwa, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Hypericum japonicum, Hangdewa, near Taplejung, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Hypericum oblongifolium
A much-branched shrub to 2 m tall, often pendent from banks. Initially, branches are 4-lined, later smooth. Leaves are stalkless, oblong or lanceolate, to 9 cm long and 3.2 cm broad, tip blunt, rarely pointed. Inflorescences are 2-6-flowered, terminal clusters, flowers bright yellow, to 7.5 cm across. Sepals variable, ovate or elliptic, blunt or pointed, to 8 mm long, petals narrowly obovate, to 3 cm long, not much longer than the c. 30 stamens.

This species is found at elevations between 800 and 2,100 m, from Pakistan eastwards to central Nepal. It is common in Uttarakhand.

In Nepal, juice of the leaves is used against snakebite, and the foliage is cut for fodder. The flowers are often brought as offerings at Hindu shrines.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘with leaves broadest above the middle’.

 

Flower size and colour To 7.5 cm across, bright yellow, petals to 3 cm long.
Height to 2 m.
Habitat Open slopes, shrubberies.
Flowering Feb.-Apr.

 

 

Hypericum oblongifolium, near Fakot, Uttarakhand. In the upper picture, Ageratina adenophora (Asteraceae) is seen in the background. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Hypoxidaceae Yellow star-grass family
This family contains about 9 genera and 150-200 species of herbs, distributed in warmer regions of Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Americas. 2 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Hypoxis Yellow star-grass, star lily
Members of this genus, counting about 100 species, are widely distributed, occurring in Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Americas, with the greatest concentration in southern Africa. A single species is found in the Himalaya.

The generic name was applied in 1759 by Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), taken from a name established in 1611 by French physician and botanist Paul Reneaulme (c. 1560-1624) for a superficially similar species of the genus Gagea, from Ancient Greek hypo (‘under’) and oxys (‘sharp’), thus ‘a little sharp’, alluding to the taste of the leaves of that plant.

The common names allude to the star-shaped flowers, star-grass also to the grass-like leaves. An African species, H. hemerocallidea, often called African potato, is an important ingredient in traditional medicine.

 

Hypoxis aurea
Almost all parts of this small plant are covered in yellowish, whitish, or brownish hairs. There are 4-12 linear leaves, grass-like, pointed, to 30 cm long and 6 mm broad, with 3 clear veins. Flowering stem slender, to 10 cm tall, with 1 or 2 flowers, to 2 cm across, petals lanceolate to oblong, yellow above, green beneath, to 8 mm long, spreading star-like.

This species occurs in the entire Himalaya, growing in open grasslands at elevations between 1,500 and 2,900 m. It has a very wide distribution, from Pakistan eastwards to Korea and Japan, and thence southwards to the Philippines, Indonesia, and New Guinea.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘golden’, referring to the flower colour.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 cm across, yellow, petals to 8 mm long.
Height/length Flowering stem to 10 cm tall, leaves to 30 cm long.
Habitat Open areas, grazing grounds, fallow fields.
Flowering May-Aug.

 

 

Hypoxis aurea, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Iridaceae Iris family
An almost worldwide family with 66-67 genera and about 2,250 species of herbs, including a number of widely cultivated genera, for instance Iris, Freesia, Gladiolus, and Crocus. 4 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Iris Iris
A large genus with 260-300 species, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. About 13 native species occur in the Himalaya, and several others are cultivated.

The flower structure of these plants is unique. The flowers are borne in axils of 2-3 bracts, the spathes. Petals 6, often strongly coloured, separated into 3 outer, spreading or curved falls, and 3 inner, usually erect standards, which are fused to form the corolla-tube. In the centre, falls may have a ridge, the crest, or a tuft of hairs, the beard. The fruit is a large capsule, splitting length-wise.

These plants are poisonous, and therefore avoided by grazing animals, often forming large growths in high-altitude meadows and grazing grounds.

The genus is named for Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow, undoubtedly because of the colourful flowers of many species.

 

Iris clarkei
Stem 2- or 3-branched, sometimes to 90 cm long, but usually lower, with 2-3 sword-shaped leaves, glossy above, bluish-green below, to 60 cm long and 1.8 cm wide. Spathes 3, green, broadly lanceolate, to 10 cm long, with 1-2 bluish-violet flowers, to 8.5 cm across, stalk slender, to 3.5 cm long. Corolla-tube to 1.2 cm long, standards oblong or lanceolate, to 4.5 cm long and 1 cm wide, pale violet with dark violet streaks. Falls to 7 cm long and 2.8 cm wide, with a large rectangular white patch, mottled with black, throat yellowish. Capsule oblong or ellipsoid, to 5 cm long and 2.5 cm broad.

Distributed at elevations between 2,300 and 4,300 m, from central Nepal eastwards to Myanmar and the Yunnan Province. In Nepal, a paste of the root is applied to wounds.

The specific name honours British botanist Charles Baron Clarke (1832-1906), who was Inspector of Schools in Eastern Bengal and later of India, and superintendent of Calcutta Botanical Garden 1869-1871. He described many Himalayan plants new to science. After retiring from the Indian Civil Service in 1887, he worked at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London until his death in 1906.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 90 cm, but usually lower.
Habitat Humid meadows, streamsides.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.
Fruiting Aug.-Sep.

 

 

Iris clarkei, Tragdobuk, Solu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Iris clarkei, Junbesi, Solu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Iris decora
Plant densely tufted, stem sometimes branched, to 30 cm long, leaves linear, with 2-3 veins, to 45 cm long and 8 mm broad. Spathes 3, lanceolate, pointed, to 9.5 cm long, with 2 pale blue to violet flowers, to 6 cm across. Corolla-tube to 3 cm long, standards narrowly elliptic, to 4 cm long and 1.2 cm broad. Falls obovate, to 4 cm long and 2 cm broad, white-streaked near the throat, with an orange or brownish-yellow, narrow crest. Capsule cylindric or ellipsoid, to 3.5 cm long and 1 cm broad, with a short beak.

This plant, previously known as I. nepalensis, is found from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar and south-western China, at altitudes between 1,800 and 4,000 m. In Nepal, the root is used for skin problems.

The specific name is derived from the Latin decus, genitive decoris (‘having grace, splendor, ornament’).

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height Stem to 30 cm, leaves to 45 cm.
Habitat Open areas, grasslands, pastures.
Flowering May-Jul.
Fruiting Jul.-Aug.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Iris goniocarpa
Stem to 25 cm long, often branched, usually leafless, leaves linear, ribbed, grass-like, to 45 cm long and 5 mm broad. Spathes 2, lanceolate, pointed, to 4 cm long and 8 mm wide, usually with a single lilac or violet flower, to 3 cm across. Corolla-tube to 2 cm long, standards oblong, spreading, to 2.5 cm long and 5 mm wide. Falls obovate or elliptic, to 3 cm long and 1.3 cm broad, white near the throat, with a yellowish beard. Capsule ellipsoid, 3-angled, to 4 cm long and 1.8 cm broad, with a short beak.

Found at elevations between 3,000 and 4,400 m, from western Nepal eastwards to Myanmar and western China. It is prominent in Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal.

The specific name is derived from the Greek gonia (‘angle’) and carpos (‘fruit’), referring to the 3-angled fruit.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 25 cm.
Habitat Open slopes, grasslands, drier areas only.
Flowering May-Jul.
Fruiting Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Iris goniocarpa, all encountered in the Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Iris kemaonensis
Gregarious, often growing in large clumps. Stem very short or absent. Leaves linear, to 45 cm long and 1 cm broad. Spathes 2-3, broadly lanceolate, to 6 cm long, with a solitary flower, often appearing with the leaves, to 6 cm across, lilac, purple, or sky-blue with dark purple and white spots or blotches. Corolla-tube trumpet-shaped, to 7.5 cm long, standards oblanceolate or elliptic, erect and incurved, to 4 cm long and 1 cm broad. Falls obovate or spatulate, to 5 cm long and 2.5 cm broad, white towards the throat, with a dense, yellow or orange beard. Capsule globular, to 4 cm long and 1.8 cm broad, tapering to a long or short beak.

Found at elevations between 2,500 and 4,300 m, from Pakistan eastwards to Arunachal Pradesh and south-eastern Tibet. It is very common in Nepal, where leaves and root are used medicinally. The leaves are also cut and dried for fodder.

The specific name was applied by Danish physician and botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), who studied the Indian and Himalayan flora in the early 1800s. In those days, the district of Kumaon, in present-day Uttarakhand, was a kingdom, known as Kemaon or Kamaon. Presumably, the type specimen was collected in this area.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height Stemless, leaves to 45 cm long.
Habitat Grasslands, pastures, open slopes.
Flowering Apr.-Jul.
Fruiting Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Iris kemaonensis is very common on grazing grounds, here near Langtang Village, Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Iris kemaonensis, growing in a field near Namche Bazaar, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Flowers of Iris kemaonensis with dew drops, Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Iris milesii
Gregarious. Stems 3, to 1 m tall, branched, one terminal stem with flowers and shorter leaves, 2 lateral stems with only leaves These side-stems bear flowers the following year. Leaves many, pale green, slightly scimitar-shaped, to 60 cm long and 8 cm broad. Spathes blunt, to 2.5 cm long, with numerous large flowers, to 10 cm across. Standards obovate, purplish-blue, streaked dark purple towards the base, falls obovate, to 8 cm long, reddish-purple, streaked white and dark purple towards the throat, with a whitish or yellow, narrow crest. Capsule ovoid-cylindric, to 3.3 cm long.

This species is distributed from Kashmir eastwards to Uttarakhand, at altitudes between 1,600 and 2,700 m. Plants from the Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces in China, ascribed to this species, are probably an undescribed species, as such a disjunct distribution is unlikely. (Source: Flora of China)

The specific name was given in honour of an Englishman, Frank Miles, who introduced this species into cultivation around 1880, grown from seeds collected by his cousin in the Kulu District, Himachal Pradesh. (Source: W. Dykes 2009. Handbook of Garden Irises)

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 1 m, leaves to 60 cm.
Habitat Open coniferous forests.
Flowering May-Jul.
Fruiting Jul.-Aug.

 

 

Iris milesii, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Juglandaceae Walnut family
A small family with 9-10 genera and about 60 species of trees, rarely shrubs, native mostly to temperate and subtropical regions of Asia, south-eastern Europe, and the Americas. 2 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Engelhardia
A genus of 7-10 species of trees, native from northern India eastwards to Taiwan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia and the Philippines. A single species occurs in the Himalaya.

Inflorescences are in pendent spikes, and the fruit is a winged nutlet.

The generic name commemorates Nicolaus Engelhard (1761-1831), Dutch businessman and colonial governor of Java.

 

Engelhardia spicata
Deciduous tree to 20 m tall, with grey, smooth bark. The long-stalked leaves are pinnately divided, to 35 cm long, with 4-14 oblong, lanceolate, or elliptic leaflets, all opposite, to 15 cm long and 8 cm broad, rachis smooth or downy, margin entire, tip pointed. Inflorescences greenish, male spikes solitary or up to 5 together on leafless branches, hairy, to 8 cm long. Female spikes long, pendent. Fruits in dense clusters, nutlet globular or ovoid, to 6 mm across, with a 3-lobed wing, middle wing to 3.5 cm long, lateral ones to 2 cm.

Distributed from Pakistan eastwards to southern China, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia and the Philippines, in the Himalaya found at elevations between 400 and 2,100 m.

In Nepal, the bark is used as fibers, and for tanning. The leaves are strewn in streams to stupefy fish, and they are also utilized as manure.

The specific name alludes to the inflorescences.

Previously, a variety of this species, var. colebrookiana, was regarded as a separate species, E. colebrookiana, named in honour of British orientalist and mathematician Henry Thomas Colebrooke (1765-1837), who has been described as “the first great Sanskrit scholar in Europe”.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 20 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Feb.-May.
Fruiting Apr.-Nov.

 

 

Engelhardia spicata with spring foliage, Himalpani, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. The epiphyte is an orchid of the genus Coelogyne. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Foliage of Engelhardia spicata, Chomrong, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Catkins and new leaves, Himalpani, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Fruits, near Sekathum, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Juglans Walnut
About 20 species of deciduous trees, native mainly to temperate and subtropical areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with some species in South America. A single species occurs in the Himalaya.

Male flowers are in pendent catkins, females in short spikes. The fruit is a drupe, with a hard inner shell, containing the nut.

The generic name is the classical Latin name of the walnut tree, derived from Iovis (the god Jupiter) and glans (‘acorn’), thus ‘Jupiter’s acorn’.

 

Juglans regia Common walnut
A deciduous tree to 30 m tall, with grey, vertically fissured bark. The twigs are downy. Leaves are pinnate, to 40 cm long, leaflets 5-13, leathery, elliptic or ovate, pointed, to 20 cm long and 8 cm broad, margin entire, below with tufts of hairs in the vein axils. Inflorescences greenish, male catkins to 12 cm long, female spikes short, 1-3-flowered. Drupe ovoid, to 6 cm long, husk green, glandular, nut-shell thick, wrinkled, with 2 valves.

In the wild, this tree is distributed from south-eastern Europe eastwards across the Middle East to the Himalaya and China. In the Himalaya, it grows at elevations between 1,500 and 3,300 m.

Elsewhere, it is widely cultivated for the edible nuts. Oil is also extracted from the nuts, used for cooking or illumination. The wood is utilized for construction, furniture, and utensils. In the Himalaya, the foliage is stored as winter fodder. In Nepal, juice of the bark is taken against intestinal worms, and the oil cake is applied to the forehead to treat headache. The leaves are astringent and tonic. The nuts are eaten to treat asthma. Bark and unripe fruits are used for tanning and dyeing, and also strewn in rivers to stupefy fish.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘royal’, naturally alluding to the splendour of this tree.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 30 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Feb.-May.
Fruiting May-Oct.

 

 

As I have no pictures from the Himalaya, depicting flowers of Juglans regia, I bring this picture from Crete, showing new foliage and male catkins. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Foliage and unripe fruits of Juglans regia, Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Fallen leaves and nuts, one of which has been opened by a rodent, Lower Rishi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Juncaceae Rush family
About 8 genera and ca. 460 species, widely distributed in temperate and cold regions of both hemispheres, in tropical regions restricted to mountains.

 

Juncus Rush
A huge genus, comprising about 300 species, found throughout the world, with the exception of Antarctica and many tropical regions. About 32 species occur in the upper regions of the Himalaya.

Flowers are in dense terminal heads, or in a branched cluster, and the leaves are grass-like.

The generic name is derived from iuncus, the classical Latin name of rushes.

Historically, these plants received little attention from botanists. In 1819, British botanist James Ebenezer Bicheno (1785-1851), who was colonial secretary of Tasmania from 1842 until his death in 1851, described the genus as “obscure and uninviting”. (Source: J.E. Bicheno 1819. Observations on the Linnean genus Juncus, with the characters of those species, which have been found growing wild in Great Britain. Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 12 (2): 291-337)

 

 

An unidentified species of rush, Gopte, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. It differs from the rather similar Juncus himalensis by having white flowerheads, and from the white-flowered J. leucanthus (below) and J. thomsonii by the flowerheads, which are not solitary and terminal, but in an open cluster, with very long bracts. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Juncus leucanthus
A tufted plant, to 20 cm tall, stems very thin, 0.5-1 mm across, with several sheaths, leaves basal or some distance up the stem, brown, shining, blade linear, to 0.5 mm in diameter, as long as or longer than the stem. Inflorescence is a terminal, solitary head, to 1.8 cm across, with up to 10 white, yellowish, or brown flowers, oblong-lanceolate, to 5 mm long, bracts 3-4, spreading, ovate or lanceolate, usually not protruding beyond the flowerhead.

This species grows in humid places in grasslands and shrubberies at elevations between 3,000 and 4,200 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards across the Himalaya and Tibet to northern Myanmar and western China.

 

Flower size and colour Flowerhead to 1.8 cm across, white, yellowish, or brown.
Height to 20 cm.
Habitat Humid grasslands and shrubberies.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Juncus leucanthus, between Tharepati and Gopte, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lamiaceae (Labiatae) Mint family
A huge, worldwide family with about 240 genera and more than 7,000 species of herbs, more rarely trees, shrubs, or climbers. About 50 genera occur in the Himalaya.

Members of this family are characterized by their flowers, which are bilaterally symmetrical, with the petals typically fused into an upper lip and a lower lip, hence the alternative family name Labiatae, from the Latin labia (lip).

 

Ajuga Bugle
This genus contains about 50 species, native to Asia and Europe, with a core area east of the Mediterranean. 8 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The generic name in fact stems from a writing error. It should have been abiga, from abigo (‘to force birth’ or ‘to cause an abortion’), alluding to the yellow bugle (A. chamaepitys), which was used medicinally to induce an abortion. The common name was given in reference to the tubular flowers.

 

Ajuga lobata
An erect herb, to 12 cm tall, with trailing, downy branches, which root at the nodes. Leaves are short-stalked, circular or elliptic, to 2.5 cm across, margin irregularly lobed, hairy, tip rounded. Flowers are solitary, with slightly swollen, strongly hairy, brown calyx, to 5 mm long, toothed. Corolla is blue, purple, or reddish-purple, tubular, straight, to 1.5 cm long, downy on the outside, upper lip erect, very short, lower lip 3-lobed, middle lobe largest and longest, with 2 short, wide, terminal lobes.

It is distributed from central Nepal eastwards to Myanmar, south-eastern Tibet, and south-western China, growing at elevations between 1,500 and 3,300 m.

The specific name presumably alludes to the lobes on the leaves, or perhaps on the flowers.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.5 cm long, blue, purple, or reddish-purple.
Height to 12 cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Apr.-May.

 

 

Ajuga lobata, Khari La, Khumbu (top), and Gyapla, Ghunsa Valley, both eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Caryopteris, see Pseudocaryopteris.

 

 

 

Clerodendrum Glorybower 
A huge genus with about 400 species of shrubs or small trees, rarely herbs, with the majority in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and southern Asia, a few in tropical America and northern Australasia, and a few in temperate regions of eastern Asia. 7 species are encountered in the Himalaya, restricted to the foothills or lower, subtropical valleys.

The generic name is explained in various ways. It is derived from Ancient Greek kleros, which is usually translated as ‘clergy’, alluding to the usage of these plants for religious purposes in Asia. However, it may also mean ‘chance’ or ‘fate’, referring to the considerable variation in reports of the usefulness of the genus in traditional medicine. The second part of the name is derived from Ancient Greek dendron (‘tree’).

 

Clerodendrum infortunatum
A shrub or small tree, sometimes to 4 m tall, but mostly 1-2 m, stem erect, with large corky lenticels. Leaves are opposite, broadly elliptic or ovate, pointed, sparsely hairy on both surfaces, to 25 cm long and 20 cm wide, margin toothed. Inflorescences are in large terminal clusters, flowers white with purplish or pink throat, fragrant, corolla tube to 1.6 cm long, with broadly elliptic lobes to 1.5 cm long, stamens protruding, to 5 cm long. The fruit is a berry-like drupe, globose, bluish-black or black when ripe, to 1 cm across, enclosed in the red enlarged calyx.

This species is very common, found from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards across Indochina to southern China, and also in the Philippines. In the Himalaya, it grows up to elevations around 1,500 m.

In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, root and bark are used for respiratory problems, fever, cough, and asthma. The root is also used as a laxative, and to kill fly larvae in wounds. A paste of root and leaves is used for skin diseases. Juice of the leaves is used for diarrhoea, liver disorders, wounds, fever, ulcers, and swellings, and also to expel intestinal worms, and rid livestock of lice. In India, it is used for snake bites and scorpion stings. In traditional Thai medicine, leaves and root are used as a diuretic, and to treat internal infections and kidney problems. In Nepal, the juice is dripped into the eyes of cattle to treat conjunctivitis.

In Nepal, the leaves are used as a potherb.

The specific name was applied by Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), allegedly because he found its leaves rather ugly. The plant is called C. viscosum by some authorities.

 

Flower size and colour Corolla white with purplish or pink throat, tube to 1.6 cm long, lobes to 1.5 cm long.
Height to 4 m.
Habitat Disturbed areas, open forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Mar.-Apr.

 

 

Clerodendrum infortunatum, Khandbari, Arun Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of the flowers, Chitwan National Park, southern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Clinopodium Calamint, wild basil
This genus has been defined very differently by various authorities, some restricting it to as few as 13 species, others including far more, for instance Kew Gardens of London, which includes 165 species. Further genetic research may clarify the issue.

According to Kew Gardens, the genus has an almost cosmopolitan distribution, except for the polar regions and Australia. 3 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek klinopodion, from kline (‘bed’) and podion (‘little foot’), thus ‘little foot of a bed’, maybe alluding to the square stem of wild basil (C. vulgare).

 

Clinopodium piperitum
This plant is restricted to the Himalaya, found from Pakistan eastwards to eastern Nepal, growing at elevations between 1,500 and 2,400 m.

Stems spreading, soft-haired, woody at the base, slender, to 90 cm tall, leaves narrowly elliptic, to 3 cm long, margin with small teeth. Inflorescences borne at the end of the leafy stems, in one-sided whorls, corolla mostly violet, sometimes reddish-purple, corolla tube slender, to 2 cm long, lower lip with broad lobes. Calyx dark purple, about 7 mm long, with long-pointed teeth.

The specific name is derived from the Latin piper (‘pepper’). The leaves are probably sharp-tasting.

 

Flower size and colour Corolla violet, sometimes reddish-purple, tube to 2 cm long.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, open places.
Flowering Feb.-May.

 

 

Clinopodium piperitum, Gul Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Clinopodium umbrosum
Quite similar to the previous species, but leaves with sharper teeth along the margin, corolla smaller, to 1 cm long, flowers pale pink or sometimes purple, calyx to 6 mm long, bristly-hairy, teeth short.

It is widely distributed, from the Caucasus eastwards to eastern China, Japan, and Taiwan, southwards to Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, growing in a variety of habitats, including forests and farmland. In the Himalaya, it is found at altitudes between 1,000 and 3,400 m.

In Nepal, juice of the leaves is applied to wounds.

The specific name is derived from the Latin umbra (‘shadow’), thus ‘growing where there is shade’.

 

Flower size and colour To 1 cm long, pale pink or sometimes purple.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, farmland.
Flowering Apr.-Sep.

 

 

Clinopodium umbrosum, near Sinuwa, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Clinopodium umbrosum, Solang Nallah, Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Colebrookea oppositifolia Woolly mint
This species, the sole member of the genus, is found from Pakistan eastwards across the foothills of the Himalaya to south-western China, and thence southwards to southern India and Indochina. In the Himalaya, it grows up to elevations of about 2,200 m.

It is a shrub to 5 m tall, much branched, densely silky-hairy on twigs, leaf-stalks, and inflorescences. Leaves large, to 20 cm long and 7 cm wide, long-pointed, almost entire with tiny rounded teeth, woolly-haired below. Flowers tiny, white, to 3 mm long, forming dense axillary and terminal panicles, to 15 cm long.

This plant is widely used in traditional medicine. In Nepal, juice of the root is given for epilepsy, bloody cough, and peptic ulcer. Boiled in water, the root is also drunk to expel intestinal worms. A paste of the root is applied for body pain and sprains. Juice of the bark is used for fever and indigestion. The hairy leaves are applied to wounds to stop bleeding. Juice of the leaves is applied to wounds as an antiseptic, taken for fever and headache, and also to expel worms. It is dripped into the eyes of cattle with conjunctivitis. A paste of the leaves is used for dysentery. Juice of the flower buds is used for gastric problems and sinusitis. Elsewhere, it is used for skin problems, such as ringworm. The foliage used for fodder, dried branches as fuel, and the flowers are brought as offerings in Hindu shrines.

The genus was named in honour of British orientalist and mathematician Henry Thomas Colebrooke (1765-1837), who has been described as “the first great Sanskrit scholar in Europe”. The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘with opposite leaves’. An alternative English name is squirrel’s tail, alluding to the fuzzy inflorescences.

Superficially, Elsholtzia fruticosa (below) is similar, but its leaves have sharp teeth along the margin, and the infloresences are only sparsely hairy.

 

Flower size and colour Dense axillary and terminal panicles, corolla to 3 mm long, white.
Height to 5 m.
Habitat Grasslands, shrubberies.
Flowering Dec.-Apr.

 

 

Colebrookea oppositifolia, Birethanti, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Colebrookea oppositifolia, Melamchi Pul, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Coleus
A huge genus with about 300 species of herbs or shrubs, found in warmer areas of Africa, southern Asia, and Australia. A single species occurs in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek koleos (‘a sheath’), referring to the manner in which the stamens are united.

 

Coleus barbatus
This plant, previously known as Plectranthus barbatus, has a densely hairy stem to 90 cm tall, leaves opposite, short-stalked, ovate, blunt, to 8 cm long, margin rounded-toothed. Inflorescences are terminal spikes, formed by interrupted whorls. Flowers pale blue, to 2 cm long, corolla tube and lower lip bent downward, upper lip short, 3-lobed, lower one much longer, boat-shaped, pointed. Calyx bell-shaped, densely bristly-hairy, with long-pointed teeth, lobes bending backwards when the plant is in fruit.

It is distributed in eastern Africa, from Ethiopia southwards to Tanzania, in southern Arabia, the Indian Subcontinent, southern China, and Indochina. In the Himalaya, it is found at elevations between 1,200 and 2,400 m.

In Ayurvedic medicine, this species is utilized for heart disease, convulsions, and painful urination. In Nepal, the nutlets are used in pickles.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘bearded’, alluding to the bristly-hairy stem and calyx.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 cm long, pale blue.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Coleus barbatus, Ghermu (top) and Bahundanda, both in the Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Colquhounia
A genus with 5 species of shrubs or shrubby herbs, distributed from the Himalaya eastwards to Indochina and southern China. A single species is found in the Himalaya.

The genus was named for Robert David Colquhoun, 12th Baronet (1786-1838), who served in the British Indian Army. He was a keen plant collector and early patron of the Calcutta Botanical Gardens.

 

Colquhounia coccinea
A striking shrub, to 3 m tall, with gorgeous scarlet or orange flowers, arranged in dense axillary or terminal spikes, to 10 cm long, corolla to 5 cm long, tube funnel-shaped, lower lip deeply 3-lobed. Calyx with 10 veins and 5 lobes, woolly-hairy. Leaves opposite, short-stalked, broadly lanceolate, long-pointed, to 15 cm long, margin with small teeth.

This plant is found from Kashmir eastwards to Indochina and south-western China, growing at elevations between 1,200 and 4,200 m. It is widely cultivated elsewhere as an ornamental. Locally, the plant is used for fodder, and leaves and flowers are used as incense. Children sometimes suck the nectar out of the flowers.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘scarlet’, naturally alluding to the flower colour.

 

Flower size and colour Corolla to 5 cm long, scarlet or orange.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Colquhounia coccinea, between Ghora Tabela and Thangshyap (top) and near Thulo Shyabru, both in Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of the flowers, Shyabru. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Dracocephalum Dragon’s head
This genus contains about 75 species of shrubby herbs, widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere, except the polar region. 5 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek drakon (‘dragon’, ‘serpent’) and kephale (‘head’), alluding to the flower shape.

 

Dracocephalum heterophyllum
Stems creeping or ascending, stout, to 20 cm long, leaves dark green, to 3 cm long, ovate or rounded, leathery, margin with rounded teeth. Inflorescences in terminal spikes, to 10 cm long, flowers surrounded by large, pale green, lobed bracts. Corolla white, sometimes tinged with pink or purple, to 3 cm long, tube inflated above.

A plant of steppe and rocky areas in Central Asia, distributed southwards to the northern fringes of the Himalaya, found at elevations between 3,000 and 5,500 m. It is quite common in Ladakh.

An essential oil is extracted from this species, used in cosmetics. It is threatened due to overgrazing.

The specific name is derived from Ancient Greek heteros (‘different’) and phyllon (‘leaf’), thus ‘with differently shaped leaves’.

 

Flower size and colour To 3 cm long, white, sometimes tinged with pink or purple.
Length/height to 20 cm.
Habitat Dry rocky slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Dracocephalum heterophyllum, Nimaling, Upper Markha Valley, Ladakh. The mountain in the background is Kang Yatze (6496 m). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Dracocephalum heterophyllum, Namsang La (4800 m), Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Elsholtzia Late-summer mint
A genus of about 40 species, distributed from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Xinjiang, Mongolia, and south-eastern Siberia southwards to India, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia. Several species have become naturalized in Europe and North America. About 10 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name honours Prussian botanist and physician Johann Sigismund Elsholtz (1623-1688), who was a pioneer in the fields of hygiene and nutrition. The name was applied by German botanist and pharmacist Carl Ludwig Willdenow (1765-1812), who was one of the founders of the study of the geographic distribution of plants.

Several species are used medicinally in the Himalaya for various ailments, including cough, colds, wounds, and scabies.

Some pictures, depicting unidentified Elsholtzia species, are presented below. I would be happy to receive information on them. You can use the address at the bottom of the page.

 

 

An unidentified Elsholtzia species, Darjaling, above Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

An unidentified Elsholtzia species, Sarangkot (1400 m), Pokhara, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

An unidentified Elsholtzia species, Dukpu, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Elsholtzia eriostachya
A variable plant, with brown or purplish-red stems, to 35 cm tall, leaves stalked, ovate or oblong, to 4 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, tip rather blunt, margin with small teeth. Inflorescences are terminal, dense, cylindric spikes, to 6 cm long and 1 cm broad, many-flowered, corolla bright yellow, tiny, about 2 mm across.

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.

Locally, the leaves are eaten as salad, and the seeds are chewed for cough and colds.

The specific name is derived from Ancient Greek, meaning ‘with woolly spikes’, which is odd, as they are not particularly hairy.

 

Flower size and colour About 2 mm across, bright yellow.
Height to 35 cm.
Habitat Open slopes, river plains.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Elsholtzia eriostachya, Ngegang Kharka (4200 m), Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Elsholtzia eriostachya, Polo Kongga La, Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Elsholtzia flava
A shrub, to 2.5 m tall, branches 4-angled, downy, leaves stalked, broadly ovate, glandular, pointed, to 20 cm long and 8.5 cm wide, with conspicuously impressed veins above, margin with small teeth. Spikes slender, terminal or axillary, to 10 cm long, flowers numerous, tiny, yellow, corolla to 5 mm long, hairy inside.

It is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar and western China, growing at altitudes between 1,000 and 2,900 m.

In Nepal, crushed leaves are applied to scabies. The seeds are edible, raw or pickled.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘yellow’, alluding to the flowers.

 

Flower size and colour To 5 mm long, yellow.
Height to 2.5 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, forest margins, open areas.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Elsholtzia flava, Ghangyul (2500 m), Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Elsholtzia fruticosa
A shrub to 3 m tall, much branched, on older branches the greyish, brownish, or yellowish bark peels off in strips. Leaves sessile or short-stalked, elliptic-lanceolate, to 16 cm long and 4 cm wide, margin saw-toothed. Spikes cylindric, to 25 cm long and 1.3 cm wide, fragrant, corolla snow-white or sometimes yellowish, to 4 mm long, glandular-hairy inside.

This plant is found from Pakistan eastwards across the Himalaya to Myanmar and western China, growing at elevations between 1,200 and 3,800 m. It is common in Nepal.

Oil from the seeds is edible. In Nepal, powdered seeds are used as a flavouring agent in food, and a powder made from the plant is burned as incense. Juice of the root is taken to relieve headache.

The specific name is derived from the Latin frutex (‘bush’) and the suffix osus (‘resembling’), thus ‘shrubby’.

Superficially, Colebrookea oppositifolia (above) is similar, but has almost entire leaves and densely woolly spikes.

 

Flower colour and size Snow-white or sometimes yellowish, to 4 mm long.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Elsholtzia fruticosa, Ghora Tabela (3000 m), Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Elsholtzia fruticosa, Chame (2600 m), Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Eriophyton
This is a Central Asian genus, comprising 12 species, found from Kazakhstan eastwards to south-western China. A single species occurs in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek erion (‘wool’) and phyton (‘plant’), referring to the dense layer of hairs in E. wallichii (below).

 

Eriophyton wallichii
A remarkable plant, with a dense cover of woolly hairs, making it look like a cotton ball. Stem to 20 cm, but often much lower, sometimes almost absent. Leaves are rounded, to 5 cm across, overlapping, like bracts and calyx covered in long, white-woolly hairs. Flowers are in whorls, sessile, wine-red or purple, densely hairy, corolla to 3 cm long, the upper lip arching over the smaller lower lip.

It is distributed from western Nepal eastwards to the Yunnan Province, northwards across Tibet to Qinghai, at elevations between 2,700 and 5,400 m. The hairyness is an adaptation to retain heat and diminish evaporation in the cold surroundings at this high altitude.

A tonic is made from the root.

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

 

Flower size and colour To 3 cm long, wine-red or purple.
Height to 20 cm.
Habitat Rocks, scree.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Eriophyton wallichii, Laurebina La, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. Leaves of Potentilla peduncularis (Rosaceae) are also seen. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Isodon
A huge genus of more than 100 species of shrubby herbs, native to tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, with 2 species in Africa. A stronghold of the genus is China. These plants were formerly placed in the genus Rabdosia. About 11 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek isos (‘equal’) and odous (‘tooth’), alluding to the 5 equal lobes of the calyx of most species in the genus.

 

Isodon rugosus
This shrubby herb, previously known as Rabdosia rugosa, is aromatic, stem erect, much branched, to 1.6 m tall, leaves ovate, to 4 cm long, toothed, wrinkled, green above, white below with a dense cover of woolly hairs. Flowers on slender branches, in small clusters from the leaf axils, corolla white, hairy, to 6 mm long, with tiny violet spots on the upper lip, tube hidden in the calyx.

It is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards along the Himalaya to south-western China, with an isolated occurrence in Oman. In the Himalaya, it is quite common in drier areas, found at altitudes between 1,000 and 2,700 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘wrinkled’, referring to the leaves.

 

Flower size and colour To 6 mm long, white with tiny violet spots on the upper lip.
Height to 1.6 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Mar.-Oct.

 

 

Isodon rugosus, Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lamium Dead-nettle
A genus of 40-50 herbs, native to Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. Several species have been accidentally introduced in many other places and are now widely naturalized across temperate areas worldwide. 6 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The generic name is from the Greek lamia (‘gaping mouth’), alluding to the shape of the flowers. The common name refers to the nettle-like leaves, which do not sting.

 

Lamium album White dead-nettle
Stem erect or ascending, hairy, to 60 cm tall, leaves stalked, ovate-lanceolate or heart-shaped, to 8 cm long and 4 cm wide, margin serrated. Inflorescences leafy, in distant whorls, 8-9-flowered, calyx bell-shaped, hairy, to 1.3 cm long, with long, pointed teeth. Corolla white, sometimes tinged with lilac, hairy, to 2.5 cm long, tube curved, swollen at base.

This species is widespread in temperate areas of Eurasia, in the Himalaya restricted to the western part, eastwards to central Nepal, growing at elevations between 1,500 and 3,700 m.

Young leaves are edible, and the flowers are used medicinally.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘white’, alluding to the flowers.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, white, sometimes tinged with lilac.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Shrubberies, damp slopes, forest margins, along trails.
Flowering Apr.-Sep.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Lamium amplexicaule Henbit dead-nettle
This plant probably originated in the region around the Mediterranean, but has since spread as a weed to numerous areas around the world. In the Himalaya, it grows up to elevations around 4,000 m.

Stems to 40 cm tall, branched from the base, erect or ascending, angular, softly hairy, leaves opposite, lower ones short-stalked, kidney-shaped or rounded, to 3 cm across, margin with rounded teeth or sometimes lobed. Upper leaves smaller, sessile, stem-clasping. Flowers are arranged in axillary whorls with 6-10 flowers, calyx tubular or bell-shaped, to 5 mm long, densely hairy, teeth lanceolate, to 2 mm long. Corolla pink, reddish or purplish, to 2 cm long, downy, tube to 1.5 cm long.

All green parts and flowers can be eaten raw or cooked. It has a slightly peppery taste, similar to celery.

The specific name is derived from the Latin amplexus (‘clasped’) and‎ caulis (‘stem’), referring to the upper leaves clasping the stem. The name henbit was first used by English herbalist John Gerard (c. 1545-1612), who published a large work on herbal medicine, Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes. The word is a corruption of the Dutch hoenderbeet (‘hen’s morsel’), alluding to hens eating the plant.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 cm long, pink, reddish or purplish.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Farmland, meadows, along trails.
Flowering Mar.-Aug.

 

 

Lamium amplexicaule, Ulley, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Leonurus Motherwort
A genus of about 25 species of shrubby herbs, native to Eurasia. Several species have become naturalized in other parts of the world. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is a Latinized form of Ancient Greek leon (’lion’) and oura (’tail’), thus ‘lion’s tail’, which is also a popular English name. It is not clear, why Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) applied this name to the common motherwort (below).

 

Leonurus cardiaca Common motherwort
This species is probably a native of Central Asia and south-eastern Europe, but is widely cultivated in most parts of the world and has become naturalized in many places. In the Himalaya, it is restricted to the western part, eastwards to western Nepal, growing at elevations between 2,400 and 3,600 m.

A tall plant, growing to a height of 1.5 m, stem angular, leaves very variable, ovate or lanceolate, usually with 3-7 deeply cut lobes, but sometimes undivided, nettle-like, to 8 cm long, gradually getting smaller up the stem. The inflorescense is a very long, leafy spike of interrupted axillary whorls, flowers pink, mauve or pure white, corolla to 1.2 cm long, hairy, calyx with 5 spreading, spine-tipped teeth.

Motherwort has a long history as a medical herb. Since the Middle Ages, it was used in Europe for heart palpitations and high blood pressure. In China, it was used to prevent pregnancy and to regulate menstruation, and in Europe, midwives used it for various female disorders, including uterine infection – hence the name motherwort. Same usage was found among American natives of the Delaware area.

In his delightful book All about Weeds, American botanist Edwin Spencer (1881-1964) writes: “Here’s sumpin’ you art to know,” said an old midwife to a young bride, as the two of them stood looking at a tall mint, growing by the garden fence. “This is motherwort.”

Today, motherwort is used to suppress spasms. As a tonic, it is taken for palpitations and irregular heartbeat, and for fever, nervousness, and delirium. It is also used to ease stomach gas.

In Nepal, the juice is utilized to induce sweating and to regulate digestion. Pounded leaves are applied to fungi between the toes, caused by walking barefoot in water during the rainy season.

The specific name is derived from Ancient Greek kardia (‘heart’), alluding to its usage for heart problems.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.2 cm long, pink, mauve, or pure white.
Height to 1.5 m.
Habitat Open forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

White-flowered form of Leonurus cardiaca, Shilt, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Leucas
This genus contains 150-200 species, widespread in Africa and Asia, with a few species in Australia and on islands in the Indian Ocean. 6 species are found in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek leukos (‘white’). It refers to the flower colour, which is white in the majority of the species, rarely yellow, purple, brownish, or scarlet.

 

Leucas lanata
As indicated by its specific name, which means ‘woolly’ in the Latin, this plant is covered in downy hairs. It grows to 45 cm tall, stems several, angular, leaves short-stalked, ovate or oblong, to 3.5 cm long, veins impressed on the upperside, margin sharply toothed. Inflorescences are numerous axillary whorls of snow-white flowers, to 1 cm long, tube surrounded by the very hairy, tubular calyx, to 8 mm long, pale green with dark green veins and 10 sharp teeth.

It is distributed in the Himalaya, from Kashmir eastwards to Sikkim, growing at elevations between 700 and 3,000 m.

 

Flower size and colour To 1 cm long, snow-white.
Height to 45 cm.
Habitat Farmland, along trails, among rocks.
Flowering Apr.-Sep.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Leucosceptrum canum
This species, the only member of the genus, is one of the few trees in the mint family. It grows to 10 m tall, bark greyish or brown, peeling off in strips. Leaves elliptic-lanceolate, to 30 cm long and 9 cm wide, entire or finely toothed, densely white- or brown-woolly-haired below. Inflorescences are erect, cylindric spikes, to 15 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, with numerous densely packed, tiny, whitish flowers, to 9 mm long, calyx densely hairy, with teeth to 1.5 mm long. The flowers are much visited by bees.

It is found from Uttarakhand eastwards to western China, southwards to Bangladesh and northern Indochina. In the Himalaya, it grows at altitudes between 1,500 and 2,600 m.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek leukos (‘white’) and skeptron (‘scepter’), alluding to the shape of the inflorescence. The specific name is derived from the Latin canis (‘dog’) – perhaps a derogatory term.

 

Flower size and colour Spikes to 15 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, corolla to 9 mm long, whitish.
Height to 10 m.
Habitat Forest margins, shrubberies, waste areas.
Flowering Oct.-Apr.

 

 

Fruiting Leucosceptrum canum, Langtang Khola, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Mentha Mint
A genus with around 24 species, distributed worldwide, with the exception of South America and Antarctica. In South America, however, several species have become naturalized. 3 species are encountered in the Himalaya.

Most of these plants are found in wet environments. Identification is often difficult, as many species hybridize.

The generic name is a Latinized version of minthe, the Ancient Greek word for these plants.

 

Mentha longifolia Horse mint
A strongly aromatic perennial, stems square, creeping, ascending, or erect, to 1.2 m tall, leaves opposite, oblong or lanceolate, to 10 cm long and 3 cm broad, soft-haired, green or greyish above, whitish below, margin sparsely toothed. Inflorescences are dense spikes, terminal or axillary, corolla to 5 mm long, lilac, purplish, or white. The plant usually spreads via rhizomes, often forming large growths in marshes and along streams.

This species is native to the major part of Europe eastwards to central Siberia, and thence southwards to the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, the Himalaya, and China, and to northern, eastern, and southern Africa, avoiding tropical areas. In the Himalaya, it is found at altitudes between 1,500 and 3,800 m, from Pakistan eastwards to central Nepal, restricted to wetlands in dry regions.

The plant has a peppermint-like fragrance and contains medicinal properties. In his Complete Herbal, from 1653, English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) writes: “It is good for wind and colic in the stomach … The juice, laid on warm, helps the King’s evil [scrofula] or kernels in the throat [tonsil stones] … The decoction or distilled water helps a stinking breath, proceeding from corruption of the teeth, and snuffed up the nose, purges the head. It helps the scurf or dandruff of the head used with vinegar.”

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘long-leaved’. The prefix horse is from Middle English, denoting a coarse variety of a plant, in this case presumably indicating its inferior quality to that of peppermint (M. x piperata).

M. royleana, which grows in the same areas, is very similar, but the inflorescences are in separated whorls towards the end of stems.

 

Flower size and colour To 5 mm long, lilac, purplish, or white.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Wet marshes, along streams and irrigation channels.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Mentha longifolia, growing near Lake Deepak Tal (c. 3800 m), Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Mentha longifolia, Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Micromeria
A large genus with 80-100 species of small shrubs or herbs, widespread across Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, with core areas around the Mediterranean and in the Canary Islands. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

According to Wiktionary, micromeria means ‘an unusually small cell, formed by unequal cleavage of a fertilized ovum’. However, the name may simply refer to the tiny leaves of several species.

 

Micromeria biflora
A small shrub, often tufted, stems to 30 cm tall, but mostly much lower. Leaves elliptic or ovate, to 1 cm long and 5 mm broad, pointed, dotted with glands, emitting a faint lemon-smell. The flwers are arranged in axillary whorls, 1-4-flowered, corolla pink, pale purple, or white with purple markings, to 6 mm long, tube slightly longer than the hairy calyx, which has 13 prominent veins.

This plant may constitute several species. In its broadest sense, it is distributed in Africa, southern Arabia, the Middle East, and the Indian Subcontinent. In the Himalaya, it is found at elevations between 1,000 and 4,000 m.

A paste made from the plant is used for various ailments, including wounds, sinusitis, toothache, dysentery, colds, and cough. Fresh or dried leaves and flowers are used as a flavouring agent and as tea, and an oil extracted from the plant for flavouring liqueur. The dried plant is burned as incense.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘two-flowered’, alluding to the flowers often coming in pairs.

 

Flower size and colour To 6 mm long, pink, pale purple, or white with purple markings.
Height to 30 cm, but usually tufted.
Habitat Grassy slopes, along trails.
Flowering Mar.-Sep.

 

 

Micromeria biflora, Agora, Uttarakhand. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Nepeta Catmint, catnip
A huge genus of about 250 species, 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. About 31 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The generic name is the classical Latin name of these plants, maybe originally derived from Etruscan nepete, referring to an ancient city named Nepi.

This genus is notoriously difficult, and I have only been able to identify a few species. Below are a number of pictures of unidentified species. If you are able to identify any of them, I should be happy to hear about it. You can use the address at the bottom of the page.

 

 

Unidentified Nepeta, Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Unidentified Nepeta, Koksar, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Unidentified Nepeta, Jispa, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Unidentified Nepeta, Rohtang La, Himachal Pradesh. In the upper picture, a species of pearly everlasting (Anaphalis) is also seen. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Unidentified Nepeta, Namche Bazaar, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Unidentified Nepeta, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Unidentified Nepeta, Sissu, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Nepeta erecta
A stout plant, stem erect, to 90 cm tall, downy-hairy, leaves triangular or heart-shaped, to 6 cm long and 4 cm wide, margin toothed, upper leaves narrower, oblong-lanceolate. Inflorescences in terminal, lax spikes or in separate whorls on the upper part of the stem, whorls subtended by leaves. Corolla tube curved, to 2.5 cm long, dark blue or purplish, lower lip often whitish with blue or purple dots.

This species grows in forests and on open slopes, from Pakistan eastwards to Uttarakhand, at altitudes between 2,100 and 3,600 m.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, dark blue or purplish, lower lip often whitish with blue or purple dots.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Forests, open areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Nepeta erecta, Humkhani, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Nepeta floccosa
This plant is easily identified by its woolly leaves, which emit a lemon-like fragrance. Stems numerous, erect or ascending, pale green, to 35 cm long, covered in whitish hairs. Leaves heart-shaped or triangular, fleshy, woolly-hairy, to 3 cm long and across, margin with rounded teeth. Inflorescences are in dense whorls, widely spaced up the stem, 6-8-flowered, corolla blue, to 1.3 cm long, tube slender, incurved, lobes of upper lip very small, to 1.5 mm long, middle lobe of lower lip to 4 mm long.

This species is distributed from Xinjiang southwards through Tibet to Pakistan, Ladakh, and Uttarakhand, at altitudes between 2,100 and 4,400 m. It is common in Ladakh, especially where mountain slopes have been eroded to gravel.

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.

The specific name is derived from the Latin floccus (‘a tuft’, ‘a wisp of wool’) and the suffix osus (‘full of’), presumably referring to the woolly leaves.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.3 cm long, blue.
Height to 35 cm.
Habitat Stony slopes, grasslands in drier areas.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Nepeta floccosa, Chomuthang (top), and near Leh, Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Nepeta laevigata
A stout plant, growing to about 80 cm tall, with terminal cylindric inflorescences, to 10 cm long, often with purple bracts and calyx, the latter with stiff bristles. Flowers whitish with purplish-blue lower lip, to 1.2 cm long, much longer than the sepals.

This species is found at elevations between 2,300 and 4,500 m, from Afghanistan eastwards across southern Tibet and northern parts of the Himalaya to Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces.

In local medicine, it is used against excessive transpiration.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.2 cm long, whitish with purplish-blue lower lip.
Height to 80 cm.
Habitat Open slopes, grasslands, in drier areas.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Nepeta laevigata, Kielang, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Nepeta longibracteata
A small, prostrate plant, stems slender, erect or spreading, to 15 cm long, leaves lemon-scented, long-stalked, blade wedge-shaped, ovate, or linear-lanceolate, woolly-hairy, to 1.5 cm long and 1.2 cm wide, margin with numerous rounded teeth. Inflorescences terminal, mostly globular, to about 3.5 cm long, bracts purplish, linear, hairy, longer than flowers. Corolla pale blue or pale violet, to 1.8 cm long, upper lip concave, lower lip often with white spots, tube curved, often whitish.

It grows on stony or gravelly slopes, from Tajikistan eastwards to Xinjiang, and thence southwards through Tibet to Pakistan, Ladakh, and Himachal Pradesh, at elevations between 4,400 and 5,300 m.

The plant is used for stomach and liver trouble, and oedema. An aromatic oil is extracted from it.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘with long bracts’.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.8 cm long, pale blue or pale violet.
Height/length to 15 cm.
Habitat Dry stony areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Nepeta longibracteata, Kongmaru La, Markha Valley, Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Nepeta podostachys
This species has many spreading stems, to 30 cm long. Leaves few, short-stalked, oblong or elliptic, to 3 cm long, margin toothed. Spikes terminal, generally far separated from the upper leaves, flowers small, white, to about 8 mm long. It is restricted to drier areas, found from Afghanistan eastwards through Kashmir and Ladakh to Himachal Pradesh, at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,300 m.

The specific name is derived from the Greek pous (‘foot’) and stakhys (‘spike’, originally meaning ‘an ear of grain’). The inflorescence is a spike, but terminal, so it is hard to see what ‘foot’ refers to.

 

Flower size and colour To 8 mm long, white.
Height/length to 30 cm.
Habitat Dry stony areas.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Nepeta podostachys, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Origanum Marjoram, oregano
About 15-20 species of shrubby herbs, distributed in Central Asia and around the Mediterranean. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek origanon, from oros (‘mountain’) and ganos (‘brightness’), thus ‘brightness of the mountain’.

 

Origanum vulgare Oregano
Stems numerous, erect or ascending, to 60 cm long, leaves short-stalked, blade ovate or oblong, to 4 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, glandular, shiny above, densely hairy below, margin entire or with few teeth. Inflorescences are dense globular or oblong spikes, terminal or from the upper leaf axils, corolla purplish-red to white, tubular, to 7 mm long, upper lip to 1.5 mm long, 2-lobed, lower lip to 2 mm long.

This plant was originally native to Central Asia and the Mediterranean region, but has become widely naturalized elsewhere in temperate areas. In the Himalaya, it is found from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan, at elevations between 600 and 4,000 m.

Leaves and flowers are used for tea, as a spice, and as incense. Leaves and seeds are pickled. In Nepal, the plant is utilized for treatment of diarrhoea, colic, rheumatism, and toothache, and ash from the bark is applied to wounds.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘common’.

 

Flower size and colour To 7 mm long, purplish-red to white.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Open slopes, grasslands.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Origanum vulgare, near Darchu, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Orthosiphon
About 45 species of shrubby herbs, distributed in Asia, Australia, and Africa, with c. 4 species in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek siphon (‘tube’) and orthos (‘erect’), alluding to the long corolla tube.

 

Orthosiphon incurvus
A shrubby herb, branched, stems to 90 cm tall, 4-angled, leaves with a winged stalk, ovate or lanceolate, to 15 cm long, margin toothed. Inflorescences terminal interrupted clusters, corolla pink or mauve, to 1.5 cm long, tube straight or curved, upper lip with 3-4 lobes, lower lip entire. Calyx bell-shaped, purple, to 8 mm long, with 3 rounded lobes and 2 ending in a sharp tooth.

Distributed from central Nepal eastwards to Bhutan, growing at altitudes between 400 and 2,000 m.

Juice of the plant is used for treatment of malaria.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘bent’, alluding to the often bent corolla tube.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.5 cm long, pink or mauve.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Feb.-Nov.

 

 

Orthosiphon incurvus, Bahundanda, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Perovskia
A genus with about 10 shrubby herbs, distributed in Central Asia and the Middle East. 2 species are found in the Himalaya.

The generic name was given in honour of a Russian general, Count Vasily Alekseevich Perovsky (1794-1857).

 

Perovskia abrotanoides
This plant somewhat resembles the widely cultivated lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), inflorescences in lax panicles with numerous small pale blue or lavender-blue flowers, to 1 cm long, tube slender, longer than the dark purple, very hairy calyx, upper lip 4-lobed, lower entire. Stem to 1.2 m tall, white, green, or purple, downy, much-branched, leaves linear, to 7 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, margin with widely spaced lobes.

It occurs from eastern Iran and Turkmenistan eastwards to Tibet, growing at elevations between 2,700 and 3,600 m. It is very common in Ladakh.

The entire plant has a strong smell. It was formerly used in traditional medicine as a cooling agent.

The specific name refers to an aromatic shrub, Artemisia abrotanum, the latter name derived from abrotonon, the Ancient Greek name of a species of wormwood (Artemisia). It is not clear what the likeness refers to.

 

Flower size and colour To 1 cm long, pale blue or lavender-blue.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Stony areas.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

These pictures are all from Ladakh, where Perovskia abrotanoides is very common, often adding a blue hue to the drab desert landscape. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Phlomoides Lampwick plant
Members of this genus, counting about 150 species, were formerly included in the genus Phlomis. They are native from southern Europe across the Middle East to Central Asia and China. About 8 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 members of the genus as lamp wicks.

 

Phlomoides bracteosa
An erect hairy plant, growing to 80 cm tall. Leaves are stalked, hairy, heart-shaped, to 10 cm long, margin toothed. They are arranged crosswise up the stem. Pink-purple flowers appear in few Inflorescences are large, dense whorls, to 4 cm across, subtended by leaves, corolla purplish-pink, to 2 cm long, shorter than the purple, very hairy calyx. Upper lip forms a hood, lower lip smaller, 3-lobed.

This is the commonest member of the genus in the Himalaya, growing in open areas at altitudes between 1,200 and 4,100 m, from Afghanistan eastwards to south-western China.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 cm long, purplish-pink.
Height to 80 cm.
Habitat Open areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Phlomoides bracteosa, photographed below the Rohtang La Pass, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Phlomoides bracteosa, Bireth Nallah, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Phlomoides macrophylla
A stout plant, to 2 m tall, but often much lower, lower leaves long-stalked, heart-shaped, hairy, blade to 20 cm across, margin toothed, upper leaves much smaller, ovate or heart-shaped, almost sessile. Flowers in whorls, corolla pink or purple, to 2 cm long, upper lip hairy, forming a hood, lower lip 3-lobed, calyx purple, sometimes almost as long as the corolla tube, sometimes shorter, with sharp teeth, bracts awl-shaped, purple, hairy.

This variable plant is distributed from Iran eastwards across the Himalaya to Bhutan, at elevations between 2,400 and 4,000 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘large-leaved’.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 cm long, pink or purple.
Height to 2 m, but often much lower.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Phlomoides macrophylla, Thangshyap (3200 m), Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Phlomoides rotata
A prostrate herb, hugging the ground as a means of protection against the strong winds, which often blow on the Tibetan Plateau. 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 (see pictures).

There are 4-6 rounded, rhombic, or kidney-shaped, wrinkled, hairy leaves, to 13 cm across, with deeply impressed veins, margin with rounded teeth. Inflorescence in a dense cluster at the centre of the leaves, to 7 cm long, usually stemless, but sometimes on a stem to 15 cm tall. Corolla purplish-blue, reddish-purple, or mauve, to 1.5 cm long, with long white hairs along the edge of the upper lip, and also a few on the lower lip. Calyx hairy, to 8 mm long, with sharp bristles.

This species grows on stony alpine meadows and along streams at elevations between 2,700 and 5,200 m, from Tibet and western Nepal eastwards to Bhutan and the Chinese provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan.

The plant is utilized in traditional medicine for traumatic problems.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘moving in a circle on a central axis’, naturally alluding to the outline of the leaves around the inflorescence.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.5 cm long, purplish-blue, reddish-purple, or mauve.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Stony meadows, dry riverbeds.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Phlomoides rotata, growing in a dry valley beneath Imja Tse (Island Peak), Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Pogostemon
A genus of c. 60 species, distributed in warmer regions of Asia and Africa. About 5 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from the Greek pogon (‘beard’) and stemon (‘thread’), alluding to the hairy filaments.

 

Pogostemon benghalensis
An aromatic, shrubby plant, stem angular, to 2.5 m tall. Leaves stalked, opposite, ovate, to 13 cm long and 6 cm wide, margin double-toothed, tip pointed. Flowers in numerous spikes, forming a pyramid-shaped, terminal inflorescence, to 10 cm long, corolla white, to 9 mm long, 2-lipped, upper lip 3-lobed, stamens 4, much exserted, filaments with conspicuous violet hairs.

It is widespread in the Indian Subcontinent, in the Himalaya found up to an elevation of about 1,300 m. It is also cultivated elsewhere for its medicinal properties. In Nepal, juice of the plant is given for cough and colds, juice of the root for fever. In India, juice of the leaves is applied to repel leeches, dried shoots are used for flavoring country liquor, and leaves and flowers are made into garlands. It is also an important bee plant.

The specific name means ‘of Bengal’ – in the British colonial period indicating a much larger area of northern India than the present-day Bengal.

 

Flower size and colour To 9 mm long, white, filaments with conspicuous violet hairs.
Height to 2.5 m.
Habitat Forest margins, shrubberies.
Flowering Dec.-May.

 

 

Pogostemon benghalensis, Birethanti, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Prunella Self-heal, heal-all
About 13 species, most of which are native to Europe, western Asia, and North Africa. However, common self-heal (below) is distributed in most temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, and P. prunelliformis is restricted to the island of Honshu, Japan.

The generic name, formerly spelt Brunella, is from the German name of these plants, Braunelle, referring to the usage of common self-heal (below) against quinsy, in German Bräune. The common names also refer to the medicinal properties of the plant.

 

Prunella vulgaris Common self-heal
A prostrate plant, stems spreading or ascending, to 30 cm long, leaves stalked, ovate, elliptic or lanceolate, entire or toothed, to 5 cm long and 2.5 cm broad. Flowers arranged in dense terminal, cylindric clusters, to 5 cm long, corolla blue or violet, rarely white, to 1.5 cm long, 2-lipped, calyx bell-shaped, purple, to 1 cm long.

This species is probably a native of Temperate Eurasia and North Africa, but has become widely naturalized, especially in North America. In the Himalaya, it is found from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan, at elevations between 1,200 and 3,800 m.

In his delightful book All about Weeds, American botanist Edwin Spencer (1881-1964) writes: “It is a strange plant in that one seldom finds it in abundance anywhere, and yet it is found everywhere. A man, who had spent seven years in Japan, and who had lived on nearly every island in the archipelago, said that he never failed to find this little plant wherever he went, and that although he had been in many nations of the world he had never entered one, where Prunella was not present to greet him – not many plants, but always enough to attract his attention.”

Previously, it was widely used in traditional medicine. Among American natives, persons with fever were bathed in a decoction of the plant, and the decoction was also drunk to sharpen your vision. Today, self-heal is widely used for wounds and quinsy, and also for swollen eyes and glands. In Nepal, a paste of the plant is applied to an aching back.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘common’.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.5 cm long, blue or violet, rarely white.
Height/length to 30 cm.
Habitat Open slopes, grasslands.
Flowering May-Sep.

 

 

Prunella vulgaris, Ringmo, Solu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Prunella vulgaris, Shyabru, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Pseudocaryopteris
This genus, containing 3 species, was split from the genus Caryopteris in 1999. These plants are native to the Himalaya, Thailand, Myanmar, and China.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek karyon (‘nut’, ‘kernel’), and pteron (‘wing’), alluding to the winged seeds, and pseudes (‘false’), referring to the fact that the plant has been removed from the genus Caryopteris.

 

Pseudocaryopteris bicolor Bluebeard
This shrub, growing to 3 m tall, was formerly known as Caryopteris bicolor. 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. It is common in central Nepal.

This handsome plant has large clusters of bluish, fragrant flowers at the end of spreading, 4-angled branches. The leaves are elliptic, pointed, entire or toothed, to 15 cm long and 4 cm broad. Flowers are in dense terminal or axillary clusters, bluish-purple, fragrant, corolla tube to 8 mm, hairy, glandular, the lobes to 8 mm long. Stamens and style are much exserted. Calyx is densely hairy. The fruit is a capsule, more or less globular, to 4 mm across, hairy, dark blue when ripe.

The plant is lopped for fodder.

 

Flower size and colour Corolla bluish-purple, tube to 8 mm long, lobes to 8 mm long.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Open forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Feb.-May.

 

 

Pseudocaryopteris bicolor, near Kimrong Khola, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Pseudocaryopteris bicolor, Birethanti, Annapurna. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Salvia Sage
Many species of this huge genus, comprising about 1,000 species, are cultivated as ornamentals. These attractive plants are distributed on all continents, with the exception of Australia and Antarctica. 11 species occur in the Himalaya, the majority with blue flowers, some yellow.

The generic name is derived from the Latin salvere (‘to make well or healthy’), referring to the healing properties of the common sage (S. officinalis).

 

Salvia campanulata
A stout herb, stem to 80 cm tall, glandular-hairy, leaves stalked, ovate or heart-shaped, to 18 cm long and 13.5 cm wide, margin toothed, tip pointed. Flowers in axillary clusters, glandular-hairy, tube short, inflated, corolla 2-lipped, bright yellow, sometimes streaked with purplish, to 3 cm long, style slightly exserted.

This plant is found from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar and south-western China, growing at elevations between 1,500 and 4,000 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘bell-shaped’, derived from campanula (‘little bell’).

 

Flower size and colour To 3 cm long, yellow, sometimes streaked with purplish.
Height to 80 cm.
Habitat Forest margins, open slopes, shrubberies.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Salvia campanulata, Lamjura Pass, Solu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Salvia coccinea Scarlet sage
This species, which is native to Central and South America, is widely cultivated elsewhere as an ornamental and has become naturalized in many places, also in the lower valleys of the Himalaya.

It is an erect herb, to 70 cm tall, hairy, leaves short-stalked, ovate, heart-shaped, or triangular, to 5 cm long and 4 cm broad, margin toothed, tip pointed. Inflorescences in widely spaced, terminal racemes. Calyx green, bell-shaped, to 9 mm long, downy and glandular-hairy, 2-lipped. Corolla scarlet or deep red, to 2.3 cm long, lower lip broad, to 8.5 mm wide, upper lip smaller.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘scarlet’.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.3 cm long, scarlet or deep red.
Height to 70 cm.
Habitat Open areas.
Flowering Apr.-Jul.

 

 

Salvia coccinea, escaped from a garden, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Salvia hians
A large, aromatic herb, stem to 1 m tall, angular, glandular-hairy, leaves long-stalked, broadly ovate or arrow-shaped, to 18 cm long and 10 cm wide, toothed, tip pointed. Flowers single or few together, widely spaced near the tip of the stem, often axillary, corolla to 4 cm long, hairy, deep blue or violet, often with white markings on the lips, tube greatly inflated, calyx green or purple, bell-shaped, to 1.5 cm long.

It is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan, growing at altitudes between 2,400 and 4,000 m.

In Nepal, the sweet-tasting flowers are eaten, and also the seeds when roasted. Young stems are pickled.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘gaping’, alluding to the flower shape.

 

Flower size and colour To 4 cm long, deep blue or violet, often with white markings on the lips.
Height to 1 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Salvia hians, Pisang (3200 m), Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Salvia hians, Humkhani, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Salvia lanata
A beautiful plant, stem erect, to 30 cm tall, glandular-hairy above, leaves mostly basal, oblong, entire or with small teeth, to 10 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, densely woolly-hairy below, and often also above. Flowers arranged in whorls up the stem, corolla pale blue or violet, to 2.5 cm long, tube to 1 cm. Calyx bell-shaped, to 1 cm long, glandular-hairy, with 5 spiny tips.

It is found in open areas of the western Himalaya, from Pakistan eastwards to western Nepal, at elevations between 1,500 and 3,000 m.

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.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, pale blue or violet.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Dry open slopes.
Flowering Mar.-Jul.

 

 

Salvia lanata, Lower Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Salvia nubicola
A stout, aromatic plant, glandular-hairy on all parts, stem to 1.2 m tall, leaves stalked, ovate or oblong, toothed, to 18 cm long. Inflorescences in widely spaced clusters with up to 6 flowers in each, corolla to 4 cm long, lower lip yellow with brown markings, upper lip brownish-purplish, with in-rolled margins. Calyx to 1.2 cm long, downy, 2-lipped.

This species is distributed from eastern Afghanistan eastwards to Bhutan, growing at elevations between 2,100 and 4,300 m. Previously, it was regarded as a subspecies of the sticky sage (S. glutinosa), which is found in western Asia and southern Europe.

In Nepal, the seeds are roasted and pickled. Juice of the root is given for fever.

The specific name is derived from the Latin nubes (‘cloud’) and colo (‘to inhabit’), alluding to the high altitudes this plant is growing at.

 

Flower size and colour To 4 cm long, lower lip yellow with brown markings, upper lip brownish-purplish.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Open drier areas, along trails.
Flowering Jun.-Oct.

 

 

Salvia nubicola, Ekle Bhatti, Upper Kali Gandaki Valley, Mustang, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Salvia nubicola, Chame, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Scutellaria Skullcap
A huge genus with about 350 species, found across the globe, except in polar regions. About 10 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The generic name was previously regarded as a derivation of scutellum, diminutive of scutum (’shield’). It was thought that it referred to the hump on the upper lip of the calyx, which may resemble a small shield. However, Scutellaria is derived from scutella, which was the term for a small offering cup, scutella being the diminutive of scutra (’bowl’). The name refers to the rounded lower lip of the calyx, where the nut-like seeds lie in a small ‘bowl’, after the upper lip of the calyx has fallen off.

 

Scutellaria discolor
Stem ascending or erect, to 60 cm tall, purple or reddish, leaves short-stalked, mostly basal, ovate or broadly elliptic, to 8 cm long and 4.8 cm wide, green and sparsely hairy above, often purple below and densely hairy, margin with rounded teeth, tip blunt, stem leaves small, opposite. Flowers are arranged in lax, terminal spikes, to 25 cm long, corolla 2-lipped, to 1.8 cm long, blue or purple with a white lower lip, tube slender, curved, to 1 cm long. Calyx very small, but enlarging in fruit.

Widely distributed from India eastwards to central China, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia. In the Himalaya, it is found from Uttarakhand eastwards, at elevations between 800 and 2,400 m.

In Nepal, juice of the plant is applied to wounds between toes, and also used for fever. Juice of the root is used for indigestion, gastric problems, and fever.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.8 cm long, blue or purple with a white lower lip.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Forest margins, grassy areas, along trails.
Flowering Jul.-Dec.

 

 

Scutellaria discolor, Pokhara, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Scutellaria scandens
A shrubby herb with rambling branches, to 2 m long, sharply 4-angled, leaves short-stalked, ovate or lanceolate, toothed, to 8 cm long and 5 cm wide, often purple beneath, tip long-pointed. Flowers are in axillary spikes along the stem, to 10 cm long, corolla to 2.5 cm long, white, cream-coloured, or yellow, upper lip purple.

Distributed from Kashmir eastwards to eastern Nepal and southern Tibet, at elevations between 1,200 and 2,400 m.

In Nepal, juice of the plant is given for fever and stomach ache, applied to wounds, and dripped into the ear to relieve earache. Juice of the root is applied to an aching back.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘climbing’, alluding to its rambling habit.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, white, cream-coloured, or yellow, upper lip purple.
Height/length to 2 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering Mar.-Jun.

 

 

Scutellaria scandens, Jhinu Danda, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Scutellaria scandens, Tirkhedunga, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Scutellaria scandens, Ringmo, Solu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Stachys Woundwort, hedge-nettle
Counting at least 360 species, this genus is one of the largest in the mint family, distributed in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. About 7 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is from Ancient 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 of the species.

 

Stachys sericea
Stem erect, hairy, to 1.2 m tall, leaves stalked, oblong or heart-shaped, to 7 cm long, margin toothed, tip pointed or blunt. Flowers are arranged in dense whorls up the stem, corolla pink with purplish markings, to 1.5 cm long, upper lip forming a hood, lower lip larger, 3-lobed, lateral lobes small. Calyx purple, hairy, spine-tipped.

This plant is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to Bhutan, growing at altitudes between 2,100 and 4,000 m.

The specific name is derived from Ancient Greek serikos (‘seric’, ‘silken’), alluding to the woolly-hairy stem and leaf stalks.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.5 cm long, pink with purplish markings.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Open areas, grasslands.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Stachys tibetica
A rather woody, many-branched plant, often forming clumps. Stems slender, 4-angled, slightly hairy, to 60 cm tall, leaves stalkless or short-stalked, lanceolate or elliptic, to 2.5 cm long and 1 cm wide, entire or lobed, pointed. Inflorescences with 2-6 flowers, arranged in widely spaced whorls up the stem, corolla pink or purplish-white, to 2.5 cm long, tube slender, straight or slightly curved, to 1 cm long, upper lip large, forming a hood over the exserted stamens, lower lip 3-lobed, with a large mid-lobe.

This species grows in rocky areas at altitudes between 2,100 and 4,500 m, from western Tibet southwards to Pakistan and Ladakh. It is common in Ladakh.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, pink or purplish-white.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Dry stony slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Stachys tibetica, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Teucrium Germander
A cosmopolitan genus with about 300 species, only absent from Antarctica and the Arctic, with a core area around the Mediterranean. About 6 species occur in the Himalaya.

Members of this genus are characterized by the absent or very short upper lip of the corolla, whereas the lower lip is 5-lobed.

The generic name was used by Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist Pedanius Dioscorides (died 90 A.D.) for several species in this genus. It is believed to refer to King Teukros of Troy who used the plant medicinally.

The popular name is Middle English, from the Latin germandra, derived from Ancient Greek khamaidrus (‘ground oak’), from khamai (‘on the ground’) and drus (‘oak’), alluding to the leaves of some species, which were thought to resemble oak leaves.

 

Teucrium quadrifarium
A shrubby herb, stem erect, to 1.2 m tall, densely hairy below, almost smooth above. Leaves sessile or short-stalked, blade ovate or heart-shaped, toothed, hairy below, to 7.5 cm long and 4 cm wide, tip pointed. Inflorescences are spike-like, branched clusters, to 15 cm long. Bracts are conspicuous, purple or green, broadly ovate, long-pointed, to 1 cm long, often concealing the flowers. Corolla pink or purplish, to 1.3 cm long, tube not much longer than the calyx, upper lip absent or very short, lower lip 5-lobed.

This plant is widely distributed, from India eastwards to central and southern China, and thence southwards through Indochina to Sumatra. In the Himalaya, it is mainly found at altitudes between 900 and 2,400 m.

In Nepal, juice of the plant is applied to wounds between toes.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘fourfold’. It may refer to the angular stem.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.3 cm long, pink or purplish, often concealed by bracts.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Forest edges, shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Teucrium quadrifarium, Bahundanda, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Thymus Thyme
Some botanists recognize 300-400 species of this genus, found in Europe, northern Africa, and temperate areas of Asia. Others regard many of these species as subspecies of the widespread T. serpyllum. A single species is found in the Himalaya.

These plants are fragrant, mostly creeping dwarf shrubs. Leaves and flowers of some species are used as a spice.

 

Thymus linearis
A variable, many-branched, mat-forming, very fragrant dwarf shrub. Leaves nearly stalkless, elliptic or lanceolate, densely dotted with reddish glands, to 1.1 cm long and 5 mm wide, margin entire. Flowering stems to 6 cm long, with terminal clusters of purple, pale lilac, or pinkish flowers, to 6 mm long, calyx with hairy lobes.

It is distributed from Afghanistan across Tibet and the Himalaya to northern China and Japan, in the Himalaya growing at elevations between 1,500 and 4,300 m.

In Nepal, leaves and flowers are used as a spice, and made into pickles. They are also burned as incense. Juice of the plant is used for stomach and liver trouble and body ache, water from the boiled plant to expel intestinal worms.

 

Flower size and colour To 6 mm long, purple, pale lilac, or pinkish.
Height/length to 20 cm.
Habitat Drier stony areas.
Flowering Apr.-Sep.

 

 

Thymus linearis, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lardizabalaceae
A family with 7 genera and about 40 species of woody plants, almost all climbers, distributed in southern and eastern Asia, and southern South America, with 2 genera occurring in the Himalaya.

 

Stauntonia
This genus, containing 20 species of woody climbers, is found in the Himalaya, China, and Southeast Asia. A single species occurs in the Himalaya.

The generic name was given in honour of English traveller and orientalist George Thomas Staunton (1781-1859), 2nd Baronet, who was the first person to bring S. latifolia (below) to Britain from China.

Initially, the genus was named Holboellia by Danish physician and botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), who studied the Indian and Himalayan flora in the early 1800s. The name honoured Frederik Ludvig Holbøll (1765-1829), superintendent of the Royal Botanical Garden in Copenhagen.

 

Stauntonia latifolia Sausage vine
This plant, formerly named Holboellia latifolia, is an evergreen, woody climber, to 6 m long, stem to 15 cm thick, vertically striated with age, tips of twigs often twining. Leaves are on erect stalks to 20 cm long, blade palmate, often leathery, dark green and shining above, pale green below, leaflets 3-9, ovate, oblong, or sometimes lanceolate, pointed, to 13 cm long and 7 cm broad. Inflorescences several, clustered in the leaf-axils, flowers drooping, bell-shaped, fragrant, sepals 6, oblong or elliptic, pink or greenish-white, to 2.2 cm long and 9 mm broad, petals very small. The fruit is elliptic or oblong, to 10 cm long and 4 cm broad, rounded at both ends, pinkish or reddish-purple when ripe.

This species is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China, found at altitudes between 1,500 and 4,000 m.

It was cultivated as an ornamental at an early stage. In the Himalaya, ripe fruits are eaten raw.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘broad-leaved’. The popular name was given in reference to the shape of the fruit.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.2 cm long and 9 mm broad, pink or greenish-white.
Height/length to 5 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Mar.-Jun.
Fruiting May-Oct.

 

 

Stauntonia latifolia, Gyapla, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lauraceae Laurel family
An almost worldwide family with about 50 genera and 2,500 species of trees or shrubs, rarely parasitic climbers. 12 genera have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The position and number of veins on the leaves is a helpful means of identifying the genus.

 

Cinnamomum Cinnamon
A huge genus with about 250 species of evergreen trees or shrubs, found in tropical and subtropical Asia and Australia, and on some Pacific islands. Leaves are 3-veined.

About 6 species occur in the Himalaya, besides others which are cultivated, including the camphor tree (C. camphora), presented on the page Plants: Ancient and huge trees.

The generic name is derived from the Ancient Greek name of cinnamon, kinnamomon, derived from a Semitic language, and perhaps ultimately based on the Malay name of these plants.

 

Cinnamomum tamala
A slender, evergreen tree, to 20 m tall, with a trunk diameter of about 20 cm, bark grey-brown, scented. The leaves are alternate, short-stalked, young ones pink before turning reddish and later green (see picture), blade ovate, oblong, or lanceolate, shining, leathery, to 15 cm long and 5.5 cm wide, with 3 clear veins, margin entire, tip long-pointed, often curved. Inflorescences are axillary or terminal, branched, many-flowered clusters, to 15 cm long, flowers to 7 mm long, corolla yellowish or greenish-white, with oblong lobes, to 4 mm long, tube silky-haired. The fruit is obovoid or ellipsoid, black, fleshy, to 1.4 cm long, calyx lobes sometimes persistent.

It is distributed from Kashmir eastwards along the Himalaya to Myanmar and the Yunnan Province, growing at elevations between 500 and 2,100 m.

In Nepal, bark and leaves are added to curries and pickles, and dried bark and leaves are used medicinally to treat diarrhoea and colic.

The specific name is the ancient Sanskrit name of this tree. According to the Devi-Bhagavata-Purana, it is the name of a tree, growing in the abode of the shaktis (the female consorts of the superior gods). It always bears flowers, fruits, and new leaves, and their sweet fragrance is spread to all corners of the abode.

 

Flower size and colour To 7 mm long, yellowish or greenish-white.
Height to 20 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Apr.-May.

 

 

Young red leaves of Cinnamomum tamala, sprouting from the stump of a burnt trunk, Tashigaon, Makalu-Barun National Park, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Dodecadenia
Only one species in this genus. The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek dodeka (‘twelve’) and aden (‘gland’), thus ‘having 12 glands’, alluding to the many glands at the base of the filaments of male flowers.

 

Dodecadenia grandiflora
An evergreen tree, to 15 m tall, with a trunk diameter of about 30 cm, bark with many lenticels, flaking, twigs often silky-hairy. Leaves alternale, short-stalked, oblong or elliptic, pointed, to 18 cm long and 4.5 cm broad, hairless, with 8-12 pairs of lateral veins. Flowers to 1.5 cm across, single or 2-3 together in leaf axils, flower-stalk very short, covered by yellowish-brown bracts, corolla lobes 6-9, rounded, outer ones pale yellow, inner ones darker yellow, stamens 10-18. Fruit is berry-like, ellipsoid, purplish-black, to 1.3 cm long.

This species is quite common, found from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar, south-eastern Tibet, and south-western China, growing at elevations between 1,500 and 2,900 m.

The foliage is often lopped for fodder.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘large-flowered’.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.5 cm across, yellow.
Height to 15 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Feb.-Apr.

 

 

Dodecadenia grandiflora, Banthanti, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Dodecadenia grandiflora, Tharke Ghyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lindera
A large genus with about 100 species of aromatic, evergreen or deciduous trees or shrubs, found in Asia and North America. About 7 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name was applied in 1783 by Swedish naturalist and physician Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828) to commemorate Swedish botanist and physician Johan Linder (1676-1724), also known as Johan Lindestolpe, whose best-known botanical work was Flora Wiksbergensis (1716), the fourth printed account of a local Swedish flora.

 

Lindera pulcherrima
This species may grow into a small tree, to 10 m tall, but is often shrubby. Leaves alternate, short-stalked, leathery, ovate, elliptic, or lanceolate, to 17 cm long and 6 cm broad, with 3 pale, parallel, raised veins, and a tail-like tip to 2.5 cm long. Flowers to 5 mm across, in clusters in leaf-axils, encircled by 4-6 large, pale, overlapping bracts, petals elliptic, yellowish-green, flower-stalks hairy. The fruit is ellipsoid, black, to 8 mm long and 6 mm wide.

It is widespread, found from Uttarakhand eastwards along the Himalaya to northern Thailand and central China. In the Himalaya, it grows at altitudes between 1,200 and 2,800 m. It is common in Nepal.

The wood is used for fuel, the foliage for fodder.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘most beautiful’.

 

Flower size and colour To 5 mm across, yellowish-green.
Height to 10 m.
Habitat Forests, open slopes.
Flowering Mar.-Apr.
Fruiting Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Lindera pulcherrima, Tharke Ghyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Lindera pulcherrima, Sinuwa, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Persea
A large genus with about 150 species of evergreen trees with a disjunct distribution, about 70 species found in the Americas, a single species in the Macaronesian islands, and 80 species in the Far East and Southeast Asia. About 6 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The generic name was applied by English botanist and gardener Philip Miller (1691-1771). It may refer to the country Persia, or to an Ancient Greek word, alluding to an uncertain Egyptian tree, possibly Cordia myxa or a Mimusops species. The connection is obscure.

 

Persea odoratissima
This tree may grow to 16 m tall, but is usually smaller. The bark is dark-grey. The leaves are stalked, smooth, with an orange-like fragrance, green and shining above, blue-grey beneath, blade lanceolate to elliptic-oblong, to 18 cm long and 7.5 cm broad, often long-pointed. Flowers are yellowish-green, to 1 cm across, in lax, branched clusters, stems hairless, corolla lobes 6, oblong, pointed, filaments hairy near the base. The fruit is ellipsoid, purple, to 1.6 cm long.

It is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan, growing at elevations between 1,500 and 2,100 m.

In Nepal, a red dye is extracted from the bark, the foliage is used as fodder for silkworms and domestic animals, the wood for construction and firewood.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘most sweet-smelling’.

P. duthiei is very similar, but the inflorescences are downy-hairy, and the fruit is globular. It occurs from Pakistan to eastern Nepal.

 

Flower size and colour To 1 cm across, yellowish-green.
Height to 16 m, but usually smaller.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Mar.-Apr.

 

 

Persea odoratissima, Jhinu Danda, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Persea odoratissima, Brabal, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Leguminosae (pea family), see Fabaceae.

 

 

 

Lentibulariaceae Butterwort family
A worldwide family with 3 genera and about 290 species of herbs, most of which are found in tropical areas. 2 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Utricularia Bladderworts
This genus, comprising at least 200 species, has a very wide distribution, found in almost all parts of the world. About 11 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

These plants capture small animals by means of bladder-like traps. There are aquatic as well as terrestrial species, the former catching larger prey like water fleas and nematodes, the latter tiny organisms like protozoa and rotifers. The pressure inside the bladder is negative, compared to its surroundings. When trigger hairs on the trapdoor is touched by a tiny animal, the prey, along with the water around it, is sucked into the bladder, whereupon the door closes again, the whole procedure lasting only 1/10,000th of a second.

The generic name is Latin, meaning something like ‘the master of a raft, floating on bladders’, from utriculus (‘a small leather container’), from uter (‘a leather container, sometimes used as a float’).

Other members of the genus are presented on the page Plants: Carnivorous plants.

 

Utricularia brachiata
This tiny terrestrial species, growing in moss cushions on rocks and banks, catches minute prey, such as protozoa and rotifers. The leaves are short-stalked, blade kidney-shaped, to 6 mm across, margin entire. The bladders are stalked, ovoid, about 1 mm long, tip blunt. The flowering stems are to 8 cm tall, with single or paired flowers, to 8 mm long, corolla white, often with violet streaks on the upper lip, and a yellow spot at the the base of the lower lip, which is rounded, 3- or 5-lobed, spur cylindric, to 4 mm long. Calyx lobes to 4 mm long, purple or violet.

It is distributed at altitudes between 1,500 and 4,200 m, found from central Nepal eastwards to the Chinese provinces Sichuan and Yunnan.

The specific name is derived from the Latin bracchium (‘arm’, ‘limb’) and the suffix atus, thus ‘having branches resembling arms’, presumably alluding to the occasional twin branches on the flowering stem.

 

Flower size and colour To 8 mm long, white, often with violet streaks on the upper lip, and a yellow spot at the the base of the lower lip.
Height to 8 cm.
Habitat Mossy rocks and humid banks in forests.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Utricularia brachiata, growing among moss on a rock, Pati Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Liliaceae Lily family
Originally, this family contained several hundred genera. However, following genetic studies, the major part have been moved to other families, leaving about 16 genera with c. 635 species of herbs in the family. They are widely distributed, found mainly in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. 10 genera have been encountered in the Himalaya.

 

Cardiocrinum
A small genus with 3 species of large herbs, distributed from the Himalaya eastwards to northern Myanmar, China, and Japan. A single species occurs in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek kardia (‘heart’) and Crinum, a genus of spectacular plants, formerly in the lily family, but today in Amaryllidaceae. Thus, the name may be translated as ‘the Crinum-like (plant) with heart-shaped (leaves)’.

 

Cardiocrinum giganteum Giant Himalayan lily
A huge herb, to 4 m tall, with a stem to 5 cm across, lower leaves with a stalk to 20 cm long, blade heart-shaped or broadly ovate, shining, to 28 cm long and 25 cm broad, leaves gradually getting smaller up the stem, upper ones often bract-like. The large flowers, to 18 cm long, are clustered in a terminal raceme, up to 16 together, funnel-shaped, drooping, white tinged with green, very fragrant. The fruit is a globular capsule, to 7.5 cm across.

This marvellous plant is distributed from Kashmir eastwards to Myanmar, south-eastern Tibet, and south-western China, growing at elevations between 1,200 and 3,600 m.

In Nepal, a paste of the root is applied to dislocated bones. Flutes are made from the hollow stem.

 

Flower size and colour To 18 cm long, white, tinged with green.
Height to 4 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Cardiocrinum giganteum, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Clintonia
A small genus of 5 species, found in temperate and subarctic regions of North America, with a single species in eastern Asia. Leaves are basal. The fruit is a berry.

The genus was named for DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828), governor of New York State and a keen naturalist.

 

Clintonia udensis
Leaves are basal, 3-5, elliptic or obovate, to 25 cm long and 16 cm wide. The stem is leafless, downy-hairy, 20-30 cm tall when flowering, elongating to 60 cm in fruit. Flowers funnel-shaped, drooping, in a terminal raceme or umbel with up to 12 flowers, white or very pale blue, petals to 1.2 cm long and 4 mm broad, tip blunt or pointed. The berry is black or bluish, globular or ellipsoid, to 1.2 cm long.

It is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to central China, and thence northwards to Japan, Korea, and south-eastern Siberia, in the Himalaya growing at elevations between 2,500 and 4,000 m.

In Nepal, tender shoots and leaves are cooked as a vegetable.

The specific name refers to the Uda River or the Uden District of Siberia. Presumably, the type specimen was collected there.

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 1.2 cm long and 4 mm broad, white or very pale blue.
Height to 30 (60) cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Jun.
Fruiting Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Clintonia udensis, Pungi Tenga, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Fritillaria Snake’s-head fritillary
About 130 species, native to temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with core areas in Central Asia and the Mediterranean region. 2 species occur in the Himalaya (+ F. imperialis cultivated).

The generic name is derived from the Latin fritillus, the term for a cylindrical box holding dice, alluding to the bell-shaped flowers. The common name refers to the somewhat snake-like appearance of the nodding flowers.

 

Fritillaria cirrhosa
Stem to 60 cm tall, leaves usually in whorls up the stem, sometimes alternate, linear, to 12 cm long and 1.5 cm broad, tips of upper leaves often coiled. Flowers single or up to 3 together, bell-shaped, nodding, to 5 cm long and 3 cm broad, yellow or yellowish-green, spotted or chequered with purple, sometimes completely purple or maroon, petals oblong or narrowly elliptic, blunt.

Found from western Nepal eastwards to Myanmar and south-western China, growing at elevations between 3,000 and 4,600 m.

In Nepal, the roots are boiled or roasted. The bulb is used medicinally for treatment of lung problems, and a paste of the bulb is applied to bleeding wounds and pimples.

The specific name is derived from the Latin cirrus (‘a curl’), alluding to the tips of the upper leaves.

 

Flower size and colour To 5 cm long and 3 cm broad, yellow or yellowish-green, spotted or chequered with purple, sometimes completely purple or maroon.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Open grasslands, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Fritillaria cirrhosa, Annapurna Sanctuary, Upper Modi Khola Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Fritillaria cirrhosa, Luza, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos 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 (G. 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, which contains more than 200 species, widely distributed in Eurasia, with a few species in North Africa and North America. The major part of the species have yellow, star-shaped flowers. For this reason, the common English species, G. lutea, is popularly known as the yellow Star-of-Bethlehem.

Today, about 42 species occur in the Himalaya, the vast majority in northern Pakistan.

The generic name honours English botanist Sir Thomas Gage, 7th Baronet of Hengrave (1781-1820).

 

Gagea flavonutans
This pretty plant, previously known as Lloydia flavonutans, grows to 25 cm tall, basal leaves 3-8, strap-shaped, to 2.5 mm wide, usually shorter than stem, but sometimes longer (as in pictures below). Stem leaves several, very short, only 1-2 cm. Flowers usually solitary, but sometimes up to 4 together, nodding, to 2 cm long and across, yellow with purplish-green veins and an orange throat, anthers and stigma pale yellow.

It has a rather restricted distribution, found from central Nepal and extreme southern Tibet eastwards to Bhutan, growing at elevations between 3,800 and 5,000 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘the yellow one that is nodding’.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 cm long and across, yellow with purplish-green veins and an orange throat.
Height to 25 cm.
Habitat Open slopes, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Gagea flavonutans, Phedi, Gosainkund, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. In the background Juncus leucanthus. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gagea longiscapa
This plant, previously known as Lloydia longiscapa, is found from Kashmir eastwards to Bhutan, growing at elevations between 3,600 and 5,000 m.

Leaves mostly basal, thread-like, to 15 cm long, stem usually with 2 much smaller leaves. Flowering stem to 15 cm tall, flowers solitary or few together, petals elliptic, to 1.7 cm long, white, with many purple streaks near the base, and orange or brownish throat. Filaments are hairy below.

The specific name is derived from the Latin longus (‘long’) and the Greek skapos (‘staff’, ‘stick’), in botanical context referring to a leafless stalk, growing directly out of a root.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.7 cm long, white, with many purple streaks near the base, and orange or brownish throat.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Gagea longiscapa, Humkhani, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of flowers, Dole, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gagea serotina Snowdon lily, common alplily
This plant is very similar to G. longiscapa (above), but the flowers are yellowish in the throat, or only slightly brownish, and the filaments are hairless. It is widely distributed in temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, in the Himalaya found at altitudes between 3,500 and 4,800 m.

The specific name is derived from the Latin serus (‘late’). What it refers to is not clear. The popular name is explained above. In Welsh, its name is brwynddail y mynydd, meaning ‘the rush-leaved one of the mountain’.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.5 cm long, white, with purple streaks near the base, yellow or brownish in the throat.
Height to 20 cm.
Habitat Grasslands, rocky areas.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Gagea serotina, growing on a grassy slope beneath the mountain Langtang Lirung, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. In the bottom picture, leaves of a Cotoneaster are also seen, and the red flowers are Primula geraniifolia. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lilium Lily
This genus, comprising about 110 species, is distributed in the major part of the Northern Hemisphere. 7 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is the classical Latin name of these plants.

 

Lilium nanum
This small plant, sometimes known as Nomocharis nana, is distributed from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to Myanmar and south-western China, growing at altitudes between 3,300 and 4,600 m.

Stem to 30 cm tall, leaves many, linear, to 11 cm long and 8 mm wide, often reaching higher than the solitary flower, which is bell-shaped, nodding, pale purple, pale blue, purplish-red, yellow, or sometimes white, usually with deep purple dots, petals elliptic, to 3 cm long.

The specific name is derived from Ancient Greek nanos (‘dwarf’).

 

Flower size and colour To 3 cm long, pale purple, pale blue, purplish-red, yellow, or sometimes white.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Open slopes, shrubberies, forest margins.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

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

 

 

Lilium nanum, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lilium nepalense
A gorgeous plant, stem to 1.2 m tall, leaves many, broadly lanceolate, to 10 cm long and 3 cm wide, 5-veined. Flowers very large, fragrant, trumpet-shaped, nodding, to 15 cm long, greenish-yellow with purple blotches within, sometimes purplish on the outside, usually solitary, sometimes up to 5 in a raceme, petals spreading, recurved, stamens protruding, anthers reddish.

It is distributed from Uttarakhand to Myanmar, south-eastern Tibet, and the Yunnan Province, growing at elevations between 2,100 and 3,500 m.

In Nepal, bulbs are boiled and eaten, and also taken as a tonic.

 

Flower size and colour To 15 cm long, greenish-yellow with purple blotches within.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Open slopes, shrubberies, forest margins.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Lilium nepalense, Ringmo, Solu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lloydia, see Gagea.

 

 

 

Notholirion
5 species, distributed from Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan eastwards along the Himalaya to China, with 3 species in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek nothos (‘bastard’) and leirion (‘lily’), thus a derogatory term.

 

Notholirion macrophyllum
Stem to 60 cm tall, smooth, basal leaves to 40 cm long and 2 cm wide, stem leaves linear, to 15 cm long and 1.7 cm wide. Inflorescence is a lax raceme with 2-6 funnel-shaped flowers, purple or blue, petals to 5 cm long, oblanceolate, tip rounded or slightly pointed.

It is found from western Nepal eastwards to south-western China, at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,400 m.

The specific name is derived from Ancient Greek makros (‘long’) and phyllon (‘leaf’), thus ‘long-leaved’.

N. thomsonianum is similar, but a larger plant with a many-flowered terminal inflorescence, distributed from Afghanistan to Uttarakhand, growing at elevations between 800 and 1,800 m.

 

Flower size and colour To 5 cm long, purple or blue.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Open forests, grasslands, rocky areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Notholirion macrophyllum, Sanasa, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Streptopus
About 10 species, distributed in temperate and subarctic areas of the Northern Hemisphere. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek streptos (‘twisted’) and pous (‘foot’), alluding to the twisted base of the stem.

 

Streptopus simplex
Stem branched, to 1.2 m tall, smooth, many-leaved, leaves lanceolate or elliptic, to 12 cm long and 3 cm wide, with heart-shaped, stem-clasping base, margin entire, tip long-pointed. Flowers are axillary, solitary, and nodding, with a stalk to 4.5 cm long, petals to 1 cm long and 4 mm wide, white or pinkish, inside with purple dots or blotches. The fruit is an orange berry, to 6 mm across.

This plant is distributed from Uttarakhand and extreme southern Tibet eastwards to the Yunnan Province.

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 1 cm long and 4 mm wide, white or pinkish, inside with purple dots or blotches.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Linaceae Flax family
This family, which includes about 250 species in 14 genera, is almost cosmopolitan. 2 genera (+ Linum cultivated) are found in the Himalaya.

 

Reinwardtia indica
This common shrub, the sole member of the genus, grows to 1.5 m tall, but is often grazed to a prostrate form. It is sometimes hanging down from banks. Branches are grey and smooth, leaves short-stalked, smooth, elliptic to obovate, pointed or blunt, to 9 cm long and 3.5 cm broad, margin usually entire, sometimes with rounded teeth. Flowers mostly solitary, axillary, bright yellow, to 4 cm long, petals 5, obovate, to 3 cm long and 1.3 cm broad, sepals much shorter.

It is widespread, distributed from Pakistan eastwards to China, and thence southwards to Indochina. In the Himalaya, it is found up to an elevation of about 2,300 m.

This species is often cultivated as an ornamental, and it is much praised in Uttarakhand folklore. In Nepal, a paste of the root is applied to boils, and to the forehead in case of headache. Juice of the root is used for fever and indigestion, and juice of the root is applied to wounds and scabies. The crushed plant is applied to insect bites and thorn stabs. A yellow dye is made from the flowers.

The generic name was given in honour of Prussian-born Dutch chemist, pharmacist, and botanist Caspar Georg Carl Reinwardt (1773-1854). In the period 1816-1822, he was the head of agriculture, arts, and science in the Dutch East Indies, and during his stay he collected plants on several islands, including Java, Timor, Sulawesi, and the Moluccas. He was the founder and first director of the botanical garden at Bogor (then called Buitenzorg) on Java. He also studied amphibians and reptiles, describing two new species of snakes.

 

Flower size and colour To 4 cm long, petals to 3 cm long and 1.3 cm broad, yellow.
Height/length to 1.5 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, edges of terraced fields, along trails.
Flowering Most of the year, chiefly Nov.-May.

 

 

Reinwardtia indica, Birethanti, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Reinwardtia indica, Tirkhedunga, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Reinwardtia indica, Dehra Dun, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Loranthaceae Showy-mistletoe family
Previously, a number of parasites on trees were all called mistletoes, placed in the family Viscaceae. However, extensive DNA research has caused this family to be abolished, and the vast majority have been moved to this family, which contains about 75 genera and 950 species, almost all parasitic woody epiphytes, rarely root-parasitic shrubs. Most species are found in tropical and subtropical regions. 6 genera have been encountered in the Himalaya.

As the family name implies, many species have beautiful, often brightly coloured flowers. The fruit is a berry, rarely a drupe or capsule. The seeds are surrounded by a sticky substance, being spread by birds or in some cases by small mammals.

 

Scurrula
About 50 species of parasitic epiphytic shrubs, found in the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, with 5 species in the Himalaya. The fruit is a berry.

 

 

An unidentified species of Scurrula, Rajaji National Park, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Scurrula elata
An epiphytic shrub, parasitic on broad-leaved trees, especially of the genera Quercus, Rhododendron, and Viburnum. Branches to 1.5 m long, brown, smooth, twigs covered in brown hairs. Leaves are ovate or oblong-ovate, opposite, smooth, leathery, pointed, to 15 cm long and 5 cm broad. Inflorescences are in axillary clusters with 6-10 flowers, corolla curved, red or orange at base, greenish or yellowish on upper half, to 3.5 cm long, with 4 reflexed lobes. The berry is yellowish, tapering, to 8 mm long and 5 mm broad.

This plant is found from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, at elevations between 1,500 and 3,000 m. It is common in Nepal.

Ripe fruits are edible and sweet, and seeds can be chewed. A gluey substance was formerly extracted from the fruits and used as birdlime.

 

Flower size and colour To 3.5 cm long, red or orange at base, greenish or yellowish on upper half.
Height/length to 1.5 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Apr.-Jul.

 

 

Scurrula elata, snyltende på Rhododendron arboreum, Pati Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Scurrula elata, Tharke Ghyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Scurrula elata, growing on a species of Viburnum, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Scurrula elata with unripe fruits, Thodung Danda, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lythraceae Loosestrife family
About 31 genera and 650 species of herbs, rarely shrubs or trees, widespread in subtropical and tropical regions, less common in temperate areas. Usually 4 petals and sepals. Includes the former familes Punicaceae, Sonneratiaceae, and Trapaceae. 7 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Rotala
A genus with about 46 species of herbs, widespread around the world. 6 species are found in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from the Latin rotalis (‘wheel-like’), referring to the whorled leaves of some species.

 

Rotala rotundifolia
This gregarious plant grows in wet places, stems creeping or floating, reddish, rooting from the nodes. Flowering stems are erect, unbranched, to 30 cm long, leaves paired, almost stalkless, obovate or elliptic, to 1.5 cm across. Inflorescences are several terminal or axillary spikes, to 8 cm long, with up to 12 flowers in each. Flowers tiny, to 2 mm across, petals 4, rosy-purple. Bracts ovate, purple.

Distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to Japan, China, and Taiwan, and thence southwards to Indochina. In the Himalaya, it grows up to elevations around 3,000 m.

In Nepal, young shoots are cooked as a vegetable.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘with round leaves’.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 mm across, rosy-purple.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Marshes, fallow humid fields.
Flowering Nov.-Jun.

 

 

Rotala rotundifolia, growing in a fallow paddyfield, Hille, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Woodfordia
A small genus of shrubs, comprising 2 species, distributed in Africa, Madagascar, southern Arabia, and southern and eastern Asia.

The generic name commemorates English lawyer John Alexander Woodford (lived around the 1790s), who maintained a large greenhouse in Vauxhall.

 

Woodfordia fruticosa
A small shrub, sometimes to 5 m tall, branches pendulous, smooth, twigs downy. Leaves opposite, sometimes in whorls of 3, blade ovate or lanceolate, leathery, pointed, to 14 cm long and 4 cm wide, with orange or black glands below. Inflorescences are in short, axillary clusters, with up to 15 flowers, calyx tubular, bright red or orange with green base, to 1.5 cm long, with 6 triangular lobes, to 3 mm long, petals 6, brick-red, linear-lanceolate, to 5 mm long, scarcely protuding from calyx.

Widely distributed, found in eastern Africa, Madagascar, and southern and eastern Asia, from Pakistan eastwards to southern China, and thence southwards to Indonesia. In the Himalaya, it may be encountered up to an altitude of about 2,000 m.

This plant has numerous uses in Nepal. Branches are used as fuel. Leaves and twigs yield a yellow dye, petals a red dye. The bark is chewed to heal boils on the tongue. Juice of the bark is used for gastric problems, sprains, and swellings, boiled flowers for fever, and to curb profuse menstruation. Leaves are mixed with tobacco and smoked. The flowers are edible, and children often suck the sweet nectar out of them.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘shrubby’.

 

Flower size and colour Calyx to 1.5 cm long, bright red or orange with green base, petals to 5 mm long, brick-red.
Height to 5 m, but usually much lower.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes.
Flowering Feb.-May.

 

 

Woodfordia fruticosa, Ilam, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Flowering Woodfordia fruticosa with new leaves, photographed in front of a lake, Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of flowers, Birethanti, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Magnoliaceae Magnolia family
These trees are distributed in southern and eastern Asia, Indonesia, New Guinea, and the Americas. The number of genera is as yet unresolved. Some authorities accept up to 17, others, like Kew Gardens, only 2. A single genus is found in the Himalaya.

 

Magnolia
The number of species in this genus is disputed. Some authorities, like Kew Gardens, accept about 340 species, others only about 130. 8 wild species occur in the Himalaya, others are cultivated.

 

Magnolia campbellii
A magnificent tree, to 45 m tall, bark grey. Leaves elliptic or ovate, to 30 cm long and 15 cm broad, pointed, rusty-haired beneath when young. Flowers white, cream, or pinkish, to 25 cm across, with 12-15 petals, appearing before the leaves. The fruit is a cylindrical spike of carpels, to 20 cm long.

In the wild, this species is distributed from central Nepal eastwards to Myanmar, south-eastern Tibet, and south-western China, growing at altitudes between 2,200 and 3,000 m. It is common in eastarn Nepal and Sikkim.

It is widely cultivated as an ornamental. The timber is used for construction.

 

Flower size and colour To 25 cm across, white, cream, or pinkish.
Height to 45 m.
Habitat Forests, open slopes.
Flowering Mar.-May.

 

 

When flowering, Magnolia campbellii is magnificent, displaying an abundance of gorgeous white flowers. – Bharku, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. The rocks in the background are slate, which has eroded into flakes. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Magnolia campbellii, Lukla, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Malvaceae Mallow family
An almost worldwide family with about 243 genera and more than 4,200 species of herbs, shrubs, climbers, or trees. In later years, the family has been greatly enlarged, as the former families Bombacaceae, Sterculiaceae, and Tiliaceae have been reduced to subfamilies of Malvaceae. About 25 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Abelmoschus
A genus of about 12 species, native to tropical Africa, Asia, and northern Australia. 3 wild species are found in the Himalaya, and okra (A. esculentus) is cultivated.

The generic name is derived from Arabic ḥabb al-misk (‘pills of musk’), referring to the scented seeds.

 

Abelmoschus manihot Aibika
An herb with a woody base, to 3 m tall, most parts bristly yellow-haired, stem often black-dotted. Leaves are long-stalked, to 30 cm across, deeply palmately lobed, lower leaves with 7-9 lobes, upper with 3, lobes oblong-lanceolate, to 18 cm long and 6 cm broad, sharply toothed. Flowers yellow with a purple centre, stalked, axillary, solitary, to 13 cm across. Filament tube to 2.5 cm long. Capsule ovoid-ellipsoid, to 5 cm long and 3 cm broad, densely hairy.

This species is indigenous from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards through Southeast Asia to southern China, and thence southwards to the Philippines, Indonesia, and New Guinea. In the Himalaya, it occurs from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar, at elevations between 600 and 2,400 m.

It is cultivated elsewhere as an ornamental under a variety of names, including sunset muskmallow, sunset hibiscus, and sweet hibiscus. It often escapes cultivation and is regarded as an invasive in several countries. In some places, it is cultivated as a source of food. The leaves are eaten in several Pacific Islands. In Japan and Korea, paper is made from the plant.

In Nepal, juice from the root is applied to sprains, and a paste of the bark is applied to wounds. Juice of the flowers is used as a remedy for bronchitis and tooth ache. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is widely used to treat kidney problems.

The specific name is the generic name of the cassava plant (Manihot esculenta), originally from Guarani, a South American language. Presumably, the name refers to the similarity between the leaves of aibika to those of the cassava plant.

 

Flower size and colour To 13 cm across, yellow with a purple centre.
Height to 3 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, fallow fields.
Flowering Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Abelmoschus manihot is common in the lower valleys of the Himalaya, here photographed in the Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Malva Mallows
A genus with about 52 species, widespread in temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions of Eurasia and Africa. 4 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is the classical Latin word for mallow, adapted from the Greek word for the same plants, malakhe, originally from Hebrew malluah, a plant used as salad. The common name is a corruption of Old English mealwe, an adaptation of the Latin name. The word for the colour mauve was adapted from the French name of these plants.

 

Malva neglecta Dwarf mallow
Stem branched, to 90 cm long, often prostrate, downy, leaves alternate, long-stalked, to 7 cm across, rounded or kidney-shaped in outline, with 5 or more shallow lobes, flowers 1-3 on short stalks from the leaf axils, to 3 cm across, petals slightly notched, pale violet or white, with darker violet, longitudinal streaks.

This plant grows in open areas on disturbed ground. It is indigenous to the major part of Europe eastwards to the Ural Mountains, and from North Africa across the Arabian Peninsula to Kazakhstan and the western Himalaya. In the Himalaya, it occurs from Afghanistan eastwards to Uttarakhand, found at elevations between 1,500 and 3,600 m.

Leaves and stalks can be cooked as a vegetable, young seeds may be eaten raw, and mature seeds can be cooked together with grains. The leaves are chewed for sore throat.

The specific name means ‘being ignored’, presumably indicating its inferiority to other, more spectacular members of the genus.

 

Flower size and colour To 3 cm across, petals pale violet or white, with darker violet, longitudinal streaks.
Height/length to 90 cm.
Habitat Disturbed areas, fallow fields.
Flowering Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Malva neglecta, Solang Nallah, Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Malva verticillata Whorled mallow, Chinese mallow
The stem is erect, hairy, to 1.5 m, sometimes 2 m tall. It may readily be identified by its very long leaf-stalks, to 24 cm, leaves rounded, to 25 cm across, with 3-7 rounded or triangular, toothed lobes, base heart-shaped. Flowers very small, 2 or more in whorls in the leaf axils, petals to 7 mm long, pinkish-white or mauve.

It grows in open, disturbed areas, such as fallow fields and along trails. It is native to central and southern Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and north-eastern Africa, but is widely cultivated and has become naturalized in most other temperate and subtropical parts of the globe. In the Himalaya, it is found at elevations between 2,100 and 3,500 m, from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar.

The plant is used for fodder, and in folk medicine, and the leaves are eaten as salad or cooked as a vegetable.

The specific name is derived from the Latin verticillus (‘in a whorl’), alluding to the flower clusters.

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 7 mm long, pinkish-white or mauve.
Height to 2 m, but usually much lower.
Habitat Fallow fields, villages, along trails.
Flowering Feb.-Nov.

 

 

Malva verticillata, Thangshyap, Langtang Valley, central Nepal. The plant in the lower right corner is a species of teasel, Dipsacus inermis. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Fruiting Malva verticillata, Bagarchap, Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Urena
A genus of 7 species, widely distributed in the tropics and subtropics. The generic name is from Malayalam uren or uram, the local name of Urena lobata.

A single species in the Himalaya.

 

Urena lobata
Herb with a woody base, erect, to 2.5 m tall, branched, densely woolly-hairy. Leaves stalked, ovate, heart-shaped, or rounded, to 8 cm across, hairy below, margin with 3 toothed lobes, pointed. Flowers to 2.5 cm across, axillary, solitary or 2-3 together, calyx and epicalyx similar, to 6 mm long, 5-lobed, corolla pink, petals to 1.5 cm long, obovate. Filament tube to 1.5 cm long, hairless. Fruit globular, to 1 cm across, hairy and with hooked spines.

The native area of this plant is unknown, and today it is found worldwide in tropical and subtropical areas. In the Himalaya, it grows up to elevations around 2,200 m, from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar.

In Nepal, stem fibres are used for rope and sacks. Tannin is obtained from stem and leaves. Juice of the root is used for dysentery and diarrhoea. A paste of the plant is applied to skin problems and rheumatism, a paste of the leaves to sprains and snakebites. A decoction of the seeds is used to kill intestinal worms.

The specific name refers to the lobed leaves.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm across, pink.
Height to 2.5 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open areas, along trails.
Flowering Throughout the year.

 

 

Urena lobata, Ngadi, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Urena lobata, Pati Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Martyniaceae
A family with 5 genera and about 12 species, native to warmer areas of the Americas. One species has become naturalized in the Himalaya.

 

Martynia
One or two species, native to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Most authorities recognize only one species, M. annua, which has become naturalized in many areas around the world.

The generic name honours English apothecary and botanist John Martyn (1699-1768). During the 1720s, he introduced valerian, black currant, and peppermint into pharmaceutical practice. He was professor of botany at Cambridge University 1732-1762. He also translated works of Virgil.

 

Martynia annua Unicorn plant, Devil’s claw
Stem, stout, erect, to 1.2 m tall, glandular-hairy, woody below. Leaves long-stalked, blade broadly ovate or heart-shaped, to 20 cm across, margin lobed or toothed, tip pointed. Inflorescences axillary, with up to 20 flowers, calyx lobes pale yellow-green, corolla tube wide, to 4 cm long, white or pinkish with yellow dots within, and magenta or red spots on the lobes.

A native of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, widely naturalized elsewhere. In the Himalaya, it may be encountered up to elevations around 1,500 m.

In Nepal, juice of the plant is mixed with hot water and used to gargle in case of sore throat. Juice of the fruit is taken to curb inflammation in the stomach. It is widely used in ayurvedic medicine. In Mexico, ornaments are made from the seeds.

Both common names allude to two curved ‘horns’ on the fruit.

 

Flower size and colour To 4 cm long, white or pinkish with yellow dots within, magenta or red spots on the lobes.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, wastelands, along trails.
Flowering Throughout the year, chiefly Jun.-Oct.

 

 

Martynia annua, near Singati, Tamba Kosi Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Mazaceae
A small family with 3 genera and about 40 species of herbs, found from eastern Europe across Asia to Australia. 2 genera occur in the Himalaya. Members of this family were previously included in Scrophulariaceae, later in Phrymaceae.

 

Lancea
This genus contains 2 species, restricted to Central Asia. A single species occurs in our area.

The generic name is Latin, meaning ‘lance’, thus ‘lance-shaped’. As the leaves of these plants are not lanceolate, it is not clear what the name refers to.

 

Lancea tibetica
A prostrate, stemless herb, usually below 10 cm tall. Leaves clustered together in a dense rosette, up to 10 together, blade obovate, oblong, or spatulate, to 7 cm long, base tapering, margin entire or sparsely toothed, tip blunt or with a weak point. Flowers are clustered in the centre, up to 5 together, corolla dark blue, purple, or mauve, to 2.5 cm long, 2-lipped, upper lip 2-lobed, lower lip broader, 3-lobed, throat hairy, with purple dots, sometimes yellowish within.

Distributed from northern Pakistan across Ladakh, Tibet, and extreme northern Nepal to Mongolia and western China, growing at elevations between 2,000 and 4,800 m.

Extract of the plant is used as a tonic.

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm long, dark blue, purple, or mauve.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Grasslands in dry areas, fallow fields, along streams.
Flowering May-Aug.

 

 

Lancea tibetica, Imja Tse Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Lancea tibetica, Dingboche, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Mazus
This genus, comprising about 37 species of small herbs, is native to Central, East, South, and Southeast Asia, Indonesia, New Guinea, and Australia. 4 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek mazos (‘breast’), alluding to the ridges on the lower lip of the flower.

 

Mazus surculosus
A prostrate herb, stem usually below 10 cm tall. It has several runners, rooting at the nodes. Leaves mostly basal in a rosette, blade obovate or spatulate, to 8 cm long including stalk, base often pinnately divided, margin irregularly rounded-toothed, tip rounded. Leaves on runners opposite, much smaller than basal leaves. Flowers clustered in the centre, on short stalks, to 1.2 cm long, calyx green, hairy, corolla white with purplish-violet, grooved upper lip, lower lip larger, 3-lobed, lateral lobes larger than mid-lobe, which has 2 orange-yellow ridges.

This plant is found from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan and south-western China, growing at elevations between 900 and 3,300 m.

In Nepal, juice of the plant is used for acidic stomach, and also applied to wounds.

In a botanical context, the specific name means ‘rooting by runners’.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 10 cm.
Habitat Grasslands, fallow fields.
Flowering Apr.-Jul.

 

 

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

 

 

Mazus surculosus, Tirkhedunga, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Melanthiaceae
This family contains 14-17 genera with about 180 species, widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere. Previously, members were included in the lily family (Liliaceae). 3 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Paris
About 24 species, found from western Europe eastwards across Siberia to the Pacific Ocean, and thence southwards through Central Asia and China to Indochina. A single species occurs in the Himalaya.

The generic name stems from herba paris, the classical Latin name of Paris quadrifolia, derived from par (‘equal’), referring to the regular leaves and petals of that species. Thus, the name has nothing to do with the person Paris from the Greek mythology.

 

Paris polyphylla
Extremely variable, according to Flora of China no less than 10 varieties have been described. Stem to 60 cm, occasionally to 1 m, leaves 5-10, sometimes up to 20, clustered in a whorl on the middle of the stem, short-stalked, pale green, dark green, or bluish-green, occasionally with whitish nerves (see pictures), oblong, lanceolate, or elliptic, pointed, to 16 cm long and 5 cm broad. Flower single, terminal on a short or long stalk from the centre, greenish or yellowish, surrounded by 2 whorls of segments, outer ones 4-6, leaf-like, lanceolate, to 10 cm long and 4 cm wide, inner thread-like, yellowish-greenish or purple, as long as the outer ones, straight or curled. Stamens yellow. The fruit is berry-like, globular, to 2.5 cm across, seeds scarlet.

Quite common in the Himalaya, distributed from Pakistan eastwards to central China, Taiwan, and northern Indochina, in the Himalaya growing at elevetions between 1,800 and 3,500 m.

In Nepal, a paste of the root is applied to wounds and mosquito bites. Juice of the root is taken to expel intestinal worms. The species is threatened by excessive collecting.

The specific name is derived from Ancient Greek polys (‘many’) and phyllon (‘leaf’).

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 1 m, but usually much lower.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Apr.-May.
Fruiting Jun.-Sep.

 

 

These pictures show the extremely variable leaves of Paris polyphylla, taken in the Tirthan Valley, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh (top), and the Dudh Kosi Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Trillium
A large genus with about 50 species, the vast majority found in North America, 7 species in the Himalaya and eastern Asia. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from the Latin trilix (‘triple’), alluding to the number of leaves.

 

Trillium govanianum
Stem to 30 cm tall, leaves 3, short-stalked, whorled, broadly ovate, pointed, to 10 cm long and 7 cm broad. Flower single, terminal, central, with 6 narrow petals, greenish, brown, or purplish, to 1.5 cm long, outer 3 narrowly lanceolate, to 3 mm wide, inner 3 linear, about 1 mm wide. Anthers large, yellow. The fruit is a globular berry, red, to 2 cm across.

Distributed from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan and a small area in south-eastern Tibet, growing at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,000 m.

The specific name was given in honour of British surgeon and botanist George Govan (1787-1865), superintendent of the Botanical Garden of Saharanpur, northern India. He often corresponded with the famous Danish botanist and physician Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), the foremost authority on Indian and Himalayan flora in the early 1800s.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering May-Jun.

 

 

Trillium govanianum, Dhela, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. Leaves of Fragaria nubicola (Rosaceae) are also present. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Melastomataceae
A huge family with about 175 genera and more than 5,000 species of herbs, shrubs, climbers, and small trees, found worldwide in warmer areas, the majority in Central and South America. About 6 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Melastoma
A large genus with about 100 species of shrubs. The flowers are similar to those of genus Osbeckia (below), but may at once be identified by having two kinds of stamens, 5-7 yellow and straight, 5-7 purplish and bent, resembling the style. The fruit is berry-like, splitting irregularly. A single species is found in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek melas (‘black’) and stoma (‘mouth’), referring to the fact that the seeds of some members of the genus can stain your mouth black.

 

Melastoma malabathricum
This erect shrub, previously known as M. normale, grows to 7 m tall, stem angular, with stiff hairs, twigs densely scaly. Leaves with a short, hairy stalk, blade stiff, ovate or elliptic, pointed, to 15 cm long and 6 cm broad, with 3-5 prominent, parallel veins, margin entire. Inflorescences are in terminal clusters with up to 7 flowers and 2 leaf-like bracts at the base, calyx cup-shaped, to 1 cm long, striated, feathery-haired, with ovate or lanceolate lobes, hairs and lobes often falling off. Petals 5, pink or reddish-purple, obovate, to 4 cm long, margin hairy. There are two kinds of stamens, 5-7 longer, purple, bent, sometimes with 2 yellow swellings, and 5 shorter, yellow, straight. The fruit is berry-like, globular, to 1.5 cm across.

This species has a very wide distribution, found from India, Sri Lanka, and central Nepal eastwards to Taiwan, and thence southwards through Indochina and the Philippines to Indonesia and eastern Australia. It also occurs on some Pacific islands. In the Himalaya, it grows at elevations between 900 and 2,800 m.

The fruit is edible. In Nepal, juice of the plant is taken for cough and colds. A purple dye is obtained from the fruit.

The specific name refers to the Malabar coast of western India. Presumably, the type specimen was collected there.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 7 m, but usually much lower.
Habitat Shrubberies, grasslands, open areas.
Flowering Mar.-Aug.
Fruiting Jul.-Dec.

 

 

Melastoma malabathricum, Dubichour, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Melastoma malabathricum, Pokhara, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Osbeckia
This genus of shrubs, comprising about 45 species, are mainly found in tropical and subtropical parts of Asia, from India eastwards to Japan, and thence southwards to Australia, and also in tropical areas of West Africa, and on Madagascar. Members of this genus have 8-10 yellow stamens, all similar (see Melastoma above). The fruit is a capsule, opening by pores at tip. About 7 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The generic name honours Swedish explorer and naturalist Pehr Osbeck (1723-1805) who was an apostle of the famous Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778). In 1750-1752, he travelled on board the Prins Carl to Asia, where he spent four months studying flora, fauna, and culture of the Canton region of southern China. Returning home, he contributed more than 600 plant species to Linnaeus’ Species Plantarum, published in 1753. In 1757, he published an account of his work in China, called Dagbok öfwer en ostindisk Resa åren 1750, 1751, 1752 (‘Diary of a Journey to the East Indies 1750, 1751, 1752’).

 

Osbeckia nepalensis
Erect shrub to 2 m tall, branched, stem angular, leaves lanceolate or narrowly elliptic, slightly hairy, densely hairy along veins beneath, to 13 cm long and 4 cm broad, with 3-5 prominent parallel veins, margin entire, hairy, tip pointed. Inflorescences in terminal clusters, to 10 cm long, flowers to 5 cm across, calyx-tube covered with scales, margin fringed, with 5 ovate, pointed lobes, petals 5, pink or white (rarely purple), obovate, to 2.5 cm long, margin hairy. Anthers large, bright yellow, filaments whitish.

This plant is common, found from central Nepal eastwards to south-western China, and also in Southeast Asia. In the Himalaya, it grows at altitudes between 500 and 2,300 m. As opposed to O. stellata (below), its calyx is not densely covered in hairs.

In Nepal, juice of the plant is used for indigestion and typhoid, and juice of the leaves is applied to wounds. The fruit is edible.

 

Flower size and colour To 5 cm across, pink or white, rarely purple.
Height to 2 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, grasslands, along trails, wastelands.
Flowering Most of the year, chiefly Jul.-Nov.

 

 

Osbeckia nepalensis, Sarangkot (1400 m), near Pokhara, central Nepal. A beetle is crawling about in one of the flowers. These insects are often seen eating stamens of Osbeckia flowers. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Osbeckia stellata
Erect or pendent shrub to 2.5 m, branched, hairy, stem 4-6-angled, leaves opposite or 3-whorled, oblong-lanceolate or elliptic, hairy, to 13 cm long and 5 cm broad, with 5 prominent parallel veins, margin entire, tip long-pointed. Inflorescences in terminal clusters, to 22 cm long, flowers to 7 cm across, calyx-tube covered with stiff, matted, star-shaped hairs, with 4 erect lobes, petals 4, pinkish-purple, obovate, twisted to the right in bud, to 2 cm long, margin hairy.

By far the commonest Osbeckia species in the Himalaya, often covering large areas in open country. In the Himalaya, it is found at altitudes between 1,200 and 2,600 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to northern Indochina and south-western China. It is easily identified by its calyx, which is densely covered in star-shaped hairs, hence its specific name, from the Latin stella (‘star’).

In Nepal, juice of the root is used for treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery, and juice of the plant is applied to scabies. The fruit is edible.

 

Flower size and colour To 7 cm across, pinkish-purple.
Height/length to 2.5 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, grasslands, open slopes, fallow fields.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.

 

 

Osbeckia stellata, Kakani, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Osbeckia stellata, Pati Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. In the lower picture, a beetle is busy eating from the stamens. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Sarcopyramis
This small genus contains 4 species, distributed from central Himalaya eastwards to Taiwan, and thence southwards through Indochina and the Philippines to Indonesia.

The generic name is derived from the Greek sarkos (‘flesh’) and pyramis (‘pyramid’), referring to the shape of the fruit.

 

Sarcopyramis napalensis
A small, erect plant, to 30 cm tall, branched, stem 4-angled, succulent, smooth, leaf-stalk short, narrowly winged, blade broadly ovate, to 10 cm long and 4.5 cm wide, sometimes with small white dots, 3-5-veined, margin with tiny brown teeth, tip pointed. Inflorescences in few-flowered terminal clusters, with 2 leaf-like, ovate bracts at the base, calyx to 5 mm long, margin with numerous white, fuzzy hairs, petals 4, pink, obovate, to 7 mm long, anthers pale yellow, filaments whitish.

It is distributed from central Nepal eastwards to southern China, and thence southwards through Indochina and the Philippines to Indonesia, in the Himalaya growing at elevations between 1,000 and 3,200 m.

 

Flower size and colour Petals to 7 mm long, pink.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, damp places.
Flowering Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Sarcopyramis napalensis, Burlung Bhanjyang, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park, central Nepal. Note the beetle in the flower and the grasshopper on the leaf. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Moraceae Mulberry or fig family
An almost worldwide family with about 50 genera and more than 1,100 species of trees, shrubs, or climbers, rarely herbs. Many genera exude a milky latex. Inflorescences are often reduced to a so-called pseudanthium, in which several flowers are grouped together to form a flower-like structure. 4 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Ficus Fig
A huge genus with about 1,000 species of trees or shrubs. Several species start their lives as epiphytes, later entwining their host trees and killing them (‘strangler figs’). The flowers are hidden within a syconium, a globular or pear-shaped receptacle with a small opening, during which tiny fig-wasps enter to lay eggs, simultaneously pollinating the flowers. When fruiting, the receptacle swells up, forming the fig, containing many carpels. About 40 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The generic name is the classical Latin word for fig.

 

 

Fruits of an unidentified Ficus species, growing from shoots on the lower part of the trunk, Lower Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ficus oligodon
Deciduous tree to 10 m tall, trunk diameter to 15 cm, bark grey, smooth, crown large. Leaves are long-stalked, alternate, thin, elliptic, to 35 cm long and 25 cm broad, base rounded or heart-shaped, margin irregularly toothed, tip pointed, nerves prominent on the underside. Fruits in stalked clusters on short branchlets from trunk or thick branches, globular or sometimes pear-shaped, to 2.5-9 cm across, initially green with white dots, dark red when ripe, with 4-6 weak longitudinal ridges.

This species is distributed from western Nepal eastwards to southern China and Indochina. In the Himalaya, it occurs up to elevations around 2,100 m.

It is often cultivated. The fruit is edible and sweet, and the foliage is cut for fodder.

The specific name is derived from Ancient Greek oligos (‘few’) and odous (‘tooth’), referring to the wide space between the teeth along the leaf margin.

Some authorities regard this plant as a subspecies of F. auriculata.

 

Fruit Globular or pear-shaped, to 2.5-9 cm across, initially green with white dots, dark red when ripe.
Height to 10 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, often along streams.
Fruits ripening Mar.-Jun.

 

 

Ficus oligodon with fruits on the trunk and on large branches, Landrung, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ficus palmata
Deciduous shrub, or sometimes a tree to 10 m tall, bark brownish-grey, smooth, twigs densely hairy. Leaves long-stalked, very variable, ovate or rounded, often palmately lobed, to 14 cm long and 13 cm broad, toothed, rough above, woolly-hairy beneath. Fruit solitary, sometimes in pairs, pear-shaped or globular, hairy, to 2.5 cm long, yellow or purple when ripe, often with 6-7 longitudinal ridges.

Widely distributed, found in north-eastern Africa, southern Arabia, and from Iran and Afghanistan eastwards to western Nepal. In the Himalaya, it has been encountered up to an elevation of 2,700 m.

It is often cultivated. Young shoots are eaten as a vegetable. The ripe fruit is edible, and also used to ease constipation. The unripe fruit is poisonous, but edible after being boiled thoroughly. The latex is used for curdling milk, and medicinally to treat warts. The foliage is lopped for fodder.

 

Fruit Pear-shaped or globular, to 2.5 cm long, yellow or purple when ripe.
Height to 10 m, but often a shrub.
Habitat Forests, streamsides, rocky slopes.
Fruit ripening Jun.-Nov.

 

 

Ficus palmata with fruits, Neuli, Sainj Valley, Himachal Pradesh (top), and Lower Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Morus Mulberry
About 16 species of deciduous trees, widespread in temperate areas around the globe, and also in tropical mountains of Africa, Indonesia, and South America. 3 wild species are found in the Himalaya, 2 others are cultivated.

The generic name is the classical Latin word for mulberry.

 

Morus serrata Himalayan mulberry
Deciduous tree to 20 m, trunk to 3 m across, bark reddish or grey-brown, scaly on trunk and older branches, smooth on younger ones, twigs densely downy-hairy. Leaves long-stalked, broadly ovate, often deeply 3-5-lobed, to 20 cm long and 10 cm broad, margin coarsely toothed, base heart-shaped, densely white-woolly beneath along veins. Male and female flowers are on separate trees, tiny, greenish, male flowers in stalked spikes to 7 cm long, female spikes stalked, cylindric, to 1.5 cm long, style hairy. Fruits are clustered on a pendent, cylindric spike, to 2.5 cm long, the nutlets covered by the fleshy, swollen sepals, purple or reddish-purple when ripe.

It is distributed from Pakistan eastwards to central Nepal and south-western Tibet, growing at elevations between 1,200 and 2,700 m.

Often cultivated for the edible, sweet fruit. Juice of the root is used to expel intestinal worms. The wood is utilized for furniture and farming tools, and the foliage is cut for fodder, and to feed silkworms.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘sawn’, alluding to the leaf margin.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 20 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering Mar.-May.
Fruiting May-Aug.

 

 

Spring foliage and catkins of Morus serrata, Agora, Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Myricaceae
This family of shrubs and small trees, comprising about 50 species, contain 3 genera, of which 2, Canacomyrica and Comptonia, contain only a single species. One genus is found in the Himalaya.

 

Myrica Bayberry, wax-myrtle
A genus of about 49 species of small trees and shrubs, found in eastern and tropical Asia, Europe, eastern and southern Africa, Arabia, and the Americas. A single species occurs in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek myrike (‘fragrance’).

Some authorities regard a number of species as belonging to the genus Morella.

 

Myrica esculenta Box myrtle, kafal
A small evergreen tree to about 10 m tall, bark grey, brittle. Leaves short-stalked, elliptic or obovate, leathery, dark green above, pale green or rust-coloured and glandular beneath, to 18 cm long and 4.5 cm wide, margin entire. Male inflorescences branched, erect or pendent, to 9 cm across, individual spikelets to 1 cm, glandular, stamens with red anthers. Female inflorescences erect, to 3.5 cm long, many-flowered, stalk and bracts with golden glandular hairs. The fruit is an elliptic or oval drupe, reddish, succulent, somewhat resembling mulberries (Morus).

This plant grows in open forests and shrubberies, distributed from the Himalaya eastwards to China, and thence southwards through Indochina and the Philippines to Indonesia. In the Himalaya, it is often cultivated and may be found up to altitudes around 2,500 m. It is the state fruit of Uttarakhand.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘edible’. The ripe fruits are delicious, and they are much valued by birds. In Nepal, the bark is used medicinally for a wide variety of ailments, as a stimulant and astringent, the juice of it applied to cuts and wounds, and to treat rheumatism, and also taken for catarrh, headache, and body pain. A decoction of the bark is applied to sprains, and taken for fever, asthma, and diarrhoea. The stem bark is chewed and kept between the teeth to treat toothache. It is also spread in streams to stupefy fish. The wood is used for poles and as fuel. The bark contains tannin and is used for dyeing, yielding a yellow dye.

 

Flower size and colour Male inflorescences to 9 cm across, individual spikelets to 1 cm, female inflorescences erect, to 3.5 cm long.
Height to 10 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies, open areas.
Flowering Sep.-Dec.
Fruiting Mar.-Aug.

 

 

Almost ripe fruits of Myrica esculenta, Chipling, Helambu, central Nepal. Dawa Tamang’s hand is stained from climbing the tree to pick the berries. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Nartheciaceae
5 genera with about 36 species of herbs, found in Eurasia, North America, and northern South America. A single genus occurs in the Himalaya.

 

Aletris Colic-root, stargrass
A genus with about 24 species, distributed in Central and East Asia, southwards to Sumatra and Borneo, and in eastern North America. 4 species occur in the Himalaya.

This genus has been moved around quite a lot, formerly placed in the families Liliaceae, Haemodoraceae, and Melanthiaceae.

The generic name is Ancient Greek, meaning ‘a female slave grinding corn’, alluding to the mealy texture of the sepals and petals of some species. The name colic-root refers to two American species, whose root was utilized to treat colic, the name stargrass to the grass-like leaves and star-shaped lobes of the corolla.

 

Aletris pauciflora
Leaves 5-12, all basal, linear-lanceolate, grass-like, to 25 cm long and 1 cm broad, with 5-7 veins. Flowering stem to 20 cm tall, sometimes to 40 cm, leafless, densely hairy above. The inflorescence is a spike or raceme, to 10 cm long, each flower borne in the axil of a linear, green bract, which is longer than the flower, sepals densely white-woolly, petals white or pink, sometimes yellow, orange, or red, to 6 mm long, fused at base, with 5-6 out-curved lobes.

This species is found from Pakistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet and south-western China, growing at altitudes between 1,500 and 4,900 m.

In Nepal, the tuber is used for cough and colds.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘few-flowered’.

 

Flower size and colour To 6 mm long, white or pink, sometimes yellow, orange, or red.
Height to 40 cm, but usually much lower.
Habitat Grasslands, open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Aletris pauciflora, near Magingoth, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

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

 

 

Aletris pauciflora, Humkhani, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. To the left a leaf of Potentilla argyrophylla (Rosaceae). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Nitrariaceae
4 genera with about 16 species of shrubs, often spiny, found in saline areas, from southern Europe and North Africa eastwards to eastern Asia, and also in Australia, Texas, and Mexico. A single genus in our area.

 

Peganum
A genus of 4 species, distributed from southern Europe and North Africa eastwards to eastern Asia, and also in Texas and Mexico. A single species is found in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek peganon, the name of a kind of rue (Ruta), alluding to the rue-like foliage.

 

Peganum harmala Syrian rue, African rue
Herb with a woody base, stem to 90 cm tall, erect or spreading, much-branched, hairless, leaves stalkless, alternate, fleshy, to 8 cm long, pinnately cut into linear-lanceolate, pointed lobes, to 5 cm long and 5 mm broad. Flowers solitary, to 2.5 cm across, opposite to terminal leaves. Sepals 5, linear, to 2 cm long, alternating with the white, greenish-white, or yellowish-white petals.

This species occurs from southern Europe eastwards to Mongolia and northern China, southwards to North Africa, Arabia, and Ladakh. In Ladakh, it may be encountered up to elevations around 3,600 m.

In Tibet, the seeds are used for fever, stomach trouble, eye disorders, measles, asthma, menstrual disorders, Parkinson’s disease, and rheumatism, and also as a disinfectant, as a narcotic, called harmal, and as incense. Burning leaves can be used as an insecticide. A dye is obtained from the plant.

The specific name refers to a narcotic, harmal, extracted from the plant. The names Syrian rue and African rue refer to the similarity of its leaves to those of the common rue (Ruta graveolens).

 

Flower size and colour To 2.5 cm across, white, greenish-white, or yellowish-white.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Saline flats, dry sandy areas.
Flowering Apr.-Oct.

 

 

Peganum harmala, photographed at Leh (top), and near Thikse Gompa, both in Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Nymphaeaceae Waterlily family
This family contains 5 genera, comprising about 80 species of water plants, distributed across the globe, except in the polar regions. 2 genera are found in the Himalaya.

 

Nymphaea Waterlilies
These pretty water plants, comprising about 60 species, are found in most parts of the world, except the polar regions. They have thick rhizomes anchored in the bottom of lakes and ponds, floating leaves, and large, star-shaped flowers with numerous petals. About 3 wild species occur in the Himalaya, others are grown as ornamentals in the lower valleys.

The generic name is derived from the Greek nymphe (’nymph’). In Greek mythology, a water-living nymph was madly in love with the strong hero Herakles (in Latin Hercules) who, however, did not have the same feelings for her. She languished and died, and from her the beautiful waterlily arose.

 

Nymphaea mexicana Mexican waterlily
This species, also known as N. elegans, is native to the southern United States and Mexico, but has been introduced to many other areas as an ornamental. It easily invades wetlands and has become a noxious weed in many places.

Leaves are floating, dark green, often purplish below, smooth, ovate, elliptic, or rounded, to 18 cm across, margin often bent up, entire or wavy, with 11-22 veins. Flowers to 11 cm across, sepals pointed, greenish-yellow, petals 12-30, pale yellow, stamens about 50. The flowers close at night.

 

Flower size and colour To 11 cm across, pale yellow.
Habitat Freshwater lakes and ponds.
Flowering Summer.

 

 

Nymphaea mexicana, naturalized in Lake Nagin, Kashmir. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Oleaceae Olive family
An almost worldwide family with about 28 genera and around 700 species of trees and shrubs. About 7 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Jasminum Jasmine
A huge genus with around 200 species of shrubs, widely distributed in Africa, the Middle East, Arabia, subtropical and tropical Asia, and Australia. About 13 species are found in the Himalaya.

The generic name, as well as the common name in most languages, is derived from the ancient Persian name of these plants, yasmin.

 

Jasminum humile
A shrub to 3 m tall, but usually lower, with green, angular twigs, leaves short-stalked, alternate, dark green, leathery, pinnately divided, with 3-9 leaflets, blade ovate to lanceolate, lateral leaflets to 4.5 cm long and 2 cm broad, terminal one longer, margin sometimes hairy, tip pointed. Inflorescences are terminal clusters of up to 10 long-stalked flowers, calyx cup-shaped, very short, corolla yellow, funnel-shaped, often curved, to 2 cm long, with 5 rounded, spreading lobes. The fruit is an ellipsoid or globular berry, purplish-black, to 1.1 cm long, juice crimson.

Distributed from Iran and Afghanistan eastwards along the Himalaya to central China and northern Indochina. In the Himalaya, it is found at elevations between 1,100 and 3,800 m.

In Nepal, juice of the root is applied to ringworms, and a paste of the flowers is taken for intestinal problems.

The specific name is derived from the Latin humus (‘ground’) and the suffix ilis, thus ‘close to the ground’ (= low). Some authorities place this species in the genus Chrysojasminum.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 cm long, yellow.
Height to 3 m, but usually lower.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Apr.-Jun.

 

 

Jasminum humile, Namche Bazaar, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Flowering Jasminum humile with dried berries from the previous year, Tengboche Monastery, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of flowers and leaflets, Bharku, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Jasminum officinale White jasmine
A rambling shrub to 5 m tall, twigs angular or grooved, smooth or sparsely downy, leaves often long-stalked, opposite, pinnately divided, leaflets 3-9, usually smooth, lanceolate or elliptic, long-pointed, lateral leaflets to 3 cm long and 1.3 cm wide, terminal one longer. Flowers are in axillary, umbel-like clusters, calyx cup-shaped with narrow teeth, to 1 cm long, corolla white with a reddish tube, to 2 cm long, and 5 spreading lobes, to 1.2 cm long, over-lapping. Initially, the berry is dark red, later purple or black, globular or ellipsoid, to 1 cm long, juice crimson.

This species is probably indigenous from the Caucasus eastwards across the Himalaya to south-western China, and it has also become naturalized in southern Europe, North Africa, Florida, the West Indies, and elsewhere. It is the national flower of Pakistan. In the Himalaya, it grows at altitudes between 1,200 and 4,000 m.

From time immemorial, an essential oil from white jasmine has been used in the perfume industry, and as a medicinal plant, it has been utilized as an aphrodisiac, a sedative, an antiseptic, antidepressant, antispasmodic, and analgesic. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is utilized for fever and conjunctivitis, and to improve immunity. In traditional Chinese medicine, tea made from the flowers is used for various ailments, including wounds, heat stroke, fever, and urinary infection. This tea can also relieve stress and anxiety. A poultice of the flowers is used for headache and stroke.

Due to its wonderful fragrance, this species has been widely cultivated as an ornamental for thousands of years, giving rise to popular names like summer jasmine, poet’s jasmine, true jasmine, star jasmine, and night-blooming jasmine. In his Names of Herbes (1548), naturalist and physician William Turner (1509-1568) mentions this species as a garden plant in London.

Originally, the specific name was derived from officina (‘workshop’, or ‘office’), and the suffix alis, which, together with a noun, forms an adjective, thus ‘made in a workshop’. However, in a botanical context, the word denotes plants species that were sold in pharmacies due to their medicinal properties.

 

Flower size and colour To 2 cm long, white with a reddish tube.
Height to 5 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering May-Jul.

 

 

Jasminum officinale, Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

A villager from the Tirthan Valley has decorated his woven hat with flowers of Jasminum officinale. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Olea Olive
This genus contains about 33 species of small trees, widely distributed in southern Europe, Africa, Madagascar, the Middle East, Arabia, subtropical and tropical Asia, and Australia. 3 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek elaia, the classical name of the olive tree (O. europaea). This species is presented in depth on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

 

Olea ferruginea
A gregarious tree, to 10 m tall, bark grey, smooth when young, peeling off in narrow strips when old. Leaves short-stalked, lanceolate or elliptic, to 10 cm long, dark green and shining above, with a dense film of minute scales beneath, which turn rusty-brown on older leaves, margin entire, recurved, midrib prominent, tip pointed. Flowers tiny, whitish, in axillary clusters, corolla tube very short, with 4 lobes, to 2 mm long. The fruit is an ovoid drupe, to 8 mm long, black when ripe.

This species is very common in the lower hills of the Himalaya, at elevations between 500 and 2,600 m, distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to western Nepal.

The wood is very hard and heavy, used for turning and farming tools, and also as firewood. The fruit is edible, and oil is extracted from it.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘rust-coloured’, alluding to the underside of the leaves.

 

Flower size and colour Tiny, whitish.
Height to 10 m.
Habitat Dry, open areas.
Flowering Mar.-Sep.
Fruiting Aug.-Nov.

 

 

An old specimen of Olea ferruginea, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Leaves and ripening fruits of Olea ferruginea, Kullu. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Onagraceae Evening-primrose family
An almost worldwide family with 22-24 genera and about 650 species of herbs or shrubs, rarely trees. 5 genera are found in the Himalaya.

The family name is derived from Onagra, the original name of evening-primroses (today called Oenothera). The term Onagra was first used in botany in 1587, meaning ‘(food) of onager’, an Asiatic species of wild ass (Equus hemionus). It is most odd that this name was applied to evening-primroses, which were originally purely American plants.

 

Chamaenerion Willow-herb, fireweed
This small genus of 8 species is widespread in montane and arctic areas of the Northern Hemisphere, in Europe, North Africa, Asia, and North America. 4 species occur in the Himalaya.

The fruit is a long capsule, splitting longitudinally, and the seeds have long hairs, an adaptation for wind-spreading.

There is much controversy as to the name of this genus. Initially, Chamaenerion may have originated as early as 1561. It is derived from the Greek khamai (‘near the ground’) and nerion, the Ancient Greek name of the oleander (Nerium oleander), alluding to the oleander-like leaves of rosebay willow-herb (below). In 1753, Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) placed these plants in the genus Epilobium (below). However, many botanists disregarded his decision, preferring Chamaenerion.

In 1818, French naturalist Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz (1783-1840) proposed the name Chamerion, suggesting it as either a subgenus or genus. Rafinesque had his own peculiar rules of botanical nomenclature, regarding it as appropriate to shorten existing generic names. His new name, however, was not widely accepted until published in 1972 by Czech botanist Josef Ludwig Holub (1930-1999), who designated a different type species, Epilobium amenum. However, as this species is now included in C. angustifolium, Chamaenerion has precedence over Chamerion. Some authorities still include these plants in Epilobium. (Source: A.N. Sennikov 2011. Chamerion or Chamaenerion (Onagraceae)? The old story in new words, Taxon 60 (5): 1485-1488)

 

Chamaenerion angustifolium Rosebay willow-herb, fireweed
The stem is erect, unbranched, smooth, very leafy, to 2.5 m tall, but often much lower. Leaves are spirally arranged up the stem, stalkless, narrowly lanceolate, almost smooth, to 23 cm long and 3.5 cm broad, margin entire, lateral veins at a right angle from the mid-vein. Inflorescence is a lax, terminal, leafless raceme, to 50 cm long, flowers horizontal, sepals 4, linear, reddish-purple, to 2 cm long, petals 4, obovate, spreading, pink or magenta (rarely white), to 2.5 cm long and 1.5 cm broad. Style to 2 cm long, curved downwards, stigma deeply 4-lobed, stamens to 2 cm long, out-curved.

This gregarious herb often forms large growths, especially in open disturbed habitats, such as forest clearings and abandoned fields. An example of the latter is described on the page Nature Reserve Vorsø: Expanding wilderness.

It is very widely distributed in northern temperate and subarctic areas, southwards to Morocco, the Himalaya, northern Indochina, Korea, and northern United States. It is fairly common in the Himalaya, from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar, at elevations between 3,000 and 4,700 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘narrow-leaved’.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 2.5 m, but often much lower.
Habitat Disturbed areas, forest clearings, fallow fields.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Chamaenerion angustifolium, Keylong, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Chamaenerion conspersum
Much like C. angustifolium, but stem lower, to 1.2 m tall, inflorescences shorter, leafy, flowers larger, long-stalked, to 3 cm across, leaves hairy beneath, lateral veins at an oblique angle from the mid-vein.

Distributed from Tibet and central Nepal eastwards to central and northern China, in the Himalaya growing at elevations between 3,600 and 4,800 m.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Stony slopes, sandy riverbeds.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Chamaenerion conspersum, Langshisha (4000 m), Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Chamaenerion latifolium Red willow-herb, dwarf fireweed
Gregarious, forming large clumps. Like C. angustifolium, but stem much lower, to 70 cm tall, branched, downy above. Leaves elliptic, blue-green, ovate or lanceolate-elliptic, to 8 cm long and 2.5 cm broad, margin with a few teeth. Inflorescences leafy, flowers large, axillary, sepals red, petals pink or rosy-purple (rarely white), to 3.2 cm long and 2.3 cm broad.

Widely distributed in subarctic and temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, in the Himalaya found from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan, growing at altitudes between 3,600 and 5,200 m.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 70 cm.
Habitat Streamsides, moist banks.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Chamaenerion latifolium, photographed on the Rohtang La Pass, Himachal Pradesh (top), and on the Polo Kongga La Pass, Ladakh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Circaea Enchanter’s nightshade
A small genus with 8 species of herbs, native to temperate and boreal forests of the Northern Hemisphere. 4 species are present in the Himalaya.

The generic name refers to Circe, in Ancient Greek Kirke, a mythical sorceress, living on the island of Aiaia. When Odysseus came to her island, she transformed his men into beasts, but, with the help of the god Hermes, he forced her to end the spell. The name of the sorceress is derived from the verb kirkoô (‘to secure with rings’), alluding to the binding power of magic. Supposedly, she used plants of this genus in her spells, reflected in the English name.

 

Circaea alpina ssp. imaicola
To 45 cm tall, stem usually unbranched, downy-hairy, leaves broadly ovate, to 7 cm long and 4.5 cm wide, base heart-shaped or rounded, margin toothed, tip pointed. Inflorescence a raceme, simple or branched, with short glandular hairs, flower stalk to 1 cm long, tube very short, petals white or pink, to 1.8 mm long, with 5 out-curved lobes. Fruit to 2.5 mm long and 1 mm wide, densely covered with stiff hairs that will easily cling to animals’ pelts.

This species, in its widest sense, has a huge distribution in the Northern Hemisphere, with the exception of Africa and Arabia. Subspecies imaicola is found from Afghanistan eastwards to northern China and Taiwan, southwards to the Himalaya and northern Indochina. In the Himalaya, it grows at elevations between 2,000 and 4,000 m.

 

Flower size and colour To 1.8 mm long, white or pink.
Height to 45 cm.
Habitat Streamsides, humid shrubberies and forests.
Flowering Jul.-Oct.
Fruiting Aug.-Nov.

 

 

Circaea alpina ssp. imaicola, Thulo Shyabru, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Epilobium Willow-herb
About 200-220 species of herbs, distributed almost globally. About 20 species occur in the Himalaya.

Many species are glandular-hairy. The fruit is a long capsule, splitting longitudinally, and the seeds have long hairs, an adaptation for wind-spreading.

The generic name is derived from the Greek epi (‘upon’) and lobos (‘lobe’), alluding to the position of the petals above the ovary. The common name refers to the similarity of the leaves of some species to those of certain species of willow (Salix).

Members of this genus are difficult to distinguish, and they often hybridize, which further complicates the matter. Below are pictures of 3 unidentified species. I would be happy to receive information on them. You can use the address at the bottom of the page.

 

 

An unidentified species of Epilobium, Ulley, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

An unidentified species of Epilobium, Keylong, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

An unidentified species of Epilobium, near Darchu, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo 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, found almost worldwide. About 150 genera occur in the Himalaya, the vast majority from Sikkim eastwards.

Orchids are divided into terrestrial species, growing in soil, and epiphytic species, growing on trees (sometimes on rocks or fallen tree trunks). The latter develop aerial roots that absorb nutrients and moisture from the air, and many species from both groups have pseudobulbs, swollen, fibrous, bulb-like stems that store water and nutrients.

The flower structure of this family is unique. There are 3 sepals, often coloured and shaped like 2 of the 3 petals. The third petal forms the lower lip, usually differering very much from the other petals in size and shape, and sometimes in colour, often with a spur. Stamens and ovary are fused, forming the so-called column. Anthers and stigma are separated by a beak-like structure, the rostellum. The anthers produce so-called pollinia, small ‘bags’ which contain pollen. These pollinia are attached to the stigma by a sticky secrete, and they easily stick to visiting insects who then transport them to the next flower where they get attached to the stigma. Other species are self-pollinating. The fruit is a capsule, containing countless tiny seeds, spread by the wind.

Most of these plants live in symbiosis with the mycelium of underground fungi, which is attached to the rhizome or root of the orchid. When a seed is about to germinate, it is completely dependent on this mycelium, as it has virtually no energy reserve, obtaining the necessary carbon from the fungus. Some orchids are dependent on the mycelium their entire life, but their relationship is symbiotic, as the orchid delivers crucial water and salts to the fungus. However, some species do not contain chlorophyll, being parasites on the fungus.

The family name is derived from the Greek orkhis (‘testicle’), alluding to the underground tubers of some species, which resemble testicles.

 

Arundina graminifolia Bamboo orchid
This gorgeous plant, the sole member of the genus, is terrestrial, stem usually about 1 m tall, sometimes 2 m, leaves numerous, reed-like, linear, curved, to 30 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, at the base with stem-clasping sheaths, to 4 cm long. Inflorescence is a branched terminal cluster, to 20 cm long, with up to 10 flowers, opening in succession, petals and sepals white, pink, or reddish, elliptic, to 4 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, lip darker, purplish-red, to 4 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, lateral lobes incurved, embracing the column, mid-lobe about 1.6 cm across, margin wavy.

It is distributed from India eastwards to China and Taiwan, southwards to Sri Lanka and Indonesia. In the Himalaya, it is found from central Nepal eastwards to Myanmar, mainly in the lower valleys, occasionally up to elevations around 2,800 m.

The generic name is derived from the Latin arundo (‘reed’), thus ‘reed-like’, the specific name is Latin, meaning ‘with grass-like leaves’, and the common name likewise refers to the leaves, which resemble those of certain species of bamboo.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height usually to 1 m, sometimes to 2 m.
Habitat Shrubberies, open slopes, forests.
Flowering Most of the year, chiefly Jun.-Sep.

 

 

Arundina graminifolia, Tumlingtar, Arun Valley, Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Calanthe
About 150 ground-living species, found in tropical and subtropical Asia, Australia, New Guinea, some Pacific islands, tropical Africa, and northern South America. Flowers are in erect racemes, sepals and petals almost similar. About 12 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek kallos (‘beauty’) and anthos (‘flower’).

 

Calanthe brevicornu
Stem to 45 cm, pseudobulbs conic, to 2 cm across, leaves shorter than stem, usually 3, elliptic or oblong, to 30 cm long and 11 cm broad, pointed. Flowers in a spike-like cluster with up to 13 flowers, to 4 cm across, petals and sepals oblong, pointed, to 2.3 cm long and 8 mm wide, basic part white or yellowish, outer part dark brown with white longitudinal streaks, lip to 2 cm long, with two small lateral lobes and a larger mid-lobe, shallowly cleft, all lobes white or yellowish along the margin, reddish-brown in the centre. Spur straight, only about 2 mm long.

Distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar and central China, growing at elevations between 1,600 and 3,100 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘short-horned’. What it refers to is not clear.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 45 cm.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering May-Jun.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Calanthe plantaginea
Stem to 65 cm, but often much lower, pseudobulbs conic, to 2 cm across, leaves 2-4, basal, ovate or elliptic, pointed, to 30 cm long and 12 cm broad, leaf-stalk to 20 cm long. Inflorescence a many-flowered cluster to 40 cm long, flowers to 4 cm across, lilac, pink, or white, or a combination, fragrant, sepals and petals elliptic or ovate, to 1.7 cm long and 7 mm wide, pointed, lip with 3 lobes, to 7 mm long, outer 2 obovate, mid-lobe wedge-shaped, with 3 orange ridges near the base. Spur cylindric, slender, to 2 cm long, horizontal or pendent.

It is found from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar and south-western China, growing at altitudes between 1,500 and 2,500 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘like Plantago’, alluding to the plantain-like leaves.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 65 cm, but often much lower.
Habitat Broad-leaved forests.
Flowering Feb.-Apr.

 

 

Calanthe plantaginea, Dhunche, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Calanthe tricarinata
This is the commonest member of the genus in the Himalaya, growing mainly in oak forests, from Pakistan eastwards to northern Indochina, China, Taiwan, and Japan, in the Himalaya found at elevations between 1,500 and 3,200 m.

Stem to 60 cm tall, pseudobulbs globular, to 2 cm across, leaves 2-4, basal, elliptic, oblong, or lanceolate, pointed, to 35 cm long and 11 cm broad. Flowers 2-3 cm across, in a spike-like cluster to 20 cm long, sepals and petals oblong or lanceolate, to 1.8 cm long and 8 mm wide, yellow or green, lip brown or reddish, with 3 lobes, outer 2 short, erect, mid-lobe to 1 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, base white or yellow with brown or reddish blotches, outer part brown or purplish-red with 3 fleshy ridges, often yellow, margin strongly wavy. Spur absent.

The specific name is derived from the Latin tri (‘three’) and carina (‘keel’), referring to the 3 ridges on the lip.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Forests, mainly oak.
Flowering Apr.-Jul.

 

 

Calanthe tricarinata, Humkhani, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Calanthe tricarinata, Ghasa, Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of a flower with green sepals and petals, Brabal, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cephalanthera Helleborine
A genus of about 15 terrestrial species, distributed in almost all of Europe, southwards to North Africa and Turkey, eastwards to western Siberia, the Himalaya, southern and eastern China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and northern Indochina. One species also occurs in western North America. A single species is found in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from the Greek kephale (‘head’) and antheros (‘anther’), alluding to the anther that sits on the column like a head. The common name is Old English, denoting various plants supposed to cure madness, derived from Ancient Greek helleboros, of unknown meaning.

 

Cephalanthera longifolia Sword-leaved helleborine
Stem to 60 cm, leafy throughout, leaves elliptic or lanceolate, often sword-shaped, in 2 distinct ranks, spreading, lower ones to 16 cm long and 3 cm wide, upper ones very short. Flowers white, 2-3 cm across, 10-20 in a terminal cluster to 6 cm long. Sepals elliptic or lanceolate, pointed, to 1.8 cm long and 4.5 mm wide, petals rounded, to 8 mm long and 4 mm wide. Lip small, to 7 mm long and 9 mm wide, almost hidden among the sepals, with an orange patch in the centre.

This plant is widely distributed in temperate areas of Eurasia, and also in North Africa. In the Himalaya, it occurs from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar, growing at altitudes between 1,000 and 3,600 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘long-leaved’.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 60 cm.
Habitat Forests, grasslands, open slopes.
Flowering May-Aug.

 

 

Cephalanthera longifolia, Upper Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Coelogyne
A huge genus of epiphytic orchids, counting more than 200 species, found in tropical and subtropical Asia, from India and China southwards to Indonesia and New Guinea. Pseudobulbs are conspicuous. Members of this genus, comprising about 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 of the lip.

The generic name is derived from the Greek koilos (‘hollow’) and gyne (‘woman’), referring to the hollow pistil.

 

Coelogyne corymbosa
Much like C. nitida (below), but pseudobulbs are smaller, to 4 cm long, there are usually only 2-4 flowers in a cluster, the yellow blotches on the lip are smaller, outer ones often pointed and separated from the inner ones, and the lip has no ridges.

It is distributed from central Nepal eastwards to Myanmar and south-western China, found at altitudes between 1,300 and 3,500 m.

In Nepal, a paste of the pseudobulb is applied to the forehead to relieve headache.

The specific name is derived from the Latin corymbus, meaning a cluster of fruit or flowers.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 20 cm.
Habitat Trees, rocks.
Flowering Apr.-Jun.

 

 

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

 

 

Coelogyne corymbosa, Gul Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Coelogyne cristata
This plant is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar and south-eastern Tibet, growing at elevations between 1,000 and 2,300 m, mostly on rocks, rarely on trees.

Pseudobulbs are 5-8 cm long, yellowish, ovoid, smooth. Leaves stalkless, lanceolate, pointed, to 30 cm long and 3 cm broad. Flowers white, fragrant, to 10 cm across, 3-10 in pendent clusters to 30 cm long. Sepals and petals blunt, to 4 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, margin wavy, mid-lobe of lip with 3-5 yellow, hairy ridges, stretching to the base.

Cultivated as an ornamental. In Nepal, juice of the pseudobulb is applied to boils.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘crested’, alluding to the ridges on the lip.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height/length to 30 cm.
Habitat Rocky slopes, sometimes trees.
Flowering Feb.-Apr.

 

 

Coelogyne cristata, Lower Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Pseudobulbs of Coelogyne cristata, Melamchi Ghyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Coelogyne nitida
This plant, previously known as C. ochracea, is found from Uttarakhand eastwards to northern Indochina and the Yunnan Province, growing at altitudes between 1,300 and 3,100 m. It is very conspicuous in the Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal.

Pseudobulbs are 7-10 cm long, yellowish, cylindric, furrowed with age. Leaves 2-3, stalkless, elliptic to oblanceolate, to 25 cm long and 3 cm broad. Flowers white, c. 4 cm across, 6-8 in erect clusters, to 20 cm tall. Sepals and petals to 2 cm long and 5 mm wide, pointed, margin not wavy, mid-lobe of lip with 2 large yellow spots and 2 yellow ridges (not hairy), stretching to the base.

Cultivated as an ornamental. In Nepal, juice of the pseudobulb is used for stomach ache.

The specific name is derived from the Latin niteo (‘to shine’) and the suffix idus, thus ‘shining’. However, the word has many other meanings, including ‘handsome’ and ‘beautiful’.

 

Flower size and colour See above.
Height to 20 cm.
Habitat Trees.
Flowering Mar.-Jun.

 

 

Annapurna 2007
Coelogyne nitida, Lower Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cypripedium Lady’s slippers
A genus of ab