Himalayan flora 3

 

 

Ranunculaceae to Zygophyllaceae, ferns, lycopods, and lichens

 

 

Fruits of Zingiber chrysanthum are bright red, enclosing pure white seeds with an irregular black patch, sometimes resembling a fly. – Chamje, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Saxifraga mucronulata is a small plant with densely glandular-hairy stems and numerous thin, red runners. It grows in rocky meadows and among boulders, here encountered on the Bara Lacha La Pass, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

About 24 species of larkspur (Delphinium) are found in the Himalaya. This picture shows a large growth of the dark-blue Delphinium kamaonense, observed in the Upper Langtang Valley, central Nepal, where this plant is fairly common. A species of aster is also seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Geum elatum, a member of the rose family (Rosaceae) is very common in the Himalaya, here encountered in the Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. Leaves of Potentilla argyrophylla are also seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Ranunculaceae Buttercup family

 

Anemone Windflower
Altogether c. 17 species of this genus are encountered in the Himalaya. The vast majority has white flowers, a few species red, yellow, or blue.

 

Anemone obtusiloba
The flowers of this species come in three colour morphs: blue, white, and yellow. The yellow form, however, is restricted to Kashmir. This species is found at altitudes between 2,100 and 4,300 m, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China. It is very common in Nepal, where juice of its root is used for eye trouble.

 

Flower colour Blue, white, or yellow.
Height to 15 cm.
Habitat Grasslands; open forests.
Flowering May-Sep.

 

 

Nepal 2009
Blue form of Anemone obtusiloba, photographed in Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Anemone tetrasepala
This tall plant mainly grows on rocky slopes between 2,100 and 3,600 m altitude, from Afghanistan eastwards to Himachal Pradesh and extreme south-western Tibet.

 

Flower colour White.
Height to 75 cm.
Habitat Rocks; open coniferous forests.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Anemone tetrasepala is very common in Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Aquilegia Columbine
This genus, altogether comprising 60 to 70 species, is characterized by the peculiar shape of the flowers, with five spurs on the inner petals, pointing backwards. These spurs are often curved, hence the generic name, of the Latin aquila (‘eagle’), where the spurs are likened to eagle claws. The common name columbine is derived from the Latin columba (‘dove’), referring to the alleged resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves, clustered together. Another popular name is granny’s bonnet, again referring to the flower shape.

Four species are found in the Himalaya, all restricted to the western half of the mountains.

 

Aquilegia fragrans
This species is quite common, from Pakistan eastwards to Uttarakhand, growing in forests, shrubberies and grasslands at altitudes between 2,400 and 3,600 m. The specific name alludes to its fragrant flowers.

 

Flower colour White or cream-coloured.
Height to 80 cm.
Habitat Grasslands; open forests.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Aquilegia fragrans has white or cream-coloured flowers. This picture is from Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Aquilegia moorcroftiana
This species is found from northern Asia southwards through Central Asia to Pakistan, Ladakh, and western Nepal, growing in shrubberies or on open slopes, at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,200 m.

 

Flower colour Bluish-white, blue, or purplish.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Open slopes, shrubberies.
Flowering Jun.-Jul.

 

 

Aquilegia moorcroftiana, Chiling, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Aquilegia pubiflora
A quite common plant, found from Pakistan eastwards to western Nepal, at altitudes between 2,400 and 3,300 m.

 

Flower colour Purple or purplish-blue.
Height to 40 cm.
Habitat Forests; shrubberies; grasslands.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Aquilegia pubiflora, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Clematis Clematis
This genus of climbers, comprising about 300 species, is widespread throughout the world. No less than 147 species are found in China, of which 93 are endemic.

 

Clematis tibetana Tibetan clematis
Very common in Ladakh, climbing on bushes along trails, or on stone fences around fields. It has very pretty, golden-yellow flowers with brown spots, in which the style, growing to 1.5 cm long, is densely silky-haired. This plant is distributed in south-western Sichuan, Tibet, Pakistan, Ladakh, Lahaul, and Uttarakhand, at altitudes between 1,700 and 4,800 m.

 

Flower colour Golden-yellow.
Habitat Open areas.
Flowering Jul.

 

 

Tibetan clematis is common in Ladakh, here growing on stone fences around fields near Chomuthang (top) and Honupatta. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Delphinium Larkspur
Members of this genus may be identified by their irregular flowers, having five coloured sepals, the upper one with a large, back-pointing spur, and four inner petals, of which the upper two have nectar-producing spurs that are enclosed in the larger spur. About 25 species occur in the Himalaya, many of them very difficult to identify.

 

Delphinium brunonianum
This rather low plant, which grows to 30 cm tall, has deeply dissected leaves, and terminal infloresences with 3-6 blue or purplish-blue flowers. It grows on stony slopes between 4,300 and 5,500 m altitude, from Pakistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet. It is quite common in Lahaul and Ladakh.

 

Flower colour Blue or purplish-blue.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Open, stony slopes, screes.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Delphinium brunonianum, Taglang La, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Delphinium denudatum
This tall plant has rather small, pale blue flowers, to 2.5 cm across. It grows in open forests and grassy areas between 1,500 and 2,700 m, distributed from Pakistan eastwards to central Nepal.

 

Flower colour Pale blue.
Height to 90 cm.
Habitat Open forests; grassy areas.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Delphinium denudatum, Sainj Valley, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Delphinium glaciale
This species may be identified by its whitish-blue, hairy flowers. It grows on open slopes at altitudes between 3,300 and 6,000 m, from central Nepal eastwards to Bhutan and southern Tibet.

 

Flower colour Whitish-blue.
Height to 30 cm.
Habitat Gravelly slopes.
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Delphinium glaciale, photographed at an altitude of c. 4,000 m, Langshisha, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Delphinium kamaonense
The inflorescences of this plant have few, large, dark-blue flowers, to 4 cm across, and the stem is smooth. It is common between 3,000 and 4,300 m altitude, from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-western China. In Nepal, a decoction of the plant is applied to scabies.

 

Flower colour Whitish-blue.
Height to 45 cm.
Habitat Grasslands.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

Delphinium kamaonense, photographed in Langtang National Park, central Nepal. A species of Aster is also present. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Thalictrum Meadow-rue
Members of this genus are distributed in the major part of the Northern Hemisphere, and also in southern Africa and South America. They are commonest in temperate regions. There is great controversy concerning the number of species. Accounts vary between 120 and 200. About 20 species are encountered in the Himalaya.

The name meadow-rue stems from the similarity of the twice or thrice divided leaves of these plants to those of the genuine rues (genus Ruta).

 

Thalictrum cultratum
This tall plant has several branched inflorescences, each with numerous tiny, greenish-white flowers, whose stamens are purple with yellow tips. It is very common in open areas between 1,700 and 4,200 m altitude, from Pakistan eastwards to south-western China.

 

Flower colour Greenish-white.
Height to 1.2 m.
Habitat Shrubberies; grasslands; open slopes.
Flowering Jun.-Aug.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Rosaceae Rose family

 

Comarum salesovianum
A rather shrubby herb, which belongs to the cinquefoils (see Potentilla below). This species, which is widespread in Central Asia, is one of the few white-flowered cinquefoils of this area. It is closely related to the circumboreal marsh cinquefoil (C. palustre), but contrary to that species, it grows in dry conditions.

 

 

Comarum salesovianum, Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Geum Avens
This genus of about 50 species is widespread in Eurasia, Africa, New Zealand, and the Americas. Most species have yellow flowers, some red, orange, or white. A picture, depicting a gorgeous orange species, may be seen on the page Travel episodes – Chile 2011: The white forest.

At maturity, a silky tuft of brownish hairs grows from the styles, which has given rise to a popular German name of these plants, Petersbart (‘Peter’s beard’), probably referring to St. Peter.

 

Geum elatum
A large-flowered species, growing to 50 cm tall. It is very common in alpine meadows at altitudes between 2,700 and 4,400 m, distributed from Pakistan eastwards to Sikkim and extreme southern Tibet. In Nepal, a paste of its pounded leaves is applied to wounds.

 

 

Geum elatum, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. Leaves of Potentilla argyrophylla (see above) are also seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Potentilla Cinquefoil
The word cinquefoil is an Anglicization of the Latin quinque (‘five’) and folium (‘leaf’), thus ‘five-leaf’ – a name, which was originally referring to those species of the genus Potentilla that have five finger-like leaflets. Today, however, cinquefoil is a name which refers to the entire genus, and also to marsh cinquefoils, of the genus Comarum (see above).

There are no less than c. 40 species of these mostly small and ground-hugging plants in the Himalaya, many of which are widespread and common. The vast majority are yellow-flowered, but a few have orange, pink, red, or white flowers. The fruits are called achenes. They are small, hard, and nut-like, densely clustered in a fruit-head.

 

Potentilla argyrophylla
The flower colour of this species varies greatly, from yellow or orange to crimson (var. atrosanguinea), or purplish. It can be told from other cinquefoil species by the strawberry-like leaves, which are usually densely silky-hairy. In some forms, however, the leaves are hairless, in which case they are dark green with paler undersides. It is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to Sikkim, at altitudes between 2,400 and 4,500 m.

 

 

Flowers of Potentilla argyrophylla are mostly yellow, often with orange markings near the throat. – Kyangjin, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This picture shows the red form of Potentilla argyrophylla, var. atrosanguinea, Annapurna Sanctuary, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Potentilla bifurca 
This prostrate plant grows on stony or grassy slopes and at the edge of fields. It may be identified by its pinnate leaves, with broad, egg-shaped segments. It is widely distributed, from central Europe eastwards to Central Asia, where it is found between 3,500 and 5,200 m altitude.

 

 

Potentilla bifurca, encountered near Honupatta, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Potentilla fruticosa Shrubby cinquefoil
The largest of the genus, this shrub, which grows to 1.2 m tall, is a very variable plant with a wide distribution and altitudinal range, found in the entire northern temperate zone. It is common in the Himalaya and on the Tibetan Plateau, found at altitudes between 2,400 and 6,000 m. Locally, juice of the root is used for indigestion, tea is made from the leaves, and dried leaves and branches are burned as incense.

 

 

This picture shows Tibetan shrubby cinquefoil, var. pumila, observed near Honupatta, Ladakh. This variety is prostrate, and its flowers are rather small. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Potentilla peduncularis 
This plant is common on high altitude grazing grounds, found at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,500 m. It is distributed from western Nepal eastwards to south-western China.

 

 

Nepal 2009
The achenes of Potentilla peduncularis are dark brown or blackish, forming what looks like a bramble berry. – Dukpu, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Rosa Rose

 

Rosa sericea
This rose is widespread in the Himalaya and is also found in drier Tibetan borderlands, from 2,100 to 4,600 m altitude, growing in forests as well as open areas. It is an erect shrub to 2 m tall, with prickles in pairs below the leaves, or none at all. The cream-coloured flowers are up to 6 cm across, with 4 petals. The edible hip is globular or pear-shaped, bright red, to 1.5 cm across, hairless. This species is often cultivated as an ornamental or in hedges. A paste of the petals is used for headache and liver problems, and the leaves are lopped for fodder.

 

 

Rosa sericea is abundant in the Jhong River Valley, Mustang, central Nepal, where this picture was taken. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Hips of Rosa sericea are ball- or pear-shaped, here photographed in the Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rosa webbiana
This pretty rose, which grows in drier areas than R. sericea, is very common in Ladakh  and Lahaul, found up to an altitude of c. 4,500 m. It grows to 2.5 m tall, with scattered, straight, stout, yellow prickles, also in pairs below the leaves. The flowers have 5 petals, pink or reddish. The hip is ovoid or flask-shaped, bright red.

 

 

Rosa webbiana, with the village of Kaza in the background, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Rosa webbiana, Sumdah Chu, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Hips of Rosa webbiana are ovoid or flask-shaped, to 3.5 cm long, with persistent, spreading calyx. These were photographed at Hemis Gompa, Ladakh (top), and near Kielang, Lahaul. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Rubus Bramble
In the Himalaya, there are no less than c. 45 species of bramble, or raspberry, most of which are large, rambling, prickly shrubs, whereas a few are creeping, unarmed shrublets. Their fruit is highly distinctive, being a globular head on the domed tip of the flower-stalk, consisting of fleshy carpels, among which numerous nutlets are situated.

 

Rubus ellipticus
The orange fruits of this species are delicious, sweet, and slightly acid at the same time. It is very common in open, slightly eroded areas of the subtropical and lower temperate zones, up to an altitude of 2,600 m, from Pakistan to Myanmar, in the Far East, and in Tropical Asia. In several places, it is planted to prevent soil erosion. Medicinally, it is used for various ailments, including fever, diarrhoea, gastric problems, and dysentery. The leaves are used for fodder, and marmalade is made from the fruits.

 

 

Nepal 2013
Rubus ellipticus has delicious orange fruits. – Pati Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Stems of Rubus ellipticus are covered in long, stiff, red hairs. – Pokhara, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rubus hoffmeisterianus 
This large, rambling shrub is fairly common in thickets and along trails at altitudes between 1,500 and 2,400 m, from Afghanistan eastwards to central Nepal. Its red or orange berries are edible, with a slightly acid taste.

 

 

Rubus hoffmeisterianus, Pati Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Rubus nepalensis 
A very common dwarf shrub at altitudes between 2,100 and 3,200 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Sikkim, creeping along the ground in open forests and along trails. In this habit, it resembles the circumboreal cloudberry (R. chamaemorus), but has bright red fruits, which are slightly sour, but nevertheless delicious.

 

 

Nepal 2009-1
Rubus nepalensis, photographed together with a species of spikemoss (Selaginella) and Cyanotis vaga, a blue flower of the dayflower family (Commelinaceae). – Gul Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Rubiaceae Bedstraw family

 

Rubia manjith Indian dyer’s madder
With the help of hooked prickles on the underside of its leaves, this climber scrambles over other plants. The stems are green or yellowish, whereas the tiny flowers are deep purple, yellowish, or orange. A red dye, manjith, is obtained from its root, which is also used in traditional medicine as an astringent. A paste of the stem is applied to scorpion bites. This plant is found from Pakistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet, at altitudes from 1,200 to 2,700 m.

 

 

Everest 2010a
Indian dyer’s madder, Surkhe, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Lahaul-Ladakh 2014
Close-up of flowers of Indian dyer’s madder, near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ruscaceae (lily-of-the-valley family), see Asparagaceae.

 

 

 

Salicaceae Willow family

 

Populus Poplars
These trees, also called aspen or cottonwood, are a genus of between 25 and 35 species, some of which are indeed majestic, growing to 50 m tall, and with a trunk diameter up to 2.5 m. Poplars are native to the major part of the Northern Hemisphere, from subarctic areas southwards to Mexico, North Africa, Iran, the Himalaya, and China. They are deciduous, and several species display brilliant yellow foliage in the autumn, examples of which may be seen on the page In praise of the colour yellow.

 

Populus ciliata Himalayan poplar
This large tree grows to 20 m tall, with a thick, fissured bark on older trunks. The leaves are ovate to heart-shaped, long-pointed, finely toothed, to 25 cm long and 15 cm broad, with a very long stalk, to 13 cm. This species grows in forests, along streams, and in open areas between 1,500 and 3,600 m altitude, from Pakistan eastwards through southern Tibet to the Yunnan Province in China. It is widely cultivated in Tibetan areas, its wood used for construction, the branches to make roofs, and the foliage for fodder. A paste of the bark is applied to muscular swellings.

 

 

The Muktinath Temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, is situated in a growth of old Himalayan poplars in the Jhong River Valley, Mustang, central Nepal. – This important temple is described on the page Religion: Hinduism. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Autumn foliage of Himalayan poplar, near Hemis Gompa, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Sapindaceae Soapberry family
A huge family, found almost worldwide, containing 135-150 genera with about 1,800 species of shrubs, trees, climbers, or herbs. Today, it includes the obsolete families Aceraceae, Hippocastanaceae, Dodoneaceae, and Xanthoceraceae. About 7 genera occur in the Himalaya.

 

Acer Maple
In former days, maples, comprising about 130 species of deciduous trees or large shrubs, constituted a separate family, Aceraceae, which is now regarded as belonging to Hippocastanoideae, a subfamily of the soapberry family.

These plants are widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, with most species in Asia, others in Europe, northern Africa, and North and Central America. Only a single species occurs in the Southern Hemisphere. About 14 species have been encountered in the Himalaya.

The leaves are palmate in most species, and the foliage often turns a brilliant red or yellow in autumn. A number of pictures, depicting this autumn foliage, are found on the page Autumn.

The fruit consists of two 1-seeded units, each with a long wing. When ripe, these units separate and are often propelled a considerable distance by the wind. You may read an account of the effectiveness of this spreading on the page Nature reserve Vorsø: Expanding wilderness.

 

Acer caesium
A deciduous tree, often gregarious, to 25 m tall, bark grey to pale brown, with silvery patches scaling off. Twigs red-brown, dotted. Leaves long-stalked, red when young, later dark green above, pale green or blue-green beneath, to 15 cm long and 20 cm broad, palmate, with 5, rarely 3 lobes, triangular in outline, base heart-shaped, margin toothed, tip pointed. Buds prominent in dormant season. Flowers tiny, to 5 mm across, in branched clusters, sepals yellowish-green, petals whitish. Fruit yellowish, wings diverging at an acute angle, or sometimes overlapping, to 5 cm long.

This species is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to central Nepal, and it is also widespread in western China. In the Himalaya, it grows at elevations between 2,000 and 3,700 m.

The wood is utilized for a large number of items, including furniture, cups, bowls, and rifle stocks, the leaves for wrapping fruit, which makes it more durable. Over-exploitation of the timber for commercial and local use has caused the species to decline, especially in Pakistan. (Source: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, iucnredlist.org)

In Nepal, juice of the bark is applied to swellings of muscles, and also to boils and pimples.

 

Flower colour and size See above.
Height to 25 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Mar.-Jun.
Fruiting Aug.-Nov.

 

 

Acer caesium with fruits, Kilanmarg, Kashmir. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Acer campbellii
A deciduous tree, to 17 m tall. Twigs purplish-green, hairless, with elliptic or oblong lenticels. Leaves, short-stalked, often bright red when young, later pale green, to 15 cm long and 22 cm across, deeply cut into 7, sometimes 5 or 9, rather equal, lanceolate or ovate-oblong, long-pointed lobes, finely double-toothed, smooth, except tufts of hairs in the vein axils on the underside, base heart-shaped, rounded, or wedge-shaped. Flowers in terminal clusters to 10 cm long. Sepals 5, ovate, petals 5, tiny, cream-coloured, yellowish-green, or reddish. Fruit yellowish or red, wings sickle-shaped, widely diverging, to 2.8 cm long and 8 mm broad.

This species occurs at elevations between 1,800 and 3,700 m, from western Nepal eastwards to northern Indochina and south-western China. It is very common in eastern Nepal. The foliage is often lopped for fodder.

 

Flower colour and size See above.
Height to 17 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Apr.-May.
Fruiting Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Spring foliage of Acer campbellii, between Amjilassa and Gyapla, Lower Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

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

 

 

Spring foliage, near Ghorepani, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Acer cappadocicum
A deciduous tree, to 20 m tall, bark brown or greyish, grooved on older trees. Twigs stout, reddish-green with pale stripes. Leaves long-stalked, often reddish when young, later dark green above, pale green below, to 20 cm long and 15 cm across, smooth, except tufts of hairs in the vein axils on the underside, with 5-7, sometimes 3 triangular or ovate, long-pointed lobes, base rounded, margin entire. Flowers to 8 mm across, yellowish-green, in lax branched clusters which appear with the young leaves. Fruit pink when young, wings to 5 cm long and 9 mm broad, usually widely diverging, almost horizontal. The leaves turn yellow or red in autumn.

Widely distributed, from south-eastern Europe across the Middle East to the Himalaya, eastwards to Bhutan and western China. In the Himalaya, it occurs at elevations between 1,500 and 3,000 m.

The wood is utilized to make various items, including farming implements, poles, bedsteads, and drinking cups.

 

Flower colour and size See above.
Height to 20 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Mar.-May.
Fruiting Aug.-Sep.

 

 

Young leaves of Acer cappadocicum, Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Acer caudatum
A deciduous tree, to 10 m tall. Twigs stout, with elliptic or oblong lenticels. Leaf-stalk red, to 9 cm long. Leaves to 12 cm across, above dark green, smooth except on veins, below pale green, covered in yellowish hairs, palmate, with 5, rarely 7, ovate or triangular lobes, tapering into a long, tail-like tip, base heart-shaped, margin sharply double-toothed. Flowers in a terminal, erect cluster, to 12 cm long, reddish or yellowish-green, hairy. Sepals tiny, ovate-lanceolate, to 3 mm long, petals linear or oblong, to 7 mm long. Fruit yellowish-brown, wings to 2.8 cm long and 9 mm broad, diverging at an acute angle.

Found at elevations between 1,700 and 4,000 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Myanmar and western China.

 

Flower colour and size See above.
Height to 10 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering May-Jun.
Fruiting Sep.

 

 

Leaves of Acer caudatum, Pungi Tenga, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Flowering Acer caudatum, Deboche, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Acer sterculiaceum
A deciduous tree to 20 m tall, with dark-grey or brownish-grey bark. Young shoots are covered in brownish hairs. Leaf-stalk greenish or purplish-green, to 15 cm long. Leaves dark-green and smooth above, greenish and hairy beneath, to 20 cm long and 23 cm across, lobes 3-5, rarely 7, ovate, pointed, base heart-shaped, margin with short, sometimes blunt teeth. Flowers yellowish-green, to 1 cm across, in a raceme to 8 cm long, usually appearing before the leaves. Fruit yellowish or brown, wings to 6.5 cm long, almost parallel or slightly spreading, covered in rusty hairs.

This species is sometimes called Franchet’s maple, named in honour of French botanist Adrien René Franchet (1834-1900), who was based at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. He described numerous species from China and Japan, based on collections made by French missionaries.

It is distributed from Kashmir eastwards to Bhutan and western China, growing at altitudes between 1,800 and 3,900 m. In the Himalaya, the foliage is often lopped for fodder.

 

Flower colour and size See above.
Height to 20 m.
Habitat Forests, shrubberies.
Flowering Feb.-May.
Fruiting Aug.-Sep.

 

 

Spring foliage and inflorescences of Acer sterculiaceum, Sinuwa, Upper Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Yellow autumn foliage and fruits of Acer sterculiaceum, photographed at an altitude of 3,400 m, Yangri Peak, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Aesculus Horsechestnut, buckeye
These trees are native to temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with c. 10 species in Asia, 1 in Europe, and 7 in North America. They were formerly placed in a separate family, Hippocastanaceae. 2 species are found in the Himalaya.

The winter buds are very large, sticky, covered in resinous scales. The large leaves are palmate. The inflorescence is very spectacular, in uprigt, almost pyramid-shaped racemes. The fruit is a capsule, containing 1-3 large, chestnut-coloured, shining seeds.

The generic name is the Latin name of the sessile oak (Quercus petraea), possibly derived from aigilops, the Greek name of an oak with edible acorns. As horsechestnut fruits are poisonous, it is indeed a bit of a mystery, why Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus, or Carl von Linné (1707-1778), named the genus Aesculus. However, it must be pointed out that the meal is edible after boiling the fruits, and it was formerly used as cattle and chicken feed.

The common name horsechestnut comes in part from the Turkish name of the European species, at kestanesi, and the horse-part stems from the usage of the fruits to treat ailments in horses, including excessive wind. The American common name buckeye stems from an American indigenous tribe, who called the nut hetuck, which means buck-eye, alluding to the markings on the nut, which resembles the eye of a deer.

An American species of this genus, California buckeye (A. californica), is presented on the page Plants: Plants of Sierra Nevada, whereas common horsechestnut (A. hippocastanum) is dealt with on the page Plants: Ancient and huge trees.

 

Aesculus indica Indian horsechestnut
Deciduous tree to 30 m tall, the bark peeling off in long narrow strips. The leaf-stalk is to 15 cm long. The leaves are palmate, hairless, with 5-9 elliptic leaflets, to 25 cm long and 7 cm broad, long-pointed, sharply toothed, middle one largest. Inflorescences are terminal pyramidal clusters to 40 cm long, downy. Petals 4, to 2.3 cm long, unequal, clawed, white or yellowish, with red streaks at the base, downy on the outside. There are 7 stamens, longer than the petals, slightly curved. The capsule is ovoid, to 5 cm long, smooth, seeds globular, to 3.5 cm across, dark brown, shining.

The native area of this species is from Afghanistan eastwards to central Nepal, at altitudes between 1,200 and 3,300 m. Elsewhere, it is widely cultivated as an ornamental. The wood is used for carpentry, the foliage for fodder, the bark as a tonic and for fever, fruits and juice of the bark for rheumatism. Oil from the seeds is applied to skin problems. Roasted cotyledons may be cooked as a vegetable.

 

Flower colour and size See above.
Height to 30 m.
Habitat Forests.
Flowering Apr.-Jun.
Fruiting Jul.-Nov.

 

 

Lush temperate forest with Aesculus indica, Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Indian forester Ajai Saxena, standing next to an old specimen of Aesculus indica, Ropa, Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Flowering Aesculus indica, Kalopani, Upper Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Close-up of an inflorescence, Kharongcha, Tirthan Valley, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Sapindus Soapberry
A genus with about 13 species of trees, rarely shrubs, found in warm regions of Asia, Australia, and the Americas. 3 species occur in the Himalaya.

These plants are renowned for their fruits, which have a high contents of saponin and can be used as a washing agent. The generic name is derived from the Latin sapo (‘soap’) and indicus (‘of India’).

 

Sapindus mukorossi Indian soapberry
Deciduous tree to 20 m tall, with greyish-brown or blackish-brown bark. Young branches green, hairless. The leaves are pinnately divided, including stalk to 45 cm long, smooth or downy, with 5-8 pairs of shiny, narrowly elliptic, lanceolate, or slightly falcate leaflets, to 15 cm long and 5 cm wide, papery, with 15-17 pairs of nearly parallel veins, base slightly asymmetrical, tip pointed, margin entire. Inflorescences in large, terminal, pyramidal panicles, to 20 cm long. Flowers tiny, sepals 5, ovate, about 2 mm long, petals 5, cream-coloured or purple, lanceolate, about 2.5 mm long. The fruit is almost globular, smooth, often with swellings at the stalk, to 2.5 cm across, green when unripe, orange or yellow when ripe, turning black with age.

The native area of this tree is probably from India eastwards to Korea and Japan, and thence southwards through Indochina to Malaysia. However, it is widely cultivated, and in parts of the mentioned area, it may be introduced. In the Himalaya, it is found up to an elevation of about 1,200 m.

Besides its usage as a washing agent, the fruit is utilized medicinally, and for polishing silverware. The wood is used for making furniture, boards, plywood, and other items. The powdered seed is a natural insecticide, often used to rid the scalp of lice.

 

Flower colour and size Petals cream-coloured or purple, about 2.5 mm long.
Height to 20 m.
Habitat Open areas.
Flowering Apr.-May.
Fruiting Aug.-Oct.

 

 

Sapindus mukorossi with unripe fruits, near Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Schleichera oleosa Lac tree, kusum tree
This is the only species in the genus, distributed from India and Sri Lanka eastwards to Southeast Asia, and thence southwards to Indonesia. In Malaysia and Indonesia, it may be introduced. In the Himalaya, it is restricted to the foothills, found up to an elevation of about 1,000 m.

It is a deciduous, sometimes evergreen, often gregarious tree, to 40 m tall, with a broad and shady crown, noted for its bright red or scarlet spring foliage. It often spreads by suckers. The trunk, which is often crooked and slightly buttressed, may be up to 2 m in diameter. The leaves are pinnate, with 2-4 pairs of elliptic leaflets, margin entire, tip pointed or rounded. The flowers are small, yellow, arranged in short terminal clusters, and the fruit is ovoid, to 3 cm long, sometimes abruptly tapering to a point.

This species is utilized medicinally. The fruits are edible, and an oil, called kusum, is extracted from the seeds. It is host to a lac insect, Kerria lacca, which is native to India.

The generic name was given in honour of Swiss botanist Johann Christoph Schleicher (1770-1834), and the specific name is Latin, meaning ‘rich in oil’.

 

Flower colour and size Small, yellow, in short terminal clusters.
Height to 40 m.
Habitat Forests, grasslands.
Flowering Spring.

 

 

Spring foliage of Schleichera oleosa, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Saxifragaceae Saxifrage family
This worldwide family contains about 80 genera with c. 1,200 species.

 

Bergenia
Popular names of these plants include large rockfoil, elephant’s ears, which refers to the large leaves, and pigsqueak, referring to the sound produced, when two leaves are rubbed together. This genus consists of 10 species, indigenous to Central Asia, of which three are found in the Himalaya. The generic name honours German botanist and physician Karl August von Bergen (1704-1759).

 

Bergenia ciliata Hairy bergenia
The commonest of the Himalayan species, often growing on rock faces. It is distributed from Afghanistan eastwards to south-eastern Tibet. Due to its pretty flowers, it is widely cultivated in the West, where it is generally regarded as an anti-inflammatory and antidiabetic, and it may also be effective in treatment of cancer. In Nepal, juice of the plant is taken for urinary disorders, and an extract of the rhizome is used for fever, cough, colds, asthma, haemorrhoids, urinary disorders, diarrhoea, and backache, and it is also applied to boils. People of the Gurung tribe drink a decoction of the rhizome for gout, and to improve digestion.

 

 

Hairy bergenia, growing on a rock face, Chomrong, Upper Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Due to its luxurious growth and pretty flowers, hairy bergenia is widely cultivated as an ornamental in the West. – These flowers were photographed at Dharkot, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Saxifraga
This is by far the largest genus of the family, counting around 450 species, which are distributed in Asia, Europe, North America, and the Andes Mountains of South America. Most species grow in alpine areas. In the Himalaya, no less than c. 86 species have been encountered. Some European species are described on the page Plants: Flora of the Alps.

Literally, the generic name means ‘stone-breaker’, from the Latin saxum (‘rock’) and frangere (‘to break’). Rather than referring to the rocky habitat of many saxifrage species, it probably indicates the usage of one or more species for treatment of kidney stones and the like.

 

Saxifraga brunonis 
This is a most characteristic species, easily identified by its numerous red runners. It is widespread in the Himalaya, found from Kashmir eastwards to south-western China, between 2,400 and 5,600 m altitude.

 

 

Saxifraga brunonis, photographed after a heavy monsoon shower, Upper Rolwaling Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Saxifraga jacquemontiana
Stems very crowded, to 5 cm tall, forming compact cushions. The flowering stem is only 3-4 mm long, embedded among rosettes of spatulate leaves, to 5.2 mm long and 2 mm wide, glandular-hairy. The flowers are solitary, sepals rounded, green or reddish, glandular-hairy, to 3 mm long and 2 mm broad, petals yellow, obovate or elliptic, to 5 mm long and 3 mm wide, often red inside.

This plant is found from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan and south-eastern Tibet, at altitudes between 3,900 and 5,200 m. It is common in Kashmir.

The specific name honours French botanist and geologist Venceslas Victor Jacquemont (1801-1832), who explored several areas in India, including Ladakh. He died of cholera in Bombay (today Mumbai), only 31 years old.

 

Flower colour and size Yellow, often red inside, to 5 mm long and 3 mm wide.
Height to 5 cm.
Habitat Stony areas, scree.
 
Flowering Jul.-Sep.

 

 

Saxifraga jacquemontiana, encountered on the Bara Lacha La Pass (c. 3,900 m), Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Saxifraga mucronulata
This tiny plant, also called S. flagellaris, has densely glandular-hairy stems, 2-4 cm tall, and bright yellow terminal flowers. It can be identified by its thin, red runners, arising from the axils of basal leaves. It grows in rocky meadows and among boulders, between 2,800 and 5,400 m altitude, from Pakistan and Tibet eastwards to Sikkim and south-western China.

 

 

Saxifraga mucronulata, encountered on the Bara Lacha La Pass, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Saxifraga strigosa 
A bristly-hairy and glandular-hairy plant, growing to c. 30 cm tall. It spreads easily by bulbils in the leaf axils. This species is quite common in Nepal, growing in forests and shrubberies, and on mossy rocks between 1,800 and 4,300 m, commonest at lower altitudes. The geographical distribution is from Uttarakhand eastwards to south-western China.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Scrophulariaceae Figwort family

 

Oreosolen wattii
Like Phlomoides rotata (see Lamiaceae), the leaves of this plant are hugging the ground, as a means of protection against the strong winds, which often blow on the Tibetan Plateau. This plant grows in alpine grasslands and on dry slopes in southern Tibet and the northernmost parts of Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan, up to an altitude of 5,100 m.

 

 

Oreosolen wattii, photographed in a dry valley beneath Imja Tse (Island Peak), Sagarmatha National Park, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Solanaceae Nightshade family

 

Hyoscyamus niger Black henbane
This famous plant is indigenous to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Central Asia, but has become naturalized in most of Europe and in parts of North and South America. In Central Asia, it grows in open areas and fallow fields between 2,000 and 3,600 m altitude, eastwards to China.

All parts of this plant are very poisonous, containing the toxic alkaloids hyoscyamine and scopolamine. A Danish proverb, from 1682, says: “Adultery is like henbane seeds: the more you eat of it, the madder you become.” The generic name is derived from the Greek hys (‘swine’) and kyamos (‘bean’), thus ‘hog bean’. Supposedly, pigs could eat this plant with impunity.

Formerly, henbane was widely used in folk medicine for the production of sedatives, and also to make magic and love potions. Necklaces were made from the root, worn by children as charms to prevent fits and to cause easy teething. In Denmark, people with toothache (popularly called ‘worms in your teeth’) would inhale the vapours from boiling henbane seeds. These vapours would undoubtedly ease the pain, but the effect might just as well have been psychological, because after the treatment, the patient could see the killed ’worms’, lying between the henbane seeds in the bowl, in which they had been heated. The explanation is that the heating would burst the seed coat, exposing the white, curved germs – not unlike fly larvae.

In Greek mythology, the dead in Hades were crowned with henbane, as they wandered hopelessly along the River Styx.

You may read an amusing account of this species on the page Plants: Plants in folklore and poetry.

 

 

Fruiting Hyoscyamus niger, Kielang, Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Physochlaina 
A genus of about 11 species, most of which are restricted to Central Asia, with one species in the Middle East and one in Mongolia and Siberia.

 

Physochlaina praealta
This species is found in stony areas of south-western Tibet, Pakistan, and Ladakh, at altitudes between 2,400 and 4,600 m. It is utilized in local folk medicine, the seeds as a vermifuge, the leaves for treatment of ulcers and eye diseases.

 

 

Fruiting Physochlaina praealta, Ulley, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Theaceae Tea family

 

Schima wallichii
In Nepal, this tree is called chilaune (’itching’). Beneath the bark, mature specimens have a layer of hairs, which irritate the skin. The toxic bark of this species can be used when fishing. It is chopped up and sprinkled into the water, anaesthetizing the fish, which float to the surface. This species grows up to an altitude of 2,100 m, from central Nepal to south-western China, and thence southwards to Southeast Asia.

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

 

 

Nepal 2002
Schima wallichii, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Thymelaeaceae Daphne family

 

Stellera chamaejasme 
This pretty herb, which grows to 50 cm tall, is very common on the Tibetan Plateau, as it is avoided by grazing animals. Its habitat is open stony slopes and fallow fields. The root is used in traditional medicine to treat asthma, aching joints, and skin problems, and to expel phlegm and intestinal parasites. Paper and rope are made from the root.

 

 

Stellera chamaejasme, growing near the Hindu temple of Muktinath, Mustang, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Umbelliferae, see Apiaceae.

 

 

 

Violaceae Violet family

 

Viola Violet
This huge genus, comprising maybe 600 species, is found in most parts of the world, with the largest concentration in the northern temperate zone.

The majority of violet flowers are white or various shades of blue, but some species have bright yellow flowers, such as Viola wallichiana, which is fairly common in humid forests of the Himalaya, from central Nepal eastwards to Bhutan and south-eastern Tibet. The specific name was given in honour of Danish physician and botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854), who studied the Indian and Himalayan flora in the early 1800s.

Pictures of other yellow-flowered violets are presented on the page In praise of the colour yellow.

 

 

Everest 2010
Viola wallichiana, Surkhe, Khumbu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Zingiberaceae Ginger family
This is a huge pan-tropical and -subtropical family of herbs, with 46-52 genera and 1,100-1,300 species. One characteristic of this group is their basal sheaths, which overlap to form a stem-like pseudostem. Besides cultivated species such as ginger, turmeric, and cardamom, members of c. 9 genera of this family are encountered in the Himalaya.

 

Zingiber chrysanthum
Many members of the ginger family have fruits at ground level. One such example is Zingiber chrysanthum, whose fruits are bright red, enclosing pure white seeds with an irregular black patch, which sometimes resembles a fly. This plant is found up to an altitude of c. 2,000 m, from Uttarakhand eastwards to Sikkim.

 

 

Zingiber chrysanthum, photographed near the village of Chamje, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Roscoea
Seven purple or lilac species of this genus occur in the Himalaya, a majority of which grow in humid, open areas. Two species, presented below, are both 

 

Roscoea alpina
This gregarious species is found at high altitudes, between 2,400 and 4,000 m, from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar. It is common in Nepal.

 

 

Everest 2010a
Roscoea alpina, Surkhe, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Roscoea capitata 
This plant is restricted to central Nepal and adjacent areas of southern Tibet, between 1,200 and 2,600 m altitude. It is fairly common.

 

 

Roscoea capitata, Kendja, Solu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Cautleya spicata
The pseudostem of this plant is up to to 60 cm tall, with pretty yellow flowers in a terminal erect spike, to 23 cm long. It is common between 1,000 and 2,800 m altitude, growing in forests, often on rocks, and sometimes as an epiphyte, from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to south-western China. Local people cook the pseudostem as a vegetable, and juice of the rhizome is used for stomach ache.

 

 

Everest 2010a
Cautleya spicata, Goyum, Solu, eastern Nepal. Another member of the ginger family, Roscoea alpina (see above), is seen in the background. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Zygophyllaceae Caltrop family
This family of trees, shrubs, and herbs contain 22 genera with about 285 species, which mainly grow in dry habitats.

 

Tribulus terrestris Caltrop
A widely distributed species, from southern Europe and North Africa eastwards through a major part of Asia to northern Australia. It is very common in Ladakh.

Fruits of this species have 2 to 4 very strong spines, which are able to penetrate a bicycle tyre, giving rise to a popular name of this plant, puncture vine. When the fruit is lying on the ground, at least one thorn is always pointing upwards, so that it may stick to a foot of a passing animal. If a furry animal, like a sheep, lies down in an area with these fruits, several of them will stick to its fleece. In this way, the seeds are dispersed. Much damage has been done to the feet of livestock by these fruits.

The generic name is from the Greek tribolos, meaning ’caltrop’, a small metal object with several spikes, of which one is always pointing upwards. In the old days, these weapons were spread on roads and footpaths to prevent traffic of the enemy’s soldiers, horse riders, and horse-drawn vehicles.

 

 

Caltrop, photographed near Ulley, Ladakh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Ferns are ubiquitous in the Himalaya, with hundreds of species growing from the hottest valleys to alpine areas.

 

 

Ferns
Ferns are ubiquitous in the Himalaya, with hundreds of species growing from the hottest valleys to alpine areas.

In this section, I have benefitted from the book Ferns – The Beauty of Nepalese Flora, by Vidya Laxmi Gurung, Sahayogi Press, Kathmandu, 1991. Unfortunately, the photographs are black-and-white.

As opposed to flower plants, ferns multiply by spores, which are formed in sporangia, a word derived from Ancient Greek spora (‘seed’) and angeion (‘vessel’). Sporangia are grouped in sori, usually found on the underside of the leaf blade. Young sori are normally covered by a layer of protective tissue. Leaves of ferns are called fronds, and the leaf-stalk is named stipe.

In the Himalaya, many fern species are utilized medicinally, and young specimens of other species are cooked as a vegetable.

Below are seven pictures of unidentified species. If you are able to identify any of these, please let me know. You can use the address at the bottom of the page.

 

 

Annapurna 2007
This fern is hanging down from a slope in the Lower Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. The youngest parts of the leaf are red, later turning green. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Fronds unfolding, Phedi, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Large growth on a mountain slope, Kopche Pani, Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Observed at Gyapla, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Fronds unfolding (‘fiddleheads’), Dhela, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Observed at Tashigaon, Arun Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Observed at Chipling, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This girl has been collecting edible ferns in the forest for the family lunch, Asi Ganga Valley, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

During a hike in Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, porter Roop Chand has collected ferns for our evening meal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Cyatheaceae Tree ferns
According to Kew Gardens, this family contains about 14 genera with altogether about 650 species. Other authorities only accept 3 or 4 genera.

 

Alsophila
A huge genus with about 250 species, distributed in tropical and subtropical areas around the world. Many of them were previously placed in the genus Cyathia. About 5 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek alsos (‘grove’) and philos (‘to love’), thus ‘fond of growing in small woods’.

 

 

A species of Alsophila, probably A. spinulosa, Hille, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Dryopteridaceae Woodfern family
A huge family, comprising about 1,700 species, distributed across most of the globe. Some authorities regard it as a subfamily, Dryopteridoideae, of Polypodiaceae (below).

 

Polystichum Sword ferns
This very large genus, comprising about 500 species, is widespread and common in the Northern Hemisphere. A core area is in the Himalaya and East Asia, with more than 200 species in China alone.

The generic name is derived from the Greek polys (‘many’) and stikhos (‘row’), alluding to the many pinnae of these plants.

 

Polystichum squarrosum
An evergreen terrestrial species with dark green fronds, to 80 cm long, leaf-stalk to 40 cm long and 1 cm thick at the base, densely covered in reddish-brown or dark brown scales. The blade is twice divided, usually ovate in outline, to 60 cm long and 16 cm wide, mid-rib likewise covered in brownish scales. Pinnae 30-40 pairs, lanceolate or wedge-shaped, those in the middle to 10 cm long and 2 cm wide, very short-stalked, each with 8-18 pairs of secondary pinnae, to 1.6 cm long and 6 mm wide, margin entire or weakly toothed. The sori are in a row on both sides of the mid-rib.

This plant is restricted to Himalayan forests, from Pakistan eastwards to Bhutan. It is very common, growing at altitudes between 1,900 and 3,000 m.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘scabby’, undoubtedly referring to the many scales along the leaf-stalk and mid-rib.

In Nepal, tender parts are cooked as a vegetable.

 

 

Polystichum squarrosum, with Corallodiscus lanuginosus (Gesneriaceae), Deorali, near Gorjegaon, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Young leaves of Polystichum squarrosum, Thankure Bhanjyang, Helambu (top), and Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park, both central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Gleicheniaceae
A family with 6 genera and more than 150 species, found worldwide in tropical and subtropical areas.

 

Dicranopteris
About 20 species, mainly occurring in tropical and subtropical areas around the world. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek dis (‘twice’), kranion (‘skull’), and pteron (‘wing’), thus ‘two-headed wing’, referring to the dividing branching pattern (see picture below).

 

Dicranopteris linearis
The stem of this species branches at a 45° angle, forming fronds, which again branch continuously. The plant is climbing over other vegetation, each branch reaching a length of up to 6 m. In this way, it may form very large and dense growths, up to 3 m high.

Leaf-stalk and mid-rib are dark brown, pinnae pale green, often shining, ultimate ones lanceolate, to 25 cm long and 7 cm wide, with 25-40 lanceolate lobes on each side, to 7 cm long and 6 mm wide, divided almost to the mid-rib, margin entire, tip rounded. The sori are in a row on both sides of the mid-rib.

This plant grows in sunny areas in forests, often on steep slopes in disturbed habitats. It is widely distributed, from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Japan, and thence southwards to Australia. It also occurs in Africa south of the Sahara, on Madagascar, and on many islands in the Pacific. In the Himalaya, it is found at altitudes between 900 and 3,000 m.

 

 

Dicranopteris linearis, near Pokhara, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Diplopterygium
Comprising about 20 species, this genus is found in the Himalaya, southern China, Korea, Japan, Indochina, Indonesia, the Philippines, New Guinea, Australia, Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. These plants were formerly included in the genus Gleichenia.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek diplous (‘double’) and pterygion, diminutive of pteryx (‘wing’), alluding to the opposite pinnae of the genus, which resemble wings (see picture of withering pinnae below).

 

Diplopterygium giganteum
Cleared areas in the Himalaya, which lie fallow, are often invaded by large growths of this huge fern, sometimes growing to 3 m tall. The fronds are very large, with 2 opposite, oblong pinnae, to 1.2 m long and 45 cm wide, tip pointed. The numerous secondary pinnae are lanceolate, to 20 cm long and 3.5 cm wide, pointed, lobes alternate, lanceolate, 30-50 on each side, to 15 mm long and 3.5 mm wide, tip rounded. The sori are clustered near the mid-rib.

This species is found at forest margins and on open slopes, in the Himalaya at elevations between 800 and 3,000 m. It occurs from Nepal eastwards to central China and northern Indochina, and also on the island of Hainan.

It was previously known as Gleichenia gigantea.

 

 

Nepal 1994-95
Large growths of Diplopterygium giganteum, Chichila, Arun Valley (top), and Gorjegaon, both eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Young fronds (‘fiddleheads’), Bheri Kharka, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Withering pinnae, Gul Bhanjyang, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lindsaeaceae
This family, containing 6-7 genera and about 220 species, are found in most warmer regions of the world, and also in temperate areas of eastern Asia, New Zealand, and South America.

 

Odontosoria
The native range of this genus, comprising about 33 species, is from India eastwards to Japan, and thence southwards to Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Guinea, and also New Zealand, islands in the Pacific Ocean, from Mexico eastwards to Colombia, the Caribbean, eastern and southern Africa, and Madagascar.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek, meaning ‘with toothed sori’.

 

Odontosoria chinensis Lace fern
This large, very lush terrestrial fern, previously known as Sphenomeris chinensis, is found from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Japan, and thence southwards through Indochina and the Philippines to Indonesia, and also on islands in the Pacific Ocean and on Madagascar.

It mainly grows in disturbed areas, including forest clearings and landslides, and along trails and roads. In the Himalaya, it may be found up to elevations around 2,400 m.

Fronds are pale green, leaf-stalk to 30 cm long, blade ovate or lanceolate in outline, to 50 cm long and 20 cm wide, divided 3 or 4 times, pinnae 15-20 pairs, short-stalked, alternate, ovate or lanceolate, 3-pinnate at base, tip pointed, terminal pinnae to 4 mm wide, tip rounded or flat, with tiny lobes. Sori clustered on terminal pinnae.

In Nepal, a paste of the plant is applied to cuts and wounds.

 

 

Odontosoria chinensis, observed at Solang Nallah, Manali, Himachal Pradesh. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Oleandraceae
This family contains a single genus, Oleandra, with about 20 species, found around the world in tropical and subtropical areas.

The generic name alludes to the nerves on the leaves, which resemble those on the leaves of oleander (Nerium oleander).

 

Oleandra wallichii
This species is epiphytic as well as terrestrial. The fronds are scattered, but usually growing many together. Leaf-stalk dark brown, normally less than 3 cm long, blade bright green, lanceolate, to 40 cm long and 5 cm wide, both surfaces hairy, especially along the veins, base wedge-shaped or rounded, tip pointed, margin strongly hairy. The mid-rib is raised on both sides, below with small scales. The sori are conspicuous, in a row on both sides of the mid-rib and very close to it.

It occurs in forests, epiphytic or growing on rocks at elevations between 1,200 and 3,500 m, distributed from the Himalaya eastwards to northern Indochina and south-western China.

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.

In Nepal, a paste of the rhizome is applied to the forehead to cure headache, and also used to treat dislocation of bones.

 

 

An abundance of Oleandra wallichii, covering a tree trunk, south of Lete, Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Oleandra wallichii, Tadapani, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Oleandra wallichii, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Osmundaceae Royal fern family
This family has been the cause of much confusion. At present, 4-6 genera are accepted, with maybe around 25 species. Two genera are found in the Himalaya.

 

Osmunda Royal fern
A genus with 13-15 species, distributed worldwide, except the polar regions, northern Asia, north-western North America, and Oceania. 2 species occur in the Himalaya.

The origin of the generic name is uncertain. It may be an old French name of a type of fern. A more colourful theory is that it stems from an English folk tale of a boatman, named Osmund, who hid his wife and children in a patch of royal fern during the Danish invasion.

 

Osmunda pilosa
This large terrestrial fern has very striking fronds, stalk to 20 cm long, blade pinnately divided, to 40 cm long and 25 cm wide, with 20-30 pairs of pinnae, to 25 cm long and 5 cm wide, linear-lanceolate or slightly triangular in outline. The lower middle ones are brown, bearing the sori, thus contrasting sharply with the pale green, sterile pinnae above and below this section. The fertile ones are completely covered with sporangia, turning blackish-brown when the spores have been shed.

The native range is from the western Himalaya eastwards across northern Indochina and China to Taiwan, and thence northwards to Japan and south-eastern Siberia (Ussuriland). It often forms large growths on hillsides, in the Himalaya chiefly at elevations between 1,600 and 3,400 m.

Some authorities regard this plant as a subspecies of the eastern North American O. claytoniana.

The specific name is derived from the Latin pilus (‘hair’) and osus (‘full of’), thus ‘very hairy’.

 

 

Osmunda pilosa, with fertile part in the centre of the leaf, Gyapla, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal (top). and Dhela, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Polypodiaceae Polypody family
A huge family with about 68 genera and around 1,700 species, occurring in most parts of the globe, with the exception of the polar regions.

 

Bosmania
A genus with only 3 species, 2 of which are restricted to Madagascar, the third (below) found from the Himalaya and Sri Lanka eastwards across Indochina and southern China to Japan, and thence southwards to Indonesia. These plants were previously included in the genus Microsorum.

The genus was named in honour of Dutch botanist Monique Bosman (born 1958), who first characterized this group in her 1991 monograph of Microsorum.

 

Bosmania membranacea
The fronds of this fern, previously known ad Microsorum membranaceum, are pale green, stalk to 15 cm long, winged for the major part, blade simple, with prominent veins, tapering gradually to the winged stalk, shape variable, ovate, elliptic, or linear, to 1.1 m long and 15 cm broad, membranous, margin entire, tip sharply pointed. The sori are scattered on the whole surface of the blade, to 2 mm across. The fronds are shed seasonally.

This species mostly grows on rocks, and also in soil, rarely as an epiphyte. It is found in forests, from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Japan, and thence southwards through the Philippines to Sulawesi. In the Himalaya, it may be encountered at elevations between 400 and 2,700 m.

 

 

Young specimens of Bosmannia membranacea, Pairo, Lower Langtang Valley, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Annapurna 2007
Light and shadow on a row of Bosmania membranacea, Kimrong Khola, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. The leaf-stalks are hidden in the vegetation. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Withering leaves, Jagat, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. Note the scattered sori. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Drynaria Basket ferns
This genus contains about 30 species, distributed in warmer areas of Africa, Asia, and Australia. Some authorities include these plants in the genus Aglaomorpha.

The generic name is derived from the Greek dryas, meaning ‘with a leaf-shape like oak’.

 

Drynaria propinqua 
This fern has two kinds of fronds. The sterile basal ones are brown, rounded or ovate in outline, to 20 cm long and 18 cm wide, more than two thirds divided, margin weakly toothed. The fertile ones are bright green, with a slightly winged stalk to 20 cm long, blade to 50 cm long and 30 cm wide, pinnate until about 2 mm from the mid-rib, with 7-15 pairs of pinnae, margin entire or weakly toothed, tip pointed. The sori are in a row on both sides of the mid-rib, close to it.

This species has a wide distribution, from Uttarakhand eastwards to China, and thence southwards through Indochina, with an isolated population in Java. It is epiphytic or sometimes growing on rocks, in the Himalaya occurring at elevations between 500 and 2,500 m.

It is much utilized in traditional Nepalese medicine, in which a paste, made from the rhizome, is applied to treat backache, headache, sprains, and dislocated bones. In traditional Chinese medicine, it has been utilized for various ailments, including deafness, tooth ache, diarrhoea, involuntary urination, bone fractures, and hair loss.

The generic name is Latin, meaning ‘resembling’, again referring to the leaf resembling an oak leaf.

 

 

Large growths of Drynaria propinqua, Langtang Valley, central Nepal (top), and near Sekathum, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. The basal sterile fronds are reddish-brown, whereas the fertile ones are green. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 1994-95
Basal sterile leaves (brown) and young fertile ones (pale green with reddish tips), illuminated by the sun, Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

In these pictures, Drynaria propinqua grows in soil that has accumulated on rocks, Jorsale (top), and Ghat, both in the Dudh Kosi Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Sterile fronds, illuminated by the sun, Jhinu Danda, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Withered sterile fronds, partly eaten by micro-organisms, Jhinu Danda, Modi Khola Valley, Annapurna (top), and Ghumna, Langtang National Park, both in central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Goniophlebium
A genus of about 26 species, found from Uttarakhand eastwards to Japan, and thence southwards through Indochina and the Philippines to Indonesia, New Guinea, and Queensland. These plants closely resemble members of the genus Polypodium and were previously included in it.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek gonia (‘angle’) and phleps (‘vein’). Presumably, these plants have angled veins.

 

 

An unidentified species of Goniophlebium, possibly G. amoenum, Mitlung, Tamur Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lepisorus
This genus, comprising about 62 species, is found in Asia, from Kazakhstan eastwards to south-eastern Siberia (Ussuriland), southwards to Sri Lanka and Indonesia, and also in New Guinea and eastern Australia, on some Pacific Islands, in Africa south of the Sahara, and on Madagascar.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek lepis (‘scale’), thus ‘with scaly sori’.

 

Lepisorus loriformis
The range of this species is from Uttarakhand eastwards to central China and northern Myanmar. It grows on trees or rocks in forests at elevations between 2,000 and 3,000 m.

The leaf-stalk is short, occasionally to 7 cm long, blade linear, leathery, usually 20-30 cm long, sometimes to 60 cm, and to 2.5 cm wide, widest at the middle. The sori are in a row on both sides of the mid-rib, dark, circular, to 3 mm across.

The specific name is derived from the Latin lorum, genitive lori (‘leather strap’ or ‘rein’), thus ‘strap-formed’, alluding to the frond shape.

 

 

Lepisorus loriformis, between Dibrugheta and Deodi, Nanda Devi National Park, Uttarakhand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Lepisorus loriformis, Khewang, Kabeli Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Pyrrosia
A genus of about 100 species, distributed from the Indian Subcontinent and Central Asia eastwards to Japan and south-eastern Siberia (Ussuriland), and thence southwards to eastern Australia and New Zealand, and also in Africa south of the Sahara. Most species are epiphytic or growing on rocks, a few are terrestrial.

The generic name stems from Ancient Greek pyrrhos (‘flame-coloured’), ultimately from pyr (‘fire’), alluding to the reddish tint of the star-shaped hairs on some of the species.

 

Pyrrosia costata
This plant, formerly known as P. beddomeana, is epiphytic as well as terrestrial. Fronds grows to 50 cm long and 6 cm wide, stalk to 10 cm long, blade widest at the middle, gradually narrowing towards the base, nerves many, at an angle of 45o, tip pointed, margin entire. Sori numerous, in 3-4 dense rows between the nerves.

Grows in forests as an epiphyte, on rocks, or in soil, found at elevations between 1,000 and 3,500 m. It is distributed from Uttarakhand eastwards to northern Indochina and the Yunnan Province.

 

 

Pyrrosia costata, displaying an abundance of sori, observed between Tal and Karte, Lower Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Pteridaceae
A worldwide family, comprising about 45 genera with altogether c. 1,150 species.

 

Adiantum Maidenhair ferns
Some authorities place this genus, comprising about 250 species, in a separate family, Adiantaceae. It is distributed across the globe, with the exception of the polar regions and most of northern Eurasia. The highest diversity is in the Andes, but many species are also found in eastern Asia. A number of species grow on rocks near waterfalls and other wet areas.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek adiantos (‘not wet’), but was also the ancient name of the maidenhair fern, whose leaves are indeed water-repellent. The connection with women stems from the pagan tests in Ancient Greece. In one of these tests, a woman could prove herself innocent of what she was accused for, if she could dip her hair into water without getting it wet – just like the leaves of maidenhair fern.

 

Adiantum capillus-veneris Common maidenhair fern
This plant has an almost cosmopolitan distribution, only lacking in the polar regions and most of northern Eurasia. It is partial to limestone near running water, often growing on wet rocks. It is quite common in the Himalaya, found at elevations up to around 2,800 m.

Fronds are bright green, to 40 cm long and 11 cm across, stalk slender, black, glossy, to 20 cm long, blade mostly twice pinnate below the middle, but only once pinnate above the middle, pinnae 3-5 on each side, to 2 cm wide and 1 cm long, with 2-4 lobes. The sori are situated along the upper margin of lobes on the fertile segments.

Around the world, this species is popular as a garden ornament. In Nepal, it is much utilized as a medicinal plant. A paste of it is applied to the forehead in case of headache, and to the chest to relieve chest pain. It is also applied to boils. Juice of the frond, mixed with honey, is taken for cough. It is also used for irregular menstruation.

 

 

Adiantum capillus-veneris, Tatopani, Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lycopods
The class Lycopodiopsida is known by various popular names, including lycopods, clubmosses, or spikemosses. They are branching dichotomously, some species resembling small conifers, and thus giving rise to the popular names ground-fir, ground-cedar, and ground-pine. The pointed leaves are usually simple, resembling small coniferous needles. These plants reproduce by means of spores, borne in sporangia on the sides of the stems at the base of the leaves.

In 1753, Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) named these plants Lycopodium, derived from Ancient Greek lykos (‘wolf’) and pous (‘foot’). Apparently, he likened the tip of the branches to a wolf’s paw.

I have not been able to identify any species in the Himalaya.

 

 

This member of the genus Lycopodium is climbing up a rock near Chisapani, Helambu, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This one was observed in the Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lichens
Although, strictly speaking, lichens are not plants, I include them on this page. They are double organisms, consisting of a fungus and an alga or a cyanobacterium, living in a mutual symbiotic relationship.

The alga or the cyanobacterium is attached to the thread-like mycelium of the fungus, which is again attached to the soil, or to stones or trees. Thus, the alga or cyanobacterium is protected from most enemies, and in return it provides the fungus with essential carbohydrates that the fungus cannot produce. The mycelium, however, is able to obtain certain nutrients from the soil or from the air, which benefit the alga or cyanobacterium.

An unknown number of lichens occur in the Himalaya. I have only been able to identify members of two families. Below are 5 pictures, depicting unidentified lichens.

 

 

Over time, these mani stones (stone slabs with carved Tibetan Buddhist mantras) have been overgrown by colourful lichens. They were observed near Langtang Village, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. Mani stones are described on the page Religion: Buddhism. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Orange lichens, growing on the slate roof of a stone hut, Gokyo Valley, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Yellow lichens on a rock, Ghora Tabela, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Lichens, mosses, and a species of stonecrop (Sedum), growing on a rock, Thangshyap, Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Parmeliaceae
This large, diverse family, comprising about 71 genera with more than 2,700 species, is found in almost all corners of the world, from tropical rainforests to the polar regions.

 

Usnea Old-man’s-beard lichens
A large, almost worldwide genus with about 600 species, most of which are greyish-green and grow on trees.

In his book Flora Danica, from 1648, Danish physician and herbalist Simon Paulli (1603-1680) gives this fascinating account of old-man’s-beard lichen: ”But above all other kinds of moss [lichens], which grow in the forests on trees, rocks and other places, the most famous one is Usnea, sev Muscus cranii humani, meaning: ’That moss which grows on human skulls’, which, although rarely, is sometimes found on the skulls of miscreants, who have been beheaded, or otherwise done away with, and whose heads have been placed on a stake.”

The generic name derives from Arabicʾ ušna (‘moss’). In former days, botanists didn’t distinguish between mosses and lichens, see above caption.

 

Usnea longissima
This species is widespread in Eurasia and western North America. It is ubiquitous in wetter areas of the Himalaya, where it often drapes trees, hanging down from twigs and branches, waving in the wind.

The specific name is Latin, meaning ‘very long’.

 

 

Usnea longissima, draping the branches of a Himalayan birch (Betula utilis), near Pungi Tenga, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This Usnea longissima drapes the branches of a species of maple, Acer caudatum, Deboche, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 1994-95
Usnea longissima, waving in the wind, Ghunsa Valley, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Peltigeraceae
A family with about 15 genera and 600 species, for the major part occurring in mountains in subtropical and tropical regions.

 

Lobaria Lungworts
This genus of foliose lichens, comprising about 60 species, is widespread around the world. They are unusual by having a three-part symbiosis, containing a fungus, an alga, and a cyanobacterium, the latter being able to fix nitrogen.

Previously, these plants constituted a separate family, Lobariaceae, but have lately been moved to Peltigeraceae.

The generic name is Latin, meaning ‘lobed’, ultimately derived from Ancient Greek lobos (‘a lobe of the liver’), alluding to the lobed thallus. The name lungwort likewise refers to the thallus, the surface of which resembles that of a lung.

 

 

A species of lungwort, possibly Lobaria himalayensis, Barun Valley, Makalu-Barun National Park, eastern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Glossary
 
Below, the ‘technical’ botanical terms used on this page are explained.

 

Achene 1-seeded fruit, often many together in a cylindrical or globular head (e.g. Ranunculus).
Anther Top part of the stamen (q.v.), containing the pollen (q.v.).
Apex, apical At the end or peak.
Aril Outer covering of a seed, often fleshy (e.g. Taxus, Zingiberaceae).
Auricle Ear-like extension at base of leaf.
Axil Angle between a branch or a leaf-stalk, and the stem.
Axillary Growing from an axil.
Beak Projection on a fruit.
Beard A tuft of hairs on the outer petals (q.v.) of some species of Iris.
Bipinnate Twice pinnate (q.v.).
Bloom Wax-like coating.
Bract Much reduced leaf, often scale-like.
Calyx Sepals (q.v.) collectively, often fused to form a tube.
Capsule Dry fruit consisting of 2 or more fused carpels (q.v.), splitting open when ripe. (Fig. xx)
Carpel Leaf-like, seed-bearing part of female flower. 2 or more carpels are often fused together to form a capsule.
Catkin Inflorescence of numerous tiny flowers, clustered around a central axis, usually pendent.
Column Fusion of stamens (q.v.) and ovary (q.v.) in Orchidaceae. Anthers (q.v.) and stigma (q.v.) are separated by a beak-like structure, the rostellum.
Cone Fruit, usually woody (sometimes leathery), consisting of many overlapping scales, opening when seeds are ripe (e.g. Alnus, Pinaceae).
Corm Storage organ, consisting of the swollen stem-base.
Corolla Petals (q.v.) collectively, often fused to form a funnel-like structure, the corolla-tube.
Crest Elevated irregular ridge, e.g. in flower of Iris.
Cyathium Cup-like floral structure, consisting of several true flowers resembling a single flower (e.g. Euphorbia).
Deciduous Shedding leaves at a certain season, mostly winter.
Decurrent Leaf-blade extending down stem or leaf-stem, creating a ‘wing’.
Drupe, drupelet Fleshy fruit with an inner hard stone, enclosing the seed (e.g. Juglans, Prunus).
Elliptic, ellipsoid Oval in outline or shape, with rounded ends.
Entire Margin not lobed, serrated, or toothed.
Epicalyx A number of bracts on the outer surface of the true calyx (q.v.), and resembling it (e.g. Malvaceae, Rosaceae).
Epiphyte Plant growing on another plant, in most cases without harming it.
Fall 3 outer, down-pointed petals (q.v.) of Iris.
Family See Genus.
Farinose Covered with farina, i.e. tiny, flour-like grains.
Filament Thread-like stalk of the male flower, with the button-like anther (q.v.) at the apex.
Fringed Margin with twisted threads or strips.
Follicle Fruit resembling a pod (q.v.), but opening along 1 seam only (e.g. Crassulaceae, Paeonia).
Genus Group of closely related species, several genera (sometimes only one genus) comprising a family.
Globular Globe-shaped.
Inflorescence Flower, flower-stalk, and bract (q.v.), collectively.
Lanceolate Lance-shaped, with broadest part near the base, and narrowed to a pointed tip.
Latex Milky sap.
Linear Long and narrow, with parallel sides.
Lip Large lower lobe on the corolla (q.v.) (e.g. Lamiaceae, Orchidaceae, Zingiberaceae).
Mucronate Rounded in outline, with a short, sharp tip.
Node Point on the stem, from where a leaf or a flower-stalk grows, often swollen.
Nut, nutlet 1-seeded fruit with a hard outer shell.
Ob- Prefix that indicates inverted form, with broadest part near the tip.
Obcordate Inverted heart-shaped.
Oblong Longer than broad, with nearly parallel sides.
Ovary Lower part of the female flower containing ovules (q.v.) and, later, seeds.
Ovate, ovoid Outline or shape resembling a hen’s egg, broadest at the base.
Ovule Part of the female flower containing egg-cells.
Palmate Leaf-shape with more than 3 leaflets arising from the same point, spread out fan-like.
Panicle Long, branched inflorescence (q.v.), consisting of several racemes (q.v.).
Petal One of several sterile blades surrounding the fertile part of the flower. Often strongly coloured.
Pinnate Leaf-blade divided into 2 rows of pinnae on either side of the rachis (the continuation of the leaf-stalk). Sometimes the pinnae are again divided, making the leaf bipinnate.
Pinnatifid Cleft in a pinnate manner.
Pistil Female organ of the flower, consisting of ovary, style (q.v.), and stigma (q.v.).
Pod Long, cylindric or flattened fruit, at maturity splitting open along 2 seams (e.g. Fabaceae).
Pollen Tiny grains containing the male cells.
Pome Fruit of 5 capsules (q.v.), surrounded by a fleshy layer (e.g. Cotoneaster, Pyrus, Sorbus).
Prostrate Stem(s) on or close to the ground.
Pseudobulb Bulb-like stem above the ground, or on epiphytes (e.g. Orchidaceae).
Pseudostem Stem-like structure, consisting of densely packed leaves or sheaths (e.g. Zingiberaceae).
Raceme Long unbranched inflorescence (q.v.) with stalked flowers, lower ones unfolding first.
Rachis See Pinnate.
Rhizome Root-like underground or basic stem, often scaly or with remains of old leaves.
Rootstock Part of the rhizome, which is above the ground.
Rostellum See Column.
Scale Small, modified leaf, sometimes transparent.
Sepal One of several outer blades on a flower, protecting the bud. Usually green, rarely coloured.
Sessile Without a stalk.
Sheath Tubular structure, mostly around stem.
Spadix Club-shaped structure inside the spathe (q.v.) of Araceae, on which the flowers are clustered.
Spathe Large bract (q.v.), covering the flower or the inflorescence (e.g. Alliaceae, Araceae, Iridaceae).
Spatulate Shaped like a narrow spoon.
Spike Long cluster of numerous stalkless flowers, or a cluster of spikelets.
Stamen Part of the male flower bearing the pollen (q.v.), consisting of the thread-like filament (q.v.) and the button-like anther (q.v.).
Standard Upper petal (q.v.) in most flowers of Fabaceae. 3 inner, erect petals of Iris.
Stigma Top part of the female flower that receives the pollen.
Stipule Scale-like or leaf-like appendage at the base of a leaf-stalk.
Style Elongated part of the female flower, with the stigma (q.v.) on top.
Tepal Term used collectively for petals (q.v.) and sepals (q.v.), when similar. For simplicity, the term petal is used on this page, when petals and sepals are similar.
Trifoliate With 3 leaflets.
Umbel Inflorescence (q.v.) with several stalks arising from a common point (e.g. Alliaceae, Apiaceae, Araliaceae).

 

 

 

(Uploaded August 2022)