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Valley of Flowers National Park

Thousands of brightly coloured flowers against the backdrop of the Himalayan landscape makes the Valley of Flowers feel like an almost surreal space. Nestled in the Paspawati valley, close to Nanda Devi National Park in Uttarakhand, the park occupies an area of nearly 87.5 sq km. The valley is surrounded by several high Himalayan mountain peaks and is located between latitudes 30°41' to 30°48'N and longitudes 79°33' to 79°46'E. In 2004, the park was included as a core zone of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve and in 2005 it was granted recognition as a World Heritage Site.

Vegetation in the park is alpine and includes over 600 species and a profusion of flowering plants, with a dominance of 62 species belonging to the Asteraceae family. The region has 31 species of plants that have been listed as nationally rare and five globally threatened species that includes Aconitum falconeri, A. balfouri, Himalayan maple (Acer caesium), the blue Himalayan poppy (Mecanopsis aculeate) and Saussurea atkinsoni. The sub-alpine zone, between 3,200-3,500 m is marked by a better retention of moisture in the soil and a dense forest cover. Tree species that dominate the landscape include, Himalayan maple (Acer caesium), west Himalayan fir (Abies pindrow), Himalayan white birch (Betula utilis), and Rhododendron species like Rhododendron campanulatum. Other trees seen in the region include Himalayan yew (Taxus wallichiana), Syringa emodi and Sorbus lanata. Herbs commonly seen here include Arisaema jacquemontii, Boschniakia himalaica, Corydalis cashmeriana, Polemonium caerulium, Polygonum polystachyum, Impatiens sulcata, Geranium wallichianum and Helinia elliptica. Besides this, other herbs seen in the lower altitudes of the valley are Galium aparine, Morina longifolia, Inula grandiflora, Nomochoris oxypetala, Anemone rivularis, Pedicularis pectinata, P. bicornuta, Primula denticulate and Trillidium govanianum.

The maximum floral diversity is seen at the lower alpine zones, at altitudes of 3,500 m and 3,700 m. Vegetation in this zone is marked by dwarf shrubs, cushion herbs, grasses and sedges. Common and singleseed junipers Juniperus communis and J. squamata, Cotoneaster microphyllus, Rubus ellipticus, Rhododendron anthopogon, Salix spp. and Lonicera myrtillus, are common here. Other herbal species that brighten the landscape with their colorful flowers include Potentilla atrosanguinea, Geranium wallichianum, Fritillaria roylei, Impatiens sulcata, Polygonum polystachyum, Angelica archangelica, Selinum vaginatum. Species of grasses common at this altitude are Danthonia cachemyriana, Calamogrostis emodensis, Agrostis pilosula and Trisetum spicatum. Species of sedges include Kobresia roylei and Carex nubigena.

The higher alpine zone, which is above 3,700 m is dotted with meadows of Kobresia sedge (Kobresia royleana), Trachydium roylei and Danthonia cachemyriana and the vibrant colours of plant species like Rhododendron lepidotum, Cassiope fastigiata and Juniperus communis. Other colourful flowering herbs in the landscape include the blue Himalayan poppy, Saussurea simpsoniana, Potentilla argyrophylla, Geum elatum, Senecio spp., Bistorta affinis and Bergenia stracheyi. It's not just the flowering plants but as many as 45 species of medicinal plants too have been identified in the park. The valley has been identified as a Centre of Plant Diversity in the country.

Though the diversity of wild animals in the park is not high, as many as 13 endangered species of mammals have been sighted in the park. They include the Hanuman langur (Semnopithecus entellus), red giant flying squirrel (Petaurista petaurista), Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), Siberian or Himalayan weasel (Mustela sibirica), yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula) and mouse deer (Moschiola meminna). Even the rare goral (Naemorhedus goral), Himalayan musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster), Himalayan thar (Hemitragus jemlahicus), snow leopard (Uncia uncia) and mainland serow (Naemorhedus sumatrensis) have been spotted here.

The park is included within the West Himalayan Endemic Bird Area and nearly 114 species of birds have been reported here. Species of birds seen often in the park include koklass pheasant (Pucrasia macrolopha), Himalayan monal (Lophophorus impejanus), scaly-bellied woodpecker (Picus squamatus), greater yellow nape (P. flavinucha), great barbet (Megalaima virens) and blue-throated barbet (M. asiatica). Other rare Himalayan birds spotted here include the snow pigeon (Columba leuconota), spotted dove (Streptopelia chinensis), lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), Himalayan griffon (Gyps himalayensis), yellow-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus) and red-billed chough (P. pyrrhocorax).

The cold environs of the Himalayas have limited the number of reptile species to a few like the high altitude Kashmir agama (Agama tuberculata), Himalayan ground skink (Leiolopisma himalayana) and Himalayan pit viper (Gloydius himalayanus). Butterfly species spotted in the park include many that are common in the Western Ghats. These include species like lime butterfly (Papilio demoleus demoleus), common yellow swallowtail (Papilio machaon), common mormon (Papilio polytes romulus), spangle (Papilio protenor protenor) and common blue apollo (Parnassius hardwickei).

Major threats to the park include the rampant overgrowth of knotweed (Polygonum polystachium), an invasive species, litter left by pilgrims and tourists which can amount to nearly 300,000 plastic bottles a year and a significant volume of human and mule dung per day. Besides this, poaching of snow leopards and ungulates is another serious threat. The villagers living in the area around the valley belong to the Bhotiya community. With support from the Forest Department, the villagers have formed Eco-Development Committees (EDCs) and have learnt to build their skills and work as wardens, plant identification experts, trekking and mountaineering guides. As part of the EDCs, the villagers also contribute significantly to keeping the area clean by clearing away garbage.


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Kazmierczak, K. 2000. A field guide to the birds of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistn, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives. OM Book Service, New Delhi, India. 352 pp.

Menon, V. 2003. A field guide to Indian mammals. DK (India) Pvt Ltd and Penguin Book India (P) Ltd. 201 pp.

WII. 2007. List of protected areas. National Wildlife Database Cell. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, India.

World Heritage Sites in India-United Nations Environment Programme. Accessed in March 2008.

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