Saturday, 27 June 2015

Flora and Fauna of Northern Pakistan

  Once you leave the irrigated oasis, you trek up different zones of natural flora. Population pressure  and the need for fuel denuded many hillsides one clothed with scattered scrub, and indiscriminate felling of trees in some places have reduced many hillsides to a forest of stumps, leading to tragic erosion and loss of wildlife much remains to delight the trekkers.
  The areas surrounding most mountain villages is semi-arid deserts with clumps scented Artemisia, pale-blue and white globe thistle, some berries, the  old juniper or pine tree and scattered buck-thorns bushes covered in orange berries in autumn. Along the river valleys, you find several kinds of tamarisk with long feathery heads of pink flowers. In parts of Swat and Indus Kohistan, the lower slopes are covered with evergreen holly oaks.
  As you rise the air gets cooler and less dry. From about 2,000 to 3,000 meters in some of most remote and shelter valleys, there are large coniferous forests of Himalayan blue pine, silver fir, and spruce. On the drier slopes are scattered stands of the magnificent deodar, some specimen up to 50 meters tall with trunk tens or 11 meters in circumference, and a few chalgoza pine with smooth, grey bark peeling in dappled flakes. These trees bear cones that contain nutritious oily seeds that are delicious roasted.
  Above this to over 4000 meters, dwarf or creeping juniper willow and Himalayan birch reach tree size at the lower altitudes but crouch as bushes higher up. The birch trees are easily identified by their brown and white peeling bark, which still serves in some areas paper and wrap up butter for storage. Scattered throughout is the juniper still buried for its purifying smoke. The smoke is used to induce trance in shamans or fortune letters in some valleys this is probably carry over from pre-Islamic time.

Above the tree line, the moisture content of the air drops and you enter alpine meadows covered in a dvariety of flowers. In rocky places are saxifrage, pea-flowered astragulas, spurges, stonecrops, edelweiss and rock jasmine, with carpets of potentillas, primulas and gentions on the meadows. You also find taller, bright-pink and yellow houseworts, yellow fumitory and the pretty fringed white flowers of alpine campion. All these flowers at their blossom from  month of  June to August along the way you trek. You will enjoy the trip with no doubt with this flora.


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