There appear to be hundreds (if not thousands) of articles published in an assortment of scientific journals of varying standard covering species which are ERRONEOUSLY claimed to be ENDANGERED in the Western Himalaya. I have decided (as of April 2016) to cover a selection, which highlight assorted MISTAKES.
1. Effect of different pre-sowing treatments on the seed germinations of two 'endangered' medicinal herbs of the Himalaya
The two species were Angelica glauca Edgew. and Pleurospermum angelicoides (Wall. ex DC.) Benth. ex C.B. Clarke. I shall not be commenting on the actual content of this article - which may or may not be accurate but the false premise as to these species be described as 'endangered'. On what basis has it been decided they are 'Endangered'? The authors of this research paper would have selected these species specifically on the basis that someone had classified them as 'endangered'. But who and how was this classification arrived at, given that so little meaningful survey work has taken place in the Indian Himalaya since Independence in 1947! The truth is NOBODY actually knows which species are 'Rare' or not!!
Stewart (1972), the most knowledgeable person on the flora of Pakistan and the Western Himalaya, observed that Angelica glauca was common in Kashmir @ 1600-3300m and also found in parts of Pakistan. I find it extraordinary that this species should now be considered 'Endangered'! Even if this species was less common in Himachal Pradesh or Uttaranachal than Kashmir, that does not make it 'Endangered' overall. Just who has undertaken sufficient surveys to draw this conclusion? I know that NOBODY has...... I myself have never knowingly seen the plant in the Himalaya but as it not of any ornamental merit, I would have ignored it during my treks in suitable locations, as another 'unknown' umbellifer of no particular interest. It is not found in Ladakh, whose flora I have studied the most intensively nor at higher elevations which have attracted my attention.
Collet in 'Flora Simlensis' (1921) recorded the species from Narkunda and Huttoo (these locations are at higher elevations of 2400-3000m) well above Shimla itself. Apparently the aromatic root is used medicinally and as a spice by the hill men; the Kashmiri name is 'Chohore'.
There are no records of this species in Nepal.
As for Pleurospermum angelicoides, I had never heard of this! Stewart does list the species in his 'An Annotated Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of West Pakistan and Kashmir' (1972) but considered that the only specimen he had seen from this region which had originally been named as this (collected by Falconer) was immature and likely to have been a misidentification. More likely to have been Archangelica. The family to which Angelica and Pleurospermum belong - the Apiaceae (formerly Umbelliferae) often presents challenges identification-wise. Sometimes mature fruit is required to confirm identification. I do not know of ANY herbaria in India covering Western Himalayan flora (there are few) with a satisfactory set of reference specimens of Apiaceae. And if those undertaking research do not collect reference VOUCHER pressed specimens, how can they be confident they have CORRECTLY identified these species?
According to 'An Enumeration of the Flowering Plants of Nepal' (1979) this species is found from Kumaon to Bhutan, Assam, Tibet and Yunnan; from 2500-4000m in Nepal.
In conclusion, I cannot but wonder how many Indian field botanists can RELIABLY and CONSISTENTLY identify these plants and not mistake them for similar species/genera? It is true that some umbellifers have distinctive features including characteristic odours but such features are only learnt from extensive field experience. Who supplied the authors of this article with the seed? How confident are the botanists who collected the seed that they CORRECTLY identified the seed of each species?
Another consideration is that most botanists concentrate upon flowers, not fruits (which must be sufficiently mature to have ripe seed) and are unfamiliar with seed collection to the extent of being able to gather ripe seed. It may thus be that some of the seed they collected (assuming it was of the correct species) may not have been viable - which would impact upon the results of the pre-sowing treatments!
A UK botanist who specialised in this family in the 1980s explained to me how difficult it was to DETERMINE (reliably identify to a scientific standard) many specimens of APIACEAE from the Indian Himalaya.