I have received a copy of the above book published by Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh, Dehra Dun, India in 2003 to help further my knowledge of Himalayan plants utilised in Tibetan medicine and to check on the reliability of the scientific identifications within such publications. Unfortunately, it turns out that there are many clear misidentifications and numerous others that I have serious doubts about. Unfortunately, many reading it or referring to it will simply copy the contents, trusting the accuracy of this publication. I have to say that even when the author claims to have observed a species which is known to be common and widespread in Ladakh, Lahoul or Spiti, I cannot be certain he has correctly identified these. I plan, when time permits (as of December 2016) to compare my records of Tibetan names of Himalayan plants utilised in Tibetan Medicine with the local names in this book, to see how well they tally.
The author does not tell us how he arrived at the scientific (Latin) names of the plants he lists in an 'Enumeration of Medicinal Plants'. No mention is given of gathering of botanical voucher specimens deposited in a herbarium or help received from staff of any herbaria. I am therefore uncertain how he came up with the identifications, since he not a botanist, let alone a specialist in the flora of the region? He does list 'Flowers of the Himalaya' (Polunin & Stainton, 1983), 'The flora of Ladakh' (Stewart, 1916) & 'Flora of British India' (Hooker, 1872-1897) plus 'Flora of Lahul-Spiti' (Aswal & Mehrotra, 1994) as References - all of these are out-of-date, some substantially so being a century or more old! I have only recently obtained a copy of 'Flora of Lahul-Spiti'. Unfortunately, my first impressions are not favourable. I shall gradually be reviewing this flora in depth and drawing attention to likely misidentifications. I will be dismayed if some of the species falsely claimed by Kala to be found in the Indian Trans-Himalaya to be included in that flora - as, dependent upon how many Indian botanists have access to a copy, this could be contributing to a copying/perpetuation of misidentifications.
I know that most amchis (doctors of traditional medicine operating in the Western Himalaya and borderlands of Western Tibet) have little or no understanding of Latin plant names, some, based in the Western Himalaya use reference books about plants of Tibet proper, published by Chinese botanists, which understandably have scientific names of species found in Central & SE Tibet along with the Eastern Himalaya for the Latin equivalent of the 'Tibetan names' they are familiar with. In many cases these species do not occur in the Indian Trans-Himalaya i.e. Ladakh, Lahoul or Spiti (or Kinnuar that matter). Perhaps the author of this book, having been told the local (which in some cases are the 'Tibetan' rather than 'Ladakhi' names for the plant), he checked with such a publication (not that any are listed in his references) and came up with species which are not known from Ladakh, Lahoul or Spiti - in some cases they MUST be misidentifications, as these species he CLAIMS to have found are restricted to high rainfall districts of the E.Himalaya! Such species cannot possibly grow in the Indian Trans-Himalaya!
It needs to be recognised that plant identification is not the straightforward process many think it is. Plants vary, such that deciding which species they belong to can be challenging - in many cases, those un-trained in plant identification cannot reliably name plants by "matching" with a small picture e.g. in 'Flowers of the Himalaya' or a brief description in 'Flora of British India' - as they FALSELY THINK THEY CAN! This difficulty extends to the process of plant identification for amchis - not all of whom will agree as to the Tibetan name they apply to plants they come across. Mistakes are made and misidentifications occur both amongst amchis as to Tibetan names and those, botanists or not, attempting to name using Latin plant names. As to equating Latin plant names to Tibetan names, this can be a challenge. In some cases just it is quick and easy to tally the two but often more than one species (according to Western botany), at times more than one genus and even (though not often) more than one family are collected under the same Tibetan name. Doctors of Tibetan Medicine do not always pay much, if any attention, to the floral characteristics Western botanists use to classify and identify plants.
I have decided to go through the author's enumeration and point out the species I am sceptical about or am certain are misidentifications. It should be mentioned that just because someone claims to have seen/recorded a particular species which is known to occur in that region, does not mean the specimens/examples they observed were this - misidentifications could easily have occurred. In such cases, I cannot ever be sure, as there are no pressed specimens in a herbarium to check or photos to scrutinise.
But let me start by inspecting the photographs of medicinal plants in the book. These seem mostly correct but the one claimed to be Saussurea obvallata is incorrect - a common mistake, 'Brahma's Lotus' is often recorded from the Indian Trans Himalaya but I suspect they are all misidentifications, as this plant requires higher rainfall, typically found further to the SE along the Himalaya.
Let me now cover the enumeration (I do have reference information as to the local/Tibetan names and their equivalent species names in Latin but this is not in the form of a master list, so would take a lot of time and effort to check these - I may be in a position to do this at a later stage):
Aconitum laeve - the author claims this grows in both Spiti and Zanskar. I am sceptical about both claims, particular for Zanskar. This species is common in Kashmir in forests and shrubberies but there are no reliable records for the Indian Trans Himalaya - it is not a plant of 'alpine' meadows. Aconitum is a difficult genus identification-wise, so comes as no surprise when a misidentification occurs. Correctly naming aconites REALLY matters, as some are highly poisonous, such that using the wrong one in a medicinal formulation is of consequence.
Adonis aestivalis - the author claims this is found on alpine pasture in Spiti. I find this surprising. It is known as a weed of cornfields i.e. cultivated ground.
Adonis chrysocyathus - this species has been recorded from Ladakh but I find the claim that it grows on the Changtang plateau and high passes, curious. I do not know where exactly it has been spotted in Ladakh but it is uncommon, if not rare here and most likely restricted to the damper parts bordering Kashmir where it grows in large clumps on alpine meadows to 4200m. The suggestion it grows at much higher altitudes in more arid places is surprising to say the least.
Ajuga bracteosa - the author claims this is found on alpine meadows in Lahul. The species has not been recorded from Ladakh. It is common on open slopes along the Himalaya, in Kashmir to 2400m, so might be found in Lahul.
Allium humile - I have seen this species on the Rohtang pass myself but Rohtang is not part of the Trans Himalaya.... It is possible that colonies might just survive on the Lahoul side of the Rohtang.
Anaphalis contorta - the author claims this grows in the Leh Valley on alpine slopes but this species is not recorded from Ladakh according to the most up-to-date check-list. However, Dr Stewart records it from Dras and Shyok Valley (on the border with Baltistan) and Baltistan itself. The identification/nomenclature of Anaphalis is complicated.
Androsace mucronifolia - this species has been recorded from Ladakh but I do not know where and it must be uncommon, if not rare. Dr Stewart found it to be common on high passes and mountain tops @ 3500-4300m in Kashmir with records for Baltistan but it is to be expected only in damper parts of Ladakh bordering Kashmir.
Androsace rotundifolia - this species is not recorded in the most up-to-date check-list for Ladakh but Dr Stewart did record var. glandulosa. However, Nasir, within 'Primulaceae' for Flora of Pakistan does not record what he gives as subsp. glandulosa. The author states it is found on alpine meadows in Zanskar, Nubra and Spiti. I find this somewhat surprising.
ARTEMISIA - this is a very difficult genus identification-wise. Even with quality pressed voucher specimens it can be challenging to be certain as to which species specimens belong to. Some species are distinctive but others are hard to distinguish. I am thus very surprised to find the author has named with confidence so many species in his enumeration. IF they are all correctly named and the information provided reliable, then this is welcome and especially useful.
Artemisia biennis - the author records this species from moist areas Hemis. The most up-to-date checklist for Ladakh does not include this species but Stewart did commenting it had thick & fleshy stems, leaves interruptedly pinnatifid - he gave several locations incl. close to Hemis.
Artemisia capillaris (which Stewart & 'Flowers of the Himalaya' give as A.scoparia) - the author records this from dry sandy riverbeds & slopes in Changtang and Spiti.
Artemisia desertorum - the author records this from wastelands in the Zanskar Valley; Stewart records this from Ladakh @ 3-5000m.
Artemisia dracunculus - the author records this from wastelands in the Nubra Valley & Spiti; 'Flowers of the Himalaya' state that this species, commonly known as 'Tarragon' is common in stony places in Ladakh & Lahoul. It is very aromatic, distinguished from the others by its entire linear-oblong acute, green upper leaves.
Artemisia gmelinii - the author records this from dry slopes near Leh, in Nubra & Spiti; strangely this species, which 'Flowers of the Himalaya' state is common on dry stong slopes in Ladakh and Lahul, is not included in the most up-to-date check-list for Ladakh; Stewart listed it as A.sacrorum with A.gmelinii as a synonym, commenting that some consider it to be a more xerophytic form of A.laciniata (also recorded from Ladakh).
Artemisia laciniata - the author records this from dry slopes in Zanskar; this also is not in the most up-to-date checklist for Ladakh. Stewart does record it from Ladakh, indicating it is close to A.gmelinii.
Artemisia macrocephala - the author records this from dry slopes in Lahul and Spiti. Stewart records this from Ladakh @ 3400-5500m.
Artemisia maritima - the author records this from stony slopes near Leh, Nubra Valley and Spiti. The up-to-date name for this is A.brevifolia which 'Flowers of the Himalaya' state is common on dry stony slopes in Ladakh and Lahul. Stewart says this is the most important wormwood in the area.
Artemisia minor - the author records this from dry slopes near Leh and in Spiti. Stewart records the species from 4000-5800m in Ladakh.
Artemisia nilagirica - the author records this from roadsides, waste spaces and agricultural fields. There are no records for Ladakh or Pakistan or Kashmir. Mostly a S.India species, so rather surprising but could be correct?
Artemisia parviflora - the author records this from the plateau and stony wastelands in Changthang. Stewart records this from various parts of Ladakh to 3600m, so surprising that it found at higher altitudes in Changthang. The most up-to-date checklist of Ladakh's flora lists this as A.japonica.
Artemisia salsoloides - the author records this from dry slopes in Zanskar Valley. Stewart found this to be common in Ladakh incl. Zanskar @ 3000-5500m
Artemisia sieversiana - the author records this from rocky slopes near Leh, Changtang and Lahaul-Spiti. 'Flowers of the Himalaya' says this is common on stony ground in Ladakh. Stewart records this from Ladakh & found it to be common in Kashmir @ 2000-4500m.
Artemisia stracheyi - the author records this from Changtang plateau. Stewart records it from Rupshu @ 4700-5700m; commenting it was striking with very thick root, large flower-heads and much-divided hairy leaves.
Artemisia wallichiana - the author records this from slopes in Zanskar and Spiti. Stewart knew it by the name of A.moorcroftiana - recording it from Ladakh to 5500m, observing it has a creeping base, leaves white cottony below, leaf rachises margined, heads large, pedunculate. 'Flowers of the Himalaya', which uses A.wallichiana mention it from open slopes and wasteland but only to 4300m - so must cover different species?
Aster falconeri - the author records from high passes such as Rohtang; I would not describe Rohtang as a particularly high pass and it is not within the Trans-Himalaya.
Aster indamellus - the author records this from moist areas in Spiti Valley. Stewart records it from Kishtwar region of Kashmir. Not an easy genus identification-wise.
ASTRAGALUS - this is a large genus with some 160+ species listed in Stewart's Annotated Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Pakistan & Kashmir (though a number were considered merely as synonyms or as dubious species near the numbers); Stewart has 26 recorded from Ladakh. The most up-to-date check-list for Ladakh lists 30. In recent years the Indian species have been revised, bringing further species. I am not a plant taxonomist but always wonder about the reliability of newly described species based upon a single specimen/collection - particularly if it is a scrappy pressed specimen. I certainly judge it is impossible to assess the rarity or not of such newly described species, as so little actual collection of quality pressed specimens takes place in the Indian Himalaya - meaning that very limited reference material is available to consult in the major herbaria. Just because there are few or indeed no specimens of particular species in such herbaria is not necessarily an indication of their rarity!
Astragalus ladakhensis - recorded by the author from rocky slopes at Leh and Changtang. Both Stewart and 'Flowers of the Himalaya' use the name A.strictus - which the author has as a synonym. Stewart records it from 3300-4800m incl. Nubra, Ladakh and Rupshu. 'Flowers of the Himalaya' describe it as common on open slopes and amongst rocks from Pakistan to Bhutan and Tibet @ 2100-5000m.
Barbarea vulgaris - recorded by the author from Rohtang but this location is not in the Trans-Himalaya.
Berberis pachyacantha - recorded from sandy areas in Nubra Valley. Berberis is a difficult genus identification-wise which is in need of revision in India. The only Berberis recorded from Ladakh in Stewart is B.ulicina in Nubra, which the author also records. The most up-to-date check-list includes B.orthobotrys and B.parkeriana from Ladakh, so why not B.pachyacantha? However, I would like to view the voucher specimen to be certain.
Blumea bifoliata - the author records this from Changtang plateau. I find this an astonishing claim - according to Stewart this species has only previously been known in the region from the Murree Hills (surrounding the old hill-station of Murree, now in Pakistan territory, which I visited when leading a botanical tour to Pakistan in 1987). Changtang is close on 3000m higher and arid on the 'Westerern' Tibet plateau compared with high rainfall. The record makes no sense at all!
Brassica campestris - the author records this as cultivated in Ladakh, Lahoul & Spiti. According to Stewart, B.campestris var. sarson is cultivated everywhere on the plains for its oil. The author uses the local name 'Sarson', which is confusing because Stewart does not say it is grown in Ladakh nor is it included in the most up-to-date check-list. I had thought this was a misidentification for Brassica rapa - turnip, one of the synonyms being B.campestris. Cannot resolve this...
BUPLEURUM is a difficult genus identification-wise within a difficult family (Apiaceae, formerly Umbelliferae).
Bupleurum himalayense - the author records this on alpine pastures in Zanskar and Spiti. Stewart does not record this in Zanskar. The most up-to-date check-list for Ladakh only lists B.longicaule. The author gives B.longicaule var. himalayense as a synonym, so if this is the equivalent, the record makes sense.
Bupleurum marginatum - the author records this from alpine pastures in Zanskar and Spiti. Stewart adds this species in handwriting to his 'Annotated Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Pakistan & Kashmir'. It is not included in the most up-to-date checklist for Ladakh. Stewart comment that Rechinger considered this to be a distinct species rather than a variety of B.falcatum (which is in the up-to-date check-list).
Centaurea picris - the author records this from alpine slopes near Leh and in Nubra. Stewart records this, by the name of Acroptilon repens, from near Lamayuru, Ladak. This species is not included in the most up-to-date check-list for Ladakh.
Codonopsis ovata - the author records this from moist areas in Zanskar and the Pin Valley, Spiti. I find the record for Zanskar slightly surprising but not impossible. C.ovata is common in Kashmir and is found on the Rohtang Pass, so might survive in Zanskar, just as I found a colony of Rhododendron anthopogon on the Pensi La in Zanskar. However there has been much confusion as to distinguishing between C.clematidea, the common species in Ladakh and C.ovata plus C.obtusa. Only C.clematidea is within the most up-to-date check-list for Ladakh. I would like to inspect the voucher specimen before I am convinced.
Codonopsis rotundifolia - the author claims to have recorded this from marshy areas in Zanskar and Pin Valley, Spiti. I find this very surprising, especially for Zanskar. The habitat does not make sense, nor the location. Typically found in shrubberies @ 2-3000m in Kashmir but no previous records for Ladakh. I suspect a misidentification.
Corispermum hyssopifolium - the author recorded this from dry rocky places in the Zanskar Valley. Both Stewart and the most up-to-date check-list for Ladakh use the name C.tibeticum.
CORYDALIS is a difficult genus, apart from some distinctive species, in need of revision in the Himalaya. There are several species I am uncertain about. More collecting of good quality pressed specimens and close-up images are needed.
Corydalis meifolia - the author records this from marshy areas and glacial moraines in Zanskar and Spiti. I have seen what I think comes within this species on the Rohtang Pass. Stewart records it from Kishtwar, observing it was common in Lahoul & Kulu Valley, Himachal Pradesh adding in handwriting the species from Baralacha La (the border between Lahoul and Rupshu). This species might be found in Zanskar. It is included within the most up-to-date check-list for Ladakh but I do not know the location(s). Would wish for a specialist to examine voucher specimens to be certain.
Corydalis rutifolia - the author claims to have recorded this at roadsides in the Nubra Valley. I find this very surprising, indeed improbable for a species typically from shady banks, shrubberies and forests in Kashmir, flowering in spring. There are no previous records for Ladakh.
Cremanthodium arnicoides - the author records this from the Rohtang Pass (which is not part of the Trans-Himalaya). I find this slightly surprising.
Crocus sativus - the author records this in village areas in the Leh valley. Despite including numerous cultivated plants, neither Stewart nor the most up-to-date checklist for Ladakh have Saffron, which is widely cultivated in Kashmir and also Kishtwar. It is possible?
CUSCUTA - another difficult genus. The dodders look so much alike superficially that they have been over-looked and there is little material for the study of many of the species, even in large herbaria like Kew. Yunckers Monograph published in 1932 was good but he did not have enough specimens from Pakistan, Kashmir or Ladakh. Much material has been accumulated since then. As some dodders are limited in their choice of hosts, collectors should note within their field notes on what plant the Cuscuta was growing. Stewart lists 5 species from Ladakh incl. the three of the 4 recorded below. The most up-to-date checklist has only 3, none of which are recorded below - though I need to check current taxonomic treatments and synonymy further.
Cuscuta approximata - the author records this from wastelands in Nubra Valley. Stewart records the main species from Chunagund, Ladakh whilst separating var. urceolata as very common incl. Ladakh; chiefly on legumes.
Cuscuta capitata - the author records this from wastelands in the Zanskar Valley. Stewart also records this from Zanskar and Khalotse.
Cuscuta europaea - the author records this from villages in the Leh valley. Stewart records this from SW of Leh. Apparently, one specimen was named as C.planiflora.
Cuscuta reflexa - the author records this from undulating areas around Leh and Changtang. Stewart records this as very common, sometimes covering whole trees with yellow threads in Kashmir and various parts of Pakistan; it is the most abundant species on the plains and ascending to 3600m.
Delphinium viscosum - the author records this from the Khardung La (a very high pass above Leh) and Pin Valley, Spiti. I find this to be an astonishing claim. The species has a distribution from Central Nepal to SE Tibet. This is a very long way from the India Trans-Himalaya! I don't know which plant he has mistaken this for -probably not even a Delphinium, as I know of no species of this genus with yellowish-green flowers growing in Ladakh. This must be a misidentification. I wonder if he has used a book on Tibetan medicinal plants, taking the local name and equating it to the species under this name which grow in E.Himalaya or S.E.Tibet?
Dendranthema tenuifolium - the author records this from alpine meadows in Nubra (not sure if there are too many of these there). Stewart has this under Tanacetum tenuifolium a name which the author gives as a synonym as a dubious species, probably a variety of Tanacetum tibeticum - which is listed in the most up-to-date check-list.
Echinops niveus - the author records this from Changtang plateau. I find this somewhat surprising. It was not recorded from Ladakh in Stewart's original 'Annotated Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Pakistan & Kashmir' but there is a handwritten note on his last copy of this work I have, adding Dras as a location. But the most up-to-date checklist does not include this species, recorded by Stewart @ 1300-2700m (which is pretty well the lowest altitude in Ladakh). It is one thing to occur at Dras, quite another on a high plateau. Without a voucher pressed specimen to prove otherwise, I cannot but suspect this to just be a variant of E.cornigerus, which is prominent in Ladakh, though Stewart only records this to 4000m. 'Flowers of the Himalaya' states only to 3300m - so there is a question mark here. Could he have mistaken it for a different genus altogether?
Epipactis helleborine - the author records this from moist places in Changthang. I find this surprising. There is a record of this orchid from Ladakh but I do not know the location. Nevertheless, a plant that is common in forests in Kashmir, is not likely to thrive on the windswept Changthang plateau?
Fritillaria roylei - the author records this from alpine slopes in Zanskar valley. This plant of alpine meadows @ 2700-3900m in Kashmir and parts of Pakistan has been recorded from Ladakh within the most up-to-date checklist but must surely be restricted to districts bordering on the Western Himalaya. I find the claim slightly surprising but not impossible.
Gentiana kurroo - the author records this from moist slopes in Zanskar and the Pin Valley, Spiti. I find this a very surprising claim. Neither Stewart nor the most up-to-date checklist for Ladakh record it from Ladakh - indeed it has not been recorded anywhere near. I suspect this is a misidentification - Gentiana is not any easy genus identification-wise.
Gentiana olivieri - the author records this from moist slopes in Zanskar and the Pin Valley, Spiti. I find this a very surprising claim. Neither Stewart nor the most up-to-date checklist for Ladakh record it from Ladakh - indeed it has not been recorded anywhere near. I suspect this is a misidentification - Gentiana is not any easy genus identification-wise. The nearest records are from Chitral - it is common in Baluchistan!
Gentianella moorcroftiana - the author records this from moist slopes in Spiti. It is strange that the author only records this from Spiti - as it is common in Ladakh & Lahoul. Most strange that the author can identify previously unknown species of Gentian in Ladakh yet fails to observe a common, readily-recognisable species! Does not inspire much confidence in any of his identifications - even of species known to be common in the Indian Trans-Himalaya!
Geranium pratense - the author records this from stony slopes and wet places in the Leh Valley. There has been much confusion about the identification and nomenclature of geraniums in the Trans-Himalaya. The most up-to-date checklist for Ladakh includes both G.pratense and G.himalayense - I understand the latter species to be widespread around the irrigated fields in Ladakh.
Geranium tuberaria - the author records this from rocky slopes on Chanthang plateau. I find this a very surprising record. This species is only recorded in Ladakh by Stewart from a 19th Century collection at Dras but not in the most up-to-date checklist. Given that geraniums are not easy to identify, I suspect this is a misidentification - it is typically found at 1500-2400m which makes even the Dras record slightly surprising. For it to inhabit the high plateau is surely not likely. IF the plant is a geranium then G.regelii is the most likely species.
Geranium wallichianum - the author records this from alpine meadows in Zanskar. I find this a surprising record. This species is not recorded in Ladakh by Stewart or in the most up-to-date checklist. It typically occurs on the outer ranges of the Himalaya. Whilst not impossible, I suspect this is a misidentification.
Inula royleana - the author records this from cultivated land in Nubra. I find this a somewhat surprising record. This species is recorded in Ladakh by Stewart from Kangi but not in the most up-to-date checklist. It is found on all alpine meadows on the south slopes of the Himalaya, often amongst junipers. Whilst not impossible, I suspect this might be a misidentification. Some Inulas can be difficult to tell apart.
Juniperus recurva - the author records this from dry areas in Dras, Kargil, Nubra and Spiti. I find a very surprising record. This species is not recorded in Ladakh by Stewart or the most up-to-date checklist. I suspect most of the old records including that in 'Flora of British India' are misidentifications. As Stewart rightly states, "chiefly found east of Kashmir". I suspect this is a misidentification.
Lindelofia longiflora - the author records this from dry sandy slopes in Spiti. I find this surprising. I do not have access to a reliable check-list for Spiti and whilst it is possible, I suspect, assuming the plant concerned is a Lindelofia, that it is more likely to either be L.anchusoides or L.stylosa both of which are found in Ladakh and would be expected in Spiti. I suspect a misidentification.
Malaxis muscifera - the author records this from alpine meadows between Chotadhara and Batal (which is located at the bottom of the Kuzum La pass on the border between Lahoul and Spiti). I find this a surprising record. This orchid is not recorded from Ladakh, typically found in forest humus - there is not much of that in Lahoul or Spiti! Though I am at a loss as to what it would have been mistaken for. Orchids are few and far between in the Trans-Himalaya, mostly restricted to moist irrigated places. Herminium monorchis (which the author records from Nubra) was found by me along irrigation channels in the Miyah Nullah, Lahul. Would be good to view a voucher pressed specimen or photos to confirm this identification?
Meconopsis aculeata - the author records this from rock-crevices and boulders in Spiti. I find it very surprising that this common blue-poppy was only recorded from Spiti and not Zanskar - where it is known to grow. Yet he falsely identifies three other species of Meconopsis from Zanskar - all just M.aculeata.......
Meconopsis horridula - the author records this from boulders in Zanskar. This is clearly a case of mistaken identity as has never been recorded north-west of West Nepal!! There was a book written to accompany the BBC World About Series on Zanskar in the early 1980s which the author (not a botanist) claims to have seen M.horridula there but this was a misidentification as this species had been recorded from Mustang, Nepal, where he had explored previously and was also a spiny blue-poppy.
Meconopsis simplicifolia - the author also records his from rocks & boulders in Zanskar. Another case, much worse, of mistaken identity. I presume the author has arrived at this name by copying the species name from a book covering Eastern Himalayan medicinal plants. This plant does not grow in Zanskar - so would be an incorrect identification on the part of the local amchis (doctors of traditional medicine). This species is not found north-west of Central Nepal!! It inhabits alpine shrubberies and open slopes not arid Indian Trans-Himalaya.....
Meconopsis sinuata - the author records this from boulders in Zanskar. Yet another case of mistaken identity. I presume by copying the species name from a book covering Eastern Himalayan medicinal plants. This plant does not grow in Zanskar - so would be an incorrect identification on the part of the local amchis (doctors of traditional medicine). This species is not found north-west of Central Nepal!! It inhabits shrubberies and open slopes....
Morina longifolia - the author records this from a riverine bed in Zanskar. I consider this is likely to be a misidentification for M.coulteriana. Neither Stewart nor the most up-to-date checklist for Ladakh include M.longifolia, which is common on alpine meadows in Kashmir and extends to Himachal Pradesh but not into the Trans-Himalaya. One can find M.longifolia on the way up the Rohtang but as one travels into Lahoul, M.coulteriana is found.
Myricaria squamosa - the author records this from river valleys at Leh, Hemis, in Nubra, Lahoul & Spiti. Clearly there are differences of opinion as to the taxonomy and nomenclature of species in the genus Myricaria. The most up-to-date checklist for Ladakh only lists M.elegans and M.germanica. Stewart agrees, listing M.squamosa as only from Chitral and the Hindu Kush. Whereas, 'Flowers of the Himalaya' has M.squamosa as common & gregarious at riversides in Ladakh & Lahoul. Needs to be checked further.
Nepeta erecta - the author records this from sandy places on Changtang and Spiti - I find this a very surprising record, especially for Changtang. Neither Stewart nor the most up-to-date checklist for Ladakh includes this species. This catmint with large, handsome flowers is found in Kashmir and parts of Pakistan to 3000m. Flowers of the Himalaya record it from forests & open slopes to 3600m. So to find it at the extreme altitudes of the Changtang plateau is unexpected. I suspect this is a misidentification. Nepeta is a large genus. A number of species are difficult to identify/distinguish from related ones.
Origanum vulgare - the author records this from moist slopes in Zanskar, Lahul and Spiti. Neither Stewart nor the most up-to-date checklist for Ladakh include wild marjoram as he knew it or more widely, oregano. Koelz does mention it in his Notes on the Ethnobotany of Lahoul be used sometimes as a substitute for 'Himalayan Thyme' (Thymus linearis). A slight question mark but possible - though given some of the extraordinary claims above identification-wise, one wonders. Though this is a strongly-scented plant which would be distinctive, if the author knew it.
Pedicularis megalantha - the author records this from marshy areas in Zanskar. I find this a very surprising record. Neither Stewart nor the most up-to-date checklist for Ladakh record this species (Stewart gives it as a synonym of P.hoffmeisteri, but he had seen no Kashmir specimens of it anyhow). 'Flowers of the Himalaya' separate P.megalantha (not found NW of Uttarakhand) and P.hoffmeisteri (though recorded from Himachal Pradesh, I think, if the records are correct, they would only be from the wetter south-facing slopes of Himalaya in HP). The description looks remarkably like it has been copied from 'Flowers of the Himalaya' - not from actual specimens he observed! I suspect this is a misidentification - Pedicularis is a difficult genus to reliably name.
Polygonum polystachyum - the author records this from moist slopes in Zanskar and Spiti. I have my doubts. It might be correct but 'Polygonum' is not an easy genus identification-wise. It has been sub-divided. This species is now Persicaria polystachya. The most up-to-date checklist for Ladakh does not include it but Stewart mentions Suru Valley - which is just next to Zanskar but I cannot be certain this has been correctly identified.
Primula denticulata - the author records this from meadows and slopes in Zanskar, Rumbak, Lahoul & Spiti. Whilst this species has been recorded from Zanskar before, I am uncertain about whether it is always correctly separated from other species of Primula in the region. One cannot tell much from the description, as it presumably has been copied from somewhere - though not in this case. It may be correct.
Primula rosea - the author records this from damp places & glacial moraines in the Leh Valley. I find this a very surprising record. Neither Stewart nor the most up-to-date checklist for Ladakh include this species, which is common & gregarious on high meadows in wet soil or melting snow to 3600m. Whilst it might be found in the districts of Ladakh bordering Kashmir which have a moister environment, I am doubtful it occurs in the Upper Indus Valley near Leh. I consider this a misidentification.
Pterocephalus hookeri - the author records this from Changthang. This is an very surprising record. It has never been recorded NW of West Nepal before! It is clearly a misidentification, probably because the author looked up the local name (used by amchis, doctors of traditional Tibetan Medicine) and looked it up in a text covering plants of the E.Himalaya/S.E.Tibet, so arrived at this name, rather than attempt to have it identified properly. As before, the description will have been copies - not refer to specimens the author actually saw!
Rheum australe - the author records this from moist rocky areas in Rumbak Valley near Leh and Pin Valley, Spiti. This is an very surprising record. This species is not recorded in Ladakh by Stewart or in the most up-to-date checklist. Stewart says that R.emodi (which the author gives as a synonym for R.australe) though frequently reported from Kashmir, is not found there, with Lahul being its western boundary. He observes that it has been confused with R.webbianum (which has white flowers), whereas R.emodi has dark purple flowers. But I am unsure which Rheum the authors mistook this for? Clearly, a misidentification.
Rosa sericea - the author records this from dry valleys and slopes in the Markha Valley, Ladakh and Spiti. This is a very surprising record. This species has not been recorded from Ladakh. It is known from Himachal Pradesh, though usually from forests and shrubberies in high rainfall districts. I have seen a xerophytic form of it in arid parts of Mustang in the Upper Kali Gandaki, which I thought might be a variant of R.webbiana, which is common in Ladakh. I suspect this is the basis of the misidentification. Once again, the description provided has been copied - its is not of specimens actually observed by the author.
Saussurea obvallata - the author records this from rocky slopes & glacial moraines in Nubra and Changthang. I do not find this a surprising claim, as I have come across S.obvallata being recorded from this region before but nevertheless, I can state it is a misidentification - confirmed by the picture of it, which is of S.bracteata. This species is not recorded from Ladakh.
Scutellaria prostrata - the author records this from rocky slopes in the Leh Valley and Lahaul-Spiti. I have seen this growing in the Miyah Nullah, Lahoul but the species is not recorded from Ladakh. I suspect this is a misidentification. S.heydei is found in Ladakh but whether the author has necessarily mistaken S.prostrata for this or another genus, I am uncertain.
Senecio graciliflorus - the author records this from alpine slopes in Zanskar and Lahaul. I find this a very surprising record. It is not recorded from Ladakh. Stewart records it from 2000-3300m in shady places in Kashmir. 'Flowers of the Himalaya' record it from shrubberies and forest clearings - not too many of those in Zanskar! This seems to be a misidentification to me.
Silene indica - the author records this from moist places in Zanskar. I find this a surprising record. It is not recorded from Ladakh. Stewart, who lists this under Lychnis nutans, describes this as abundant in Kashmir but I am doubtful it occurs in Zanskar - though not impossible. The Lychnis-Silene grouping is difficult, so I suspect a misidentification may have occurred.
Thlaspi montanum - the author records this from rocks and rocky crevices in the Zanskar Valley. I find this a surprising record. It has not been recorded from Ladakh. Stewart names this as Thlaspi cochlearioides - as common in the morainal zone incl. Baltistan but not for Ladakh. I am uncertain about this identification, in part because the author does not record Thlaspi arvense, which is a common field weed from the plains to 3300m in Zanskar - albeit that the habitat described is different. A number of Brassiceae (formerly Cruciferae) are difficult to distinguish genera-wise, let alone species, so I cannot but wonder if this has been misidentified for a different genus but the record is not impossible.
Viola pilosa - the author records this from moist areas in Zanskar & Lahaul. I find this a surprising record. It has not been recorded from Ladakh. Stewart, who uses the name V.serpens, recorded this as common in forest in Kashmir to 3000m. Whilst not impossible for a colony to survive in Zanskar, I suspect this is a misidentification - Violas are not easy to identify.
So in conclusion, quite a number of questionable identifications have been given by the author. Some are clearly complete errors - bearing little or no resemblance to any plants found in Ladakh or the Indian Trans-Himalaya! The author has obviously copied the descriptions he has used from other publications, such as 'Flowers of the Himalaya', such that he is describing the species he CLAIMS he has recorded, not the actual species. This is misleading.....