Introduction

My interest in Himalayan plants utilised in Tibetan Medicine began in the late 1980s, when I was contacted by a German who was organising herbal treks in Ladakh, led by a local amchi (doctor of traditional Tibetan Medicine - which was still the primary health care in villages in this region).  He took duplicate pressed specimens of each species they came across of known medicinal usage.  He sent me one set of pressed specimens for me to identify as best I could; during the treks he had written down the transliterated Tibetan name for each, supplied by the amchi. 

In 1986 during a lecture tour in North America, I spoke to The Great Lakes chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society.  My host was Dr Tony Reznicek, who worked in the herbarium of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.  By then I had already begun working on an up-to-date flora for Ladakh, so took the opportunity of a couple of spare days to examine specimens from Ladakh, which by chance, there were quite a lot (most herbaria at American or Canadian universities have no specimens from Ladakh or anywhere in the Himalaya).  The Ladakhi specimens at Ann Arbor had been collected in the 1930s by Dr Walter Koelz, who I discovered (like Stewart who was still alive after collecting in Ladakh in 1912/13) was alive and living in the village he had been born in, not that far from Ann  Arbor.  Dr Reznicek kindly drove me out, in the snow, to meet Walter.  It was a delight to meet him and to "pass muster", as he had a reputation of being very rude to any visitors he did not like!  We got on well and he even trusted me with a $20 to take to give to the families of two Lahoulis who had been his assistants collecting botanical specimens (and bird specimens) in the 1930s.  That summer, I was leading a botanical tour to Lahoul.  What a coincidence....

To be continued....

 
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