Where have all the flowers gone? Project to save the 'real' rare plants

Sadly, during the past few decades, the wildlife of Tibet has been most totally destroyed and, in many places, irreparable damage has been done to its forests. The overall effect on Tibet's delicate environment has been devastating - particularly since the country's altitude and aridity mean that the process of restoring vegetation will take much longer than in lower, wetter regions. For this reason, what little is left must be protected and efforts made to reverse the effects of China's iniquitous and wanton destruction of the Tibetan environment. (H.H. The Dalai Lama)

I have never been to Tibet proper, so have no first-hand experience to draw upon but there is no doubt that the observations in the paragraph above are true. I fear that in the coming years, unless steps are made to stop India's head-long rush for economic expansion, much the same accusation will be made against India - though there will proclaim that it is their environment to do with as they wish and what of the flora, fauna and peoples of the mountains?  The draconian restrictions enacted in recent years means India will remain isolated with the International botanical community, with virtually not botanical input - this suits the Indian authorities, as they will no longer be individuals like Chris Chadwell, who shows them up and exposes serious wrong-doing.

WHILST I CANNOT COVER TIBET-PROPER BUT DO KNOW WHEN THE BORDERLANDAS OF TIBET. WHO WILL ALSO 'STICK THEIR HEAD ABOVE THE PARAPET' AND JOIN ME CAMPAIGNING TO TAKE STEPS TO GENUINELY CONSERVE RARE PLANTS AROUND THE WORLD?  WE WILL NEED TO CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO, WHICH HAS FAILED US BOTH IN ONE OF THE RICHEST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD AND THE BEST BOTANISED - BRITAIN!  'PLANT LIFE' HAS FAILED IN QUITE A NUMBER OF ITS STATED PURPOSES, BOTH NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY. SEE BELOW FOR AN EXAMPLE OF PLANT LIFE'S WORK IN THE HIMALAYA, WHICH IS FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED!  See:  http://www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/our-work and for PLANTLIFE INTERNATIONAL see: https://www.plantlife.org.uk/international


Photo: Alan Hamilton, International Plant Life - named as Saussurea costus but it is not.

IMPOSSIBLE TO 'CONSERVE' SPECIES IF THEY ARE NOT CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED IN THE FIRST PLACE AND THEIR RARITY OR ABUNDANCE IN THE WILD IS DETERMINED BY EXTENSIVE SURVEY BY SKILLED FIELD BOTANISTS WHO CAN RECOGNISE THEM IN THE WILD.  I KNOW OF NOT ONE INDIAN BOTANIST CAPABLE OF DOING THIS IN KASHMIR OR HIMACHAL PRADESH! OH DEAR BUT MR HAMILTON HAS NO EXPERTISE ON HIMALAYAN PLANTS NOR THOSE UTILISED IN TIBETAN MEDICINE.  CHRIS CHADWELL HAS BUT WAS NOT CONSULTED.  PRAGYA DOES NOT HAVE EXPERTISE ..... 

WELCOME TO MY RE-LAUNCH OF MY LONG-TERM PROJECT TO PROPERLY PROTECT FLORA BOTH IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD BUT ALSO THE U.K. - AFTER ALL, FOR MOST OF THE COUNTIES (VICE-COUNTIES IN BOTANICAL TERMS) IN GREAT BRITAIN, AS PROFESSOR MICHAEL J. CRAWLEY STATES IN HIS 'FLORA OF BERKSHIRE' (2005):
 "... THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IS THAT DIRECT AND INDIRECT HUMAN IMPACTS HAVE BEEN SO SEVERE AND SO ALL-PERVASIVE THAT WE ARE NOW AT THE POINT WHERE UNCOMMON NATIVE WILD PLANT SPECIES ARE NOT FOUND IN THE OPEN COUNTRYSIDE AT ALL, BUT ARE CONFINED TO A TINY HANDFUL OF NATURE RESERVES AND SITES OF SPECIAL SCIENTIFIC INTERESTS (SSSIs).  THE BULK OF THE COUNTRYSIDE IS ATTRACTIVE ENOUGH TO THE EYE, BUT FOR THE MOST PART IT ISA  DESERT FOR INTERESTING NATIVE PLANTS.  THE TOTAL LIST OF SPECIES IS LONG, BUT THE POPULATIONS OF THE MORE CHARISMATIC NATIVE PLANT SPECIES ARE FRIGHTENINGLY SMALL IN SIZE".

THE REASON I DRAW ATTENTION TO THIS POINT, WHICH CERTAINLY APPLIES TO MOST COUNTIES IN THE SOUTH-EAST OF ENGLAND, IS THAT WHEN ADDRESSING AND ADVISING THE CONSERVATION OF FLORA IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES (WITH MY SPECIAL INTEREST AND AREA OF EXPERTISE BEING THE HIMALAYA, THIS COVERING INDIA, NEPAL, BHUTAN AND A SMALL PART OF PAKISTAN - MY DEFINITION OF THE HIMALAYAN RANGE DOES NOT INCLUDE THE MOUNTAINS OF SW CHINA, NOR THE KARAKORAM, LET ALONE HINDU KUSH), US BRITS CANNOT DO SO FROM A POSITION OF VIRTUE, AS IT IS VERY MUCH A MATTER OF TELLING THEM, "NOT TO DO WHAT WE HAVE DONE TO OUR COUNTRYSIDE"!  YES, BRITAIN HAS STUDIED ITS FLORA VASTLY MORE INTENSIVELY THAN ANYTHING ACCOMPLISHED IN THE HIMALAYA, INDEED ARE IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LEAGUE BUT THIS FAMILIARITY WITH OUR FLORA, AND CONSERVATION BODIES, HAS NOT LED TO SATISFACTORY MEASURES BEING IMPLEMENTED, HENCE THE SITUATION WHICH PROFESSOR CRAWLEY SUCCINCTLY EXPLAINS - AND HE IS A VERY ABLE PLANT ECOLOGIST, WHO UNDERSTANDS BETTER THE HABITATS AND MICRO-ENVIRONMENTS BETTER THAN ANY UK BOTANIST I KNOW OF.  HE MAY NOT BE A LEADING TAXONOMISTS BUT HE IS ACTIVE IN THE FIELD, WHICH TO ME IS CRUCIAL.  WE DO NOT ENJOY A FULL UP-TO-DATE FLORA IN BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, WHICH BORDERS BERKSHIRE, THOUGH A CHECKLIST WAS COMPILED BY MAYCOCK & WOODS IN 2005.  WHEN COMBINED WITH A BUCKINGHAMSHIRE FLORA BY DRUCE (1926), WHO WAS AN EXCEPTIONALLY ACTIVE FIELD BOTANIST, THE  KNOWLEDGE OF LOCAL PLANTS WHERE I LIVE (ON THE BORDER BETWEEN BERKS AND BUCKS) IS AMONGST THE BEST IN THE UK (AND THUS THE WORLD).  DRUCE ALSO WROTE A 'FLORA OF BERKSHIRE (1897), AS DID BOWEN IN 1968.  THIS ALLOWS US TO ASSESS THE CHANGES WHICH HAVE TAKEN PLACE.  BOTANISTS  INDIA, NEPAL, BHUTAN OR PAKISTAN - ALONG WITH ALL OTHER DEVELOPING COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD, CAN ONLY DREAM OF BEING IN SUCH A POSITION, THOUGH INDIA DOES BOAST HOOKER'S 'FLORA OF BRITISH INDIA' PUBLISHED IN THE 19TH CENTURY.  THE FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM IS A DIRE LACK OF FIELD-WORK.  I KNOW FROM FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE THAT FEW INDIANS HAVE MUCH OF AN APPETITE FOR STUDYING PLANTS IN THE WILD AND EVEN AMATEUR ENTHUSIAST THE LATE KRISHAN LAL, WHO TOOK NUMEROUS HIGH QUALITY PHOTOS, SELDOM SPENT MORE THAN A NIGHT UP IN THE MOUNTAINS - WHICH WAS SUCH A WASTE, HAVING TAKEN SO MUCH TIME AND EFFORT TO DRIVE OR BE DRIVEN TO HIGHER ELEVATIONS.  HE NEVER UNDERTOOK A TREK WHICH INVOLVED DAYS OF CAMPING (WHICH APPLIES TO MOST INDIAN BOTANISTS AS WELL); UNLESS ONE EXPLORES ON FOOT, INTO THE MOUNTAINS PROPER, ONE SEES LITTLE MORE THAN 'TRACKSIDE WEEDS'.  AND ONE MUST SCRAMBLE AMONGST LARGE BOULDERS, NEGOTATITING STEEP SLOPES AND CLIFFS - OTHERWISE NUMEROUS SPECIES WHICH INHABIT SUCH TERRAIN, OFTEN IN LARGE QUANTITY, AS COMPLETELY MISSED, LEADING TO UTTERLY FALSE CLAIMS OF RARITY OR PREPOSTEROUSLY BEING 'CRITICALLY ENDANGERED' (WHICH MEANS THEY ARE IN PROPER DANGER OF BECOMING EXTINCT). TALK ABOUT CRYING WOLF!

WHAT HAPPENS IS THAT ATTENTION IS DRAWN TO THE WRONG PLANTS, WHICH MOST OF THE TIME ARE COMMON, EVEN ABUNDANT.  RESOURCES AND SYMPATHY TOWARDS PLANTS IS TRICTLY LIMITED, SO TO DEVOTE THEM TOWARDS SPECIES WHICH DO NOT NEED THEM.  WHAT ABOUT THE GENINELY RARE SPECIES IN COUNTRIES LIKE INDIA, NEPAL, BHUTAN AND PAKISTAN PLUS NUMEROUS OTHERS IN CONTINENTS I DO NOT HAVE FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE OF BUT DO SPEAK WITH OTHER BOTANISTS WHO HAVE BEEN INTO THE FIELD IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD, WHICH CONFIRMS THAT MY CONCERNS APPLY TO THEM AS WELL AND ARE NOT NARROWLY SPECIFIC TO THE HIMALAYA. TO COMPENSATE FOR A LACK OF SPENDING TIME "IN THE FIELD" AND INABILITY TO RECOGNISE DIFFERENT SPECIES, WHEN THEY ARE, INDIAN BOTANISTS INSTEAD POUR OVER PRESSED SPECIMENS IN INDIAN HERBARIA, A MAJORITY COLLECTED EITHER IN THE 19TH CENTURY OR EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY BY BRITISHERS (AS WE BRITS ARE STILL KNOWN AS BY OLDER GENERATION INDIANS) AND IDENTIFIED BY BRITISH AND EUROPEAN SPECIALISTS IN THE LEADING INDIAN HERBARIA.  THEY THEN HAVE THE AUDACITY TO PUBLISH 'RED DATA LISTS', SUBMITTING THE RARITY RECORDS TO THE IUCN (INTERNATIONAL UNION FOR THE CONSERVATION OF NATURE) AND CITES, SUBSEQUENTLY CLAIMING THAT IT IS 'ACCORDING TO THE IUCN, THAT THEIR SPECIES SPECIES ARE RARE.  WHAT UTTER TWADDLE - THE IUCN SHOULD KNOW BETTER AND REALISE THEY CANNOT TRUST THE RECORDS FROM COUNTRIES LIKE INDIA!  ANOTHER LITTLE TRICK, IS THAT WHEN FRESH SPECIMENS I.E. THOSE COLLECTING SINCE INDIAN INDEPENDENCE ARE NOT FOUND IN INDIAN HERBARIA FOR A SPECIES PRVEIOUSLY COLLECTED IN INDIA, THEY DEDUCE THIS MEANS ITS OCCURRENCE HAS BEEN MUCH REDUCED AND IT IS NOW 'ENDANGERED' OR MUST ONLY BE RESTRICTED TO AN 'INACCESSIBLE' PLACE.  IN REALITY, IN MOST CASES, IT IS SIMPLY A QUESTION THAT NO INDIAN BOTANIST HAS BOTHERED TO RETURN TO THE LOCATION WHERE IT WAS RECORDED A CENTURY OR MORE AGO....
HOW INDIAN BOTANISTS HAVE THE AUDACITY AND ARE WILLING TO ACCEPT, EVEN JUSTIFY, SUCH FAKE ASSESSMENTS, IS BEYOND ME.  HAVE THEY NO SELF-RESPECT?

ALMOST EVERY INDIAN BOTANIST IS GUILTY OF COMPLICITY IN FRAUD, FROM THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF THE BOTANICAL SURVEY OF INDIA DOWNWARDS...... I PERSONALLY HAVE 'BENT OVER BACKWARDS' OFFERING TO PAY ALL THE COSTS FOR INDIAN BOTANISTS TO SPENT TIME SURVEYING WITH ME (EVEN JUST DAY-TRIPS) AND COLLABORATING ON FLORISTIC STUDIES BUT ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST HAS BEEN SHOWN, OVER A PERIOD OF MORE THAN 30 YEARS.  I APPROACHED THE THEN DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF THE BOTANICAL SURVEY OF INDIA, SUGGESTING I MIGHT COLLABORATE WITH INDIAN BOTANISTS ON AN UP-TO-DATE FLORA FOR LADAKH BUT THIS OFFER WAS DISMISSED, AS IT WAS FOR 'INDIAN' BOTANISTS TO DO.  WELL, 30+ YEARS LATER, STILL NO SIGNS OF A 'FLORA OF LADAKH' AND EVEN IF ONE IS EVER PRODUCED (UNLIKELY IN MY LIFE-TIME), I KNOW IT WILL BE A POOR SHOW.

THEN TO PROVIDE A 'SMOKE-SCREEN', THE GOVERNMENT INTRODUCES DRACONIAN RESTRICTIONS TO SUPPOSEDLY 'PROTECT' THEIR FLORA, WHEN THE CONSEQUENCES WILL BE DAMAGING - THIS IS ON TOP OF 70 YEARS OF ACTVELY DISCOURAGING INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION, WHICH IS SO DESPERATELY NEEDED.  HOOKER'S 'FLORA OF BRITISH INDIA' PUBLISHED IN THE 19TH CENTURY REMAINS A STANDARD REFERENCE IN INDIA AND THEY ALSO RELY UPON POOR QUALITY REGIONAL FLORAS, RIDDLED WITH MISIDENTIFICATIONS AND INCORRECT INFORMATION BASED UPON WOEFULLY INADEQUATE FIELD SURVEYS AND RECORDS AND DESCRIPTIONS, AT TIMES COPIED WORD FOR WORD FROM HOOKER!  SADLY, THIS DOES NOT JUST APPLY TO PRINTED FLORAS AND CHECK-LISTS BUT ON-LINE RESOURCES AS WELL....

'IDENTIFICATION AND CONSERVATION OF IMPORTANT MEDICINAL PLANT AREAS IN THE HIMALAYA Project and Workshop (organised jointly by Plantlife International and the Ethnobotanical Society of Nepal). Supported by the Rufford Foundation and Allachy Trust.  See: https://www.plantlife.org.uk/application/files/5714/8232/9980/IPAHim_MP_FINAL_REPORT.pdf 

MANY OF THE FINDINGS ARE LUDICROUS - THE CONTRIBUTORS CLEARLY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING/INCOMPETENT!  WHY DID THEY NOT CONSULT ME AS FAR AS HIMALAYAN PLANTS ARE CONCERNED? JUST WHAT RELEVANT TRAINING/EXPERIENCE DO THE CONTRIBUTORS HAVE, BEYOND BEING ABLE TO WRITE REPORTS, WHICH SUPERFICIALLY SOUND GOOD TO THOSE THAST KNOW NOTING ABOUT THE SUBJECT MATTER?


Front Cover of above report

Comments