There are three people I wish to formally acknowledge. Without them, I would not have continued my Himalayan travels beyond the 1983 Kashmir Botanical Expedition, the second-time I visited the region nor accumulated so much knowledge.
They are: Mrs Urvashi Suri, Shri Prem Nath Kohli and Dr Ralph Stewart.
The hospitality shown by Mrs Suri and her family especially daughter Vandana Mehra and Sanjay Suri at their home in Srinagar provided a sanctuary from the challenges of exploring for plants in the West Himalaya. Without this, my Himalayan travels would have been curtailed. Mrs Suri, one of the first M.Sc. in Botany students at the University of Kashmir, one of P.N.Kohli's daughters, taught over as Proprietor of P.Kohli & Co., when Prem passed away in 1986. Having a safe & secure base in Kashmir made all the difference. After terrible events forced Mrs Suri to leave Kashmir, I had the opportunity to travel with her (and her sons on a couple of occasions) visiting Himachal Pradesh (where she personally presented a Kohli Memorial Gold Medal* to staff & students at H.H. The Dalai Lama's Medical & Astrological Institute, Dharamsala), what is now Uttarakhand. With her as guide, I felt confident enough to return to Kashmir a few years ago, after a gap of 23 years (due to it being unsafe for foreign botanists). It was fitting that she was able to present personally the Botany Department at the University of Kashmir (being one of its first M.Sc. students) with a Kohli Memorial Gold Medal* (on behalf of the Himalayan Plant Association - each time this medal is awarded, her father, P.N. Kohli is honoured) after I had delivered a digital presentation about Kashmir flora.
Mrs Urvashi Suri presenting, on behalf of the Himalayan Plant Association the gold medal and certificate to Dr Tsering Norbu, Materia Medica Dept.,
H.H. The Dalai Lama's Tibetan Medical & Astrological Institute, Dharamsala, India)
Without Prem Nath Kohli, Forest Ranger turned horticulturist and conservationist, who established P.Kohli & Co., back in 1928, Chadwell Seeds would not have been established in 1984. My small seed company operated in association with P.Kohli & Co. until 2016. I was privileged to meet Prem in 1983 and then again in 1985. Despite being blind, his mind remained sharp and we were able to discuss the finer points of plant identification. Prem was always more of a research scholar than businessmen. Very much an active 'field-botanist' who amassed the largest and best herbarium in Kashmir prior to WWII (along with a large number of plant photographs) - sadly these were destroyed during a raid at Partition. Kashmir remains a divided and disputed territory. It was a CONSIDERABLE waste that he was prevented by the Forestry Department Hierarchy from gaining access to the necessary reference books to write local floras - as he surely would have. Instead, he established a horticultural firm of high standard, setting an example in terms of his personal honesty and integrity. He also was a freelance photographer and journalist along with publishing articles in horticultural journals. He was expressing concerns about plant conservation decades before it became 'fashionable' to do so. His firm did export bulbs but from his nursery - NOT dug up from the wild.
Prem Nath KOHLI
Dr R.R. Stewart visited Ladakh back in 1912 & 1913 collecting herbarium specimens towards his 'Flora of Ladakh' for which he was awarded a doctorate by Columbia University, New York. Stewart spent a life-time teaching at Gordon College, Rawalpindi, in what was to become Pakistan. He spent many years as the Principal. During his holidays and spare-time he collected pressed specimens all over Pakistan, establishing a herbarium at the College (which became the National Herbarium). Upon 'retirement', aged 70, he took up a post of Research Associate at the Ann Arbor Herbarium, University of Michigan, USA. During this time he compiled 'An Annotated Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Pakistan & Kashmir' (1972). Since then, a family-by-family revision of the Flora of Pakistan has taken place. I was able to visit him at a Retirement Home for Presbyterian Missionaries in California in 1983. He lived to be 102! At the end of this visit I was presented with his final, personally annotated copy of his catalogue - which has proved invaluable, as I have consulted it literally thousands of times (this reference was not available commercially with copies only in botanical libraries). The Catalogue is exceptional, if not unique, as it combines herbarium expertise with considerable field experience - most comparable check-lists, catalogues, enumerations and floras are primarily or exclusively based upon herbarium specimens.
Dr Ralph Randles STEWART