Wild Flowers of NW Himalaya Digital Guides (floras) to Ladakh, Kashmir, Lahaul & Spiti, Himachal Pradesh

Chris Chadwell, as of January 2018 began a series of digital guides to the flora of the North-West Himalaya. A promising start was made in the first months.  The initial four cover: 1. Ladakh (known as 'Little Tibet); 2. Kashmir; 3 Lahaul & Spiti (borderlands of Western Tibet); 4. Himachal Pradesh (covering Kulu Valley plus Shimla and Sirmour districts) - there is potential for others, such as Kinnaur & Baltistan, should Chris live long enough! They will be available on CDs.  Given the scale of what is being undertaken, it makes sense to 'publish' in c. 7 parts (Part 1, covering Genera A-B for each of the four districts was nearly completed by summer 2018) - after all, 'Flora of Bhutan' was published in some 9 or 10 parts over a period of 17 years - and this was with the full resources of Edinburgh Botanic Garden and initially two main authors, with paid positions.  Unfortunately, Chris took a turn for the worse, health-wise, unable to continue for 18 months. At that point, he reflected upon what he had attempted to do, considering, in his circumstances, a full flora (covering every family, genus and species), resulting in vast written botanical content, beyond the level of interest of all but serious botanists, represented too much detail.  In 2020 he experimented with social media for the first-time. His current plan, with technical support from his sons, particularly Matthew, who works in Japan.  By combining face-book pages with his website, a satisfactory outcome has been arrived at.

What Chris aims to accomplish, with no support whatsoever from the botanical community in India or the UK and no financial backing for this project, will be much more useful to most plant enthusiasts and indeed botanists than any 'flora' or check-list ever prepared covering any region of the Himalaya (though he appreciates the quality of the content and the objectives of the Bhutan flora; he has referred to this flora many times in connection with his other projects; he recognises the importance of 'Stewart's 'An Annotated Catalogue of the Vascular plants of Pakistan & Kashmir' [which formed the basis for 'Flora of Pakistan'], Polunin & Stainton's 'Flowers of the Himalaya' and Klimes & Dickore's checklist of Ladakh flora in preparing these guides - as Stewart observed, we all build upon what has gone before, though need to be able to judge what can be relied upon and what cannot). Digital images are the future, provided they are of high quality and show the diagnostic characteristics.  By dividing this project into parts, he will be able to get at least some content out more quickly (although each part will still take months to compile). He is a one-man-show and serious health problems have slowed him down in recent years.  Hopefully, he shall complete the full guides (and perhaps others, in the following years) but better part than none - which has been the case with certain authors in the past.  After all, he has already devoted a major part of the past nearly four decades to studying Himalayan flora, so it would be a terrific waste not to 'publish' in some way. 

And such guides (in essence, floras) are required, as until these exist, with the rarity (or abundance) of every species meaningfully assessed, with their basic ecology and distribution known, it is impossible to conserve individual species! At present, no reliable up-to-date floras exist for Kashmir, Ladakh, Lahaul or Himachal Pradesh...... It should be noted that Chris has repeatedly attempted to collaborate with Indian botanists but repeatedly, no interest was shown, in fact he approached the Director-General of the Botanical Survey of India in the mid-1980s suggesting he collaborated on a joint 'Flora of Ladakh' but was told this was for Indian botanists only to do; well, more than 30 years later, no sign of publication of such a flora, so, reasonably enough, he has given up waiting and begun his own version - which will be far superior to anything that would have been produced! It is all very well publishing a flora or check-list but if it is littered with errors and omissions, it does more harm than good and traditionally printed floras have the distinct disadvantage, in that until an up-dated version of them is published, often decades later, the subsequent advances are difficult to access. It is quality, not quantity, which counts....

Pages 1 for Gentianella moorcroftiana and Pedicularis longiflora var. tubiformis in 'Flowers of Ladakh' and 'Flowers of Lahaul-Spiti'

It is not economic to publish these guides as printed books, since hundreds of species are included, each one assigned typically between two and four pages (consisting of 4-6 quality images - as the examples below will verify).  This provides vastly more visual information about floral parts, foliage and sometimes fruits, than is possible with traditional printed guides where space and cost of colour reproduction means only a single, small, often low-resolution photo could be reproduced for each species included, and these represented only a fraction of the total number known for the region or country the book covered. There is also summarised text listing the currently accepted names (according to 'The Plant List' Version 1.1), the authors name (using standard abbreviations), most common synonym(s), botanical family the plant belongs to, geographic & altitudinal distributions along the Himalaya (and nearby regions where recorded), flowering period, flower-colour plus Identification Tips.  The entries are arranged alphabetically by genus and species - not systematically (classified by family) as was the convention in the past including 'Flowers of the Himalaya' (Polunin & Stainton, 1984), which is the best known guide to the region's flora.  Anyone with a copy of this excellent work (for its time), will immediately be able to tell just how much of an advance Chris' efforts are. The other consideration is just how much more reliable the content is and of a much higher standard than any floras, check-list or guide compiled in the Indian sub-continent since Indian Independence in 1947 - this has only been possible as a result of nearly forty years of serious study of the region's flora Chris has undertaken since his first botanical expedition back in 1980.  Unless one is familiar with flora "in the field", as an able 'field botanist' it is impossible to produce a meaningful flora or check-list. Too many 'floras' represent little more than dry lists based largely upon 19th and early 20th dried pressed specimens in Indian herbaria - which are riddled with errors and omissions.  Few Indian botanists venture into the mountains of the Himalaya much.  One cannot meaningfully assess the abundance or rarity of a species in its natural setting unless one has the necessary skills to correctly identify plants in the wild; few posses such skills. Chris hopes these guides will represent an example for others to follow but warns dedication and hard work is required, over not just years but decades!

It is only the early stages of these guides, so some changes may take place, along with a final editing and proof-reading. Further examples of entries can be viewed at the bottom of the page - so why not scroll down to view these before reading any of the following paragraphs.

Anyone interested in this project, one of a number which Chris' life's professional freelance work has been building up to, are invited to contact him.  If anyone who has visited/trekked in the districts covered by these guides (along with bordering ones, which if there are sufficient years left and his health permits, he hopes to be able to produce guides to as well) and has digital photos they would like him to check the identification of, they are welcome to get in touch.  The more images Chris has access to the better, as they build up an improved understanding of each individual species and how to distinguish between them - any that would represent an improvement on what he plans to include in the final version of the CD are especially welcome as they might be included, if the photographers are will to share them. It is satisfying for all concerned to feel their photography is being put to such good use.

Digital photography has the potential to transform the standard and reliability of plant identification but only if sufficient quality images are taken in close-up of both floral, foliage and fruiting characteristics, along with overall habit and habitat for each and every species.  Understanding the ecological conditions (habitats) a plant grows within is often neglected but essential to properly understand how to conserve them.  At present the flora of the Himalaya (which is vast and can be arduous, even dangerous to explore in) has been poorly studied.

The so-called 'amateur' plant enthusiast (no matter what their background or qualifications) can play a major role in contributing the images they take on their holidays or other excursions to further scientific study of the region's flora.  It should not only be 'Britishers' as us Westerners are mostly affectionately known as in India, who contribute photos to these guides.  Chris is keen to encourage private individuals, botanists or otherwise to take and send in suitable flower pictures.  The American, Dr Ralph Stewart, is known as 'The Father' of Pakistan botany - he was the highly respected Principal of Gordon College, Rawalpindi.  It would be a great waste if any Indian was reluctant to contribute because Chris is British. Already, several Indians have contributed, indeed, other than Chris himself, the greatest photographic contribution to-date has been from the late Krishan Lal.  After all, Oleg Polunin & Adam Stainton, co-authors of 'Flowers of the Himalaya' published back in 1984 were British.  Their book, in its Concise version, is still widely available in India - albeit that it is already 30+ years out-of-date, such that many names have changed since then and taxonomic revisions taken place.

These guides are going to be dedicated to various people who have helped Chris Chadwell since he began his interested in the flora of the region back in 1980, dependent upon which district is covered: Mrs Urvashi Suri & Prem Nath Kohli (Kashmir), Oleg Polunin (Kashmir), Dr Ralph Stewart (Ladakh),  Dr Walter Koelz & Thakur Rup Chand (Himachal Pradesh, Lahaul & Spiti).

Each photographer will be fully acknowledged (their photos remain their copyright, so must not be reproduced without permission).  Those submitting a large number, such as the late Krishan Lal, will be credited as co-authors.  Krishan particular deserves credit, as in 2014, he approached Chris Chadwell with the idea of jointly producing a guide to 'The Flowers of the Western Himalaya' and sent him with copies of a large number of images of flowers he had taken to check the identifications of.  Unfortunately, Chris was seriously ill at the time, so could not respond as fully as he might have.  Even so, the concept did not seem feasible to Chris, as a satisfactory check-list (along the lines of Stewart's 'An Annotated Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Pakistan and Kashmir') did not exist for Himachal Pradesh (which is what Krishan primarily meant as 'Western Himalaya' - though other definitions apply).  It is not possible to produce a proper summarised 'guide' until the basics are known.  Not only is a check-list missing but the distribution of most species is only vaguely known. Too many guides, floras, check-lists and supposed taxonomic revisions (which are no such thing but merely, lengthy descriptions of little more than dried pressed specimens in Indian herbaria, the majority collected a century or more ago) published in India since Independence have been of a poor standard, littered with misidentifications and omissions. Hastily publishing yet another poor quality book is unacceptable. Furthermore, it would have been down to Chris to do all the work, which in 2014 he was not fit to even start.  Such a guide would take years of sustained effort to be done professionally.  Then there was the problem of publication.  Such a specialist book is unlikely to break-even, so the full initial costs would have to be met and a potential loss running into thousands of UK pounds sustained in the medium-term.  Chris has no experience of publishing a book (although knows someone from his University days who does who has the skills to produce a publication of high standard).

Chris, through more than 20 visits to the Indian-subcontinent, has come to realise, amongst both India's poor and professionals, that there is a widespread misconception that everyone in Britain is a multi-millionaire!  It just so happened that Adam Stainton (see above) did have a private income, so was able to travel as and when he saw fit (indeed he privately published and paid for a 'Supplement' to 'Flowers of the Himalaya' in 1997).  Most Indians do not understand that eccentrics like Chris, who devote their life to studying the flora of the Himalaya, have always operated off a shoe-string budget.  He has no money to spare to subsidise books that would not make a profit, as he has always struggled to pay his basic bills.  So the answer is to go for a CD.  It is vital that people realise that a single, fairly small photo does not show sufficient detail to enable a reliable identification, other than for a fraction of species which are especially distinctive and fairly easy to recognise.  Multiple images are required. Too many are convinced they can 'match' a single image they find in a book or nowadays increasingly on the internet (many of which are misidentified anyhow) with the one or two snaps they took of a plant in the wild.  Sorry, they are mistaken and frequently misidentify the plant - and not just amateur but botanists who do not know how to correctly identify plants (this was traditionally done by examining, in close-up detail pressed dried specimens in herbaria (using a x10 or x20 hand lens, sometimes binocular microscopes at high magnification) to distinguish between similar species.  Such characteristics seldom could be seen on photos - particular in the days of slide-film.  Nowadays, even modest digital cameras enable the photographer (though only with experience) to take in-focus close-ups of almost all the necessary characteristics (though one needs to know which 'bits' must be photographed).  This cannot be accomplished taking a small number of general shots only - no matter how beautiful the results may be.

If one reproduces e.g. 2-6 images of every species in a printed book, this will run into thousands in total.  A book, even nowadays, with that number of colour photos, would be prohibitively expensive - perhaps a thousand pounds or more?  What is the purpose of a book which hardly anyone can afford?  Even Yoshida's 'Himalayan Plants Illustrated' is difficult to obtain and often costs £300 or more.  But it is the photos that matter, not the written descriptions which accompany them - few owners of such books bother to read the descriptions such as in 'Flowers of the Himalaya' - nor check, is the location they photographed a plant at or altitude fit with the known range of the species they all too rapidly 'matched' it with nor whether the habitat or climatic conditions tally.  IF they do not, the person attempting to identify the plants needs to check again.

The front covers will only be finalised just prior to completion.  Further examples of entries (for 'Flowers of Lahaul-Spiti) are given below:

Pages 2 & 3 of entry for Gentianella  moorcroftiana
Pages 1 & 2 of entry for Thylacospermum caespitosum

Pages 3 & 4 of entry for Thylacospermum caespitosum

Pages 2 & 3 of entry for Peducularis  longiflora var. tubiformis
Page 4 of entry for Pedicularis longiflora var. tubiformis


Pages 1 & 2 of entry for Actaea  foetida [syn. Cimicifuga  foetida]

Pages 3 & 4 of entry for Actaea  foetida [syn. Cimicifuga  foetida]

Page 5 of entry for Actaea  foetida [syn. Cimicifuga  foetida]


ACONITUM  HETEROPHYLLUM Wall. ex Royle (Ranunculaceae)

ACONITUM  LAEVE Royle (Ranunculaceae- Buttercup family)


ACONITUM  VIOLACEUM Jacquem. ex Stapf (Ranunculaceae—Buttercup family)


ALLIUM  AURICULATUM DC. (Amaryllidaceae/Alliaceae—Amaryllis family)

ALLIUM  CAESIUM Schrenk (Amaryllidaceae/Alliaceae—Amaryllis family)

ALLIUM  CAROLINIANUM DC. (Amaryllidaceae/Alliaceae—Amaryllis family)


ALLIUM  HUMILE Kunth [syn. A.govanianum] Amaryllidaceae—Amaryllis family)

ALLIUM  JACQUEMONTII Kunth (Amaryllidaceae/Alliaceae—Amaryllis family)

ALLIUM   PLATYSPATHUM Schrenk(Amaryllidaceae/Alliaceae—Amaryllis family)

ALLIUM  STRACHEYI Baker (Amaryllidaceae/Alliaceae—Amaryllis family)

ALLIUM  VICTORIALIS L. (Amaryllidaceae/Alliaceae—Amaryllis family)

ANEMONE  OBTUSILOBA D.Don (Ranunculaceae—Buttercup family)

ANEMONE  RIVULARIS Buch.– Ham. ex DC.(Ranunculaceae—Buttercup family)

ARENARIA DEBILIS Hook.f. (Caryophyllaceae—Pink family)

ARENARIA NEELGHERRENSIS Wight. & Arn. (Caryophyllaceae—Pink family)

ARENARIA SERPYLLIFOLIA L. (Caryophyllaceae—Pink family)

ARNEBIA  BENTHAMII (Wall. ex G.Don) I.M.Johnst. (Boraginaceae)

ARNEBIA  EUCHROMA (Royle) I.M.Johnst. (Boraginaceae– Borage family)

ARNEBIA  GUTTATA Bunge (Boraginaceae– Borage family)

ASTER  FALCONERI  (C.B.Clarke) Hutchison (Asteraceae/Compositae)

ASTER  FLACCIDUS  Bunge (Asteraceae/Compositae—Aster family)

ASTER  INDAMELLUS Grierson (Asteraceae/Compositae—Aster family)

ASTER  MOLLIUSCULUS (DC.) C.B.Clarke (Asteraceae/Compositae)

BERGENIA  STRACHEYI (Hook.f. & Thomson) Engl. (Saxifragaceae)

BIEBERSTEINIA  ODORA Stephan ex Fisch. [syn. B.emodi] (Biebersteiniaceae)

CALTHA  PALUSTRIS var.  ALBA (Cambess.) Hook.f. & Thoms. (Ranunculaceae)

CAMPANULA  ARISTATA Wall. (Campanulaceae—Bell-flower family)

CAMPANULA  LATIFOLIA L. (Campanulaceae—Bell-flower family)

CARDAMINE  MACROPHYLLA Willd. (Brassicaceae/Cruciferae—Brassica family)

CASSIOPE  FASTIGIATA (Wall.) D.Don (Ericaceae—Erica family)

CHRISTOLEA  CRASSIFOLIA Cambess.(Brassicaceae/Cruciferae—Brassica family)


COMARUM  SALESOVIANUM (Stephan) Asch. & Graebn. [syn. Potentilla salesoviana] (Rosaceae—Rose family)


[syn. Gentiana peduculata, Gentianella tenella] (Gentianaceae—Gentian family)

CREMANTHODIUM  DECAISNEI  C.B.Clarke (Asteraceae/Compositae)

DASIPHORA  DRYADANTHOIDES Juz. [syn. Potentilla fruticosa var. pumila]

(Rosaceae—Rose family)

DESIDERIA  HIMALAYENSIS (Cambess.) Al-Shehbaz [syn. Christolea himalayensis; Ermania himalayensis] (Brassicaceae/Cruciferae—Brassica family)

DRABA  OREADES Schrenk (Brassicacea/Cruciferae—Brassica family)

ECHINOPS  CORNIGERUS DC. (Asteraceae/Compositae—Aster family)

ERIGERON  MULTIRADIATUS (indl. Ex DC.) Benth, & Hook.f.)

(Asteraceae/Compositae—Daisy Family)

ERIGERON  PONCINSII (Franch.) Botsch. [syn. Psychrogeton andryaloides]

(Asteraceae/Compositae—Daisy Family)


FERULA  JAESCHKEANA  Vatke (Apiaceae/Umbelliferae– Carrot family)


GAGEA  LUTEA (l.) Ker Gawl. [syn. G.elegans] (Liliaceae—Lily family)

GAGEA  LONGISCAPA Grossh. [syn. Lloydia longiscapa] (Liliaceae—Lily family)

GAGEA  SEROTINA (L.) Ker Gawl [syn. Lloydia serotina] (Liliaceae—Lily family)


GENTIANELLA  MOORCROFTIANA (Wall. ex Griseb.) Airy Shaw [syn. Gentiana moorcroftiana] (Gentianaceae—Gentian family)



HEDYSARUM  MICROCALYX Baker (Fabaceae/Leguminosae—Pea family)

IRIS  KEMAONENSIS Wall. Ex D.Don (Iridaceae—Iris family)

JAESCHKEA  OLIGOSPERMA Knobl. (Gentianaceae—Gentian family)

LILIUM  POLYPHYLLUM D.Don (Liliaceae—Lily family)



MINUARTIA  KASHMIRICA (Edgew.) Mattf. [syn. M.lineata]

(Caryophyllaceae—Pink family)


MORINA  COULTERIANA  Royle (Caprifoliaceae—honeysuckle family)

NEPETA  LONGIBRACTEATA Benth. (Lamiaceae/Labiatae—Mint family)

NEPETA  PODOSTACHYS Benth. (Lamiaceae/Labiatae—Mint family)

ONOSMA  HISPIDUM Wallich ex G.Don [syn. O.echioides]

(Boraginaceae—Borage family)

OROBANCHE  CERNUA Loefl (Orobanchaceae—Broomrape family)

OXYTROPIS  MICROPHYLLA (Pallas) DC. (Fabaceae/Leguminosae—Pea family)

PEDICULARIS  CHEILANTHIFOLIA Schrenk (Orobanchaceae—Broomrape family)


(Orobanchaceae—Broomrape family)

PLEUROSPERMUM  CANDOLLEI Benth ex C.B.Clarke (Apiaceae/Umbelliferae)



POLYGONATUM  GEMINIFLORUM Decne. (Asparagaceae—Asparagus family)

POLYGONATUM  VERTICILLATUM (L.) All. (Asparagaceae—Asparagus family)

POTENTILLA  BIFLORA Willd. ex Schltdl. [syn. P.inglisii] (Rosaceae—Rose family)

POTENTILLA  BIFURCA L. (Rosaceae—Rose family)

POTENTILLA  CUNEATA Wallich ex Lehm. [syn. Potentilla ambigua]

(Rosaceae—Rose family)




PRIMULA  DENTICULATA Sm. (Primulaceae—Primula family)

PRIMULA  ELLIPTICA Royle (Primulaceae—Primula family)

PRIMULA  MEEBOLDII Pax  (Primulaceae—Primula family)

PRIMULA  MOORCROFTIANA Wall. (Primulaceae—Primula family)


RHODODENDRON  ANTHOPOGON D.Don (Ericaceae– Eric family)

RHODODENDRON  CAMPANULATUM D.Don (Ericaceae—Erica family)

ROSA  MACROPHYLLA Lindley (Rosaceae—Rose family)

RUBIA  TIBETICA Hook.f. (Rubiaceae—Madder family)


SAXIFRAGA  STENOPHYLLA Royle (Saxifragaceae—Saxifrage family)

SCUTELLARIA  PROSTRATA Jacquem. ex Benth. (Lamiaceae/Labiatae family)

SILENE  GRAMINIFOLIA Otth [syn. S.tenuis] (Caryophyllaceae—Pink family)


SINOPODOPHYLLUM  HEXANDRUM (Royle) T.S.Ying [syn. Podophyllum hexandrum] (Berberidaceae—Berberis family; sometimes Podophyllaceae)

THERMOPSIS  BARBATA Royle (Fabaceae/Leguminosae—Pea family)

THERMOPSIS  INFLATA Cambess. (Fabaceae/Leguminosae—Pea family)


(Santalaceae—Sandalwood family)

THYLACOSPERMUM  CAESPITOSUM (Cambess.) Schischkin [T.rupifragum] (Caryophyllaceae—Pink family)

WALDHEIMIA  TOMENTOSA (Decne.) Regel [syn. Allardia tomentosa] (Asteraceae /Compositae—Aster family)