'Critically Endangered' Himalayan plants which are no such thing!

Aquilegia nivalis

From my own field-experience during expeditions to Kashmir and that of other Westerners who have explored botanically there, I strongly dispute the claim that this species is in any way 'Critically Endangered' - the truth is that local botanists have no idea as to the full range for this species. It is not endemic to Kashmir, being found in Northern Pakistan and Himachal Pradesh as well. Kashmir botanists have explored very little in Kashmir territory, all the five locations given e.g. within 'Factors Contributing to Critically Endangered Status of Aquilegia nivalis Falc ex Jackson - an Alpine Endemic , in the Kashmir Himalaya Himalaya, India' are readily accessible; it is clear that none of the authors have trekked much in Kashmir. There is also minimal (if any) contact between botanists in bordering states or countries. I can categorically state that this plant is not endemic to Kashmir! Not that Indian botanists know much, if anything about its distribution in Himachal Pradesh. As for Pakistan, 'The Pakistan Flora Data-base' records it from Gilgit & Hazara, as did Stewart but he also knew it from Chitral & Astor - the authors of the more recent account claim it is Endemic to Pakistan & Kashmir, seemingly unaware of records from Himachal Pradesh. There has been insufficient field-work to ascertain the true status of this species but I can categorically state that it is NOT Endangered, let alone Critically-so, which actually means that it is at risk of becoming extinct.

As to what may have changed since the time this species was collected in the past, as opposed to the records from five colonies covered in the article above. Very little I suspect, as it is not just Indian botanists who seldom venture far from their offices - I e.g. have explored more of the 'alpine' areas of Kashmir than any Indian botanist has, past or present and in the field was able to recognise this species, giving credibility to my evidence. I also have records from other Britishers who have trekked in Kashmir such as

There is also the matter of the authors of the above article using different nomenclature to the accepted name in 'The Plant List' (used by 'Pakistan Flora Database, which had a Western specialist on the genus, as senior author of the account for Aquilegia, Harald Riedl. They use A.nivalis Falc ex Jackson (missing the . as Falc. is an abbreviation for Falconer). As did Stewart in 1972 but 'The Plant List' uses ... (Baker) Falc. ex B.D. Jackson. It is always concerning when Indian botanists are not referring to up-to-date thinking internationally - which is, unfortunately widespread in India, where they are still routinely copying the 19th century Hooker's 'Flora of British India'. Ever since Indian Independence in 1947 there has been an isolationist approach, shunning International collaboration, which is essential, contributing to such false claims as this Aquilegia being 'endemic' to Kashmir, which is blatantly is not. Such basic mistakes are unacceptable. Indian botanists do love 'Endangered', 'Endemic', 'New to India', 'New to Science'. There is a long history of such claims being incorrect.

IF you make false claims about species which are not even endangered, let alone endangered, is a serious offence, as strictly limited resources will be wasted. What about the genuinely endangered or critically endangered species - the truth is nobody including me, actually knows, due to the dearth of plant exploration and almost zero collaboration with Western botanists. This is not down to a lack of willingness on the part of staff of botanical institutions nor freelance botanists like myself, who has offered time and time again, to undertake collaborative studies on the flora of the NW Himalaya (including Kashmir), most recently in 2012 and right from the mid-1980s. I first explored for plants in the Indian State of Kashmir in 1980, as team leader of a survey of vegetation in the Suru Valley, Ladakh, meeting botanical staff at the University of Kashmir in 1983 and 1985.

Much is talked and claimed conservation-wise. Also, in a futile attempt to defend their shortcomings, Indian botanists have insulted me on 'efloraofIndia'. They do realise, I never make false claims and always have evidence to support/back-up what I do say.