Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Valley of Flowers

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In 1931,  after a successful expedition to mount Kamet, British mountaineer, Frank Smythe, along  with a bunch of fellow British mountaineers accidentally chanced upon the Bhyundar Valley in Garhwal. He called it "The Valley of Flowers." Later he authored a book on the valley by the same name and brought this picturesque Garden of Eden to the notice the world. Ever since, the moniker has stuck. The Valley of Flowers was established as a national park in 6 November 1982.

The park is administered by the Uttarakhand State Forestry Department, the national Ministry of Environment and Forests, India. There is no settlement in the national park and grazing in the area has been banned since 1983.

The park is open only in summer from June to October, as it is covered by heavy snow for the rest of the year.

Conditions are generally dry with low annual precipitation, but there is heavy monsoon rainfall from late June to early September. Prevailing mist and low cloud during the monsoon keeps the soil moist, hence the vegetation is lusher than is usual in the drier inner Himalayan valleys. From mid April to June temperatures are moderate to cool (19°C maximum).
There is often dense fog and rain especially during the late summer monsoon.

The valley has three main vegetation zones:
1. Sub-alpine between 3,200m and 3,500m which is the limit for trees
2. Lower alpine between 3,500m and 3,700m
3. Higher alpine above 3,700m.

The habitats include valley bottom, riverbed, small forests, meadows, eroded, scrubby and stable slopes, moraine, plateau, bogs, stone desert and caves. The lower surrounding hills in the buffer zone are thickly forested.

The Forest Research Institute in 1992 recorded 600 species of angiosperms (herbaceous plants, shrubs, grasses, and most trees) and 30 pteridophytes (ferns) in the valley and surroundings, discovering 58 new records for the valley of which 4 were new for Himalayan Uttar Pradesh.

Orchids, poppies, primulas, marigold, daisies and anemones flourish in the valley. One can also find many species of medicinal plants.

A few nationally endangered wild animals inhabit the Valley of Flowers although the density of such animals is not very high in the region.

Thirteen species of mammals have been recorded to have been spotted in the valley some of which are Red giant flying squirrel (Petaurista Petaurista), Himalayan black bear (Ursus Thibetanus), Red fox (Vulpes vulpes), Himalayan weasel (Mustela Sibirica), Himalayan yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula), Himalayan Goral (Naemorhedus), Himalayan musk deer (Moschus leucogaster), Indian Chevrotain (Moschiola Indica), Himalayan Tahr or Wild Goat (Hemitragus Jemlahicus).