Kalatope Sanctuary’s bio-diversity

This blog has primarily been created for showcasing the bio-diversity of the Kalatope Wildlife sanctuary. For those who are not aware of the whereabouts of this nondescript little forested belt.. it is near the touristic town of Dalhousie, Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh in India Continue reading

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Out for a walk….

I am not an adventurer or a traveller going to places, where exotic species can be observed.. but every weekend we have made it a habit to go out for a walk into the forest… It does not matter what path we take, for around us is the not so well known ‘Kalatope-Khajjiar Wildlife sanctuary’ and its importance can be gauged by the very fact that the total area of this sanctuary is going to be decreased from 69.7 sq kms to just 11.9 sq kms… The Kalatope sanctuary is primarily a coniferous forest and has a typical vegetation, which is unlike the mixed forests of the same altitude. And this too is fast depleting with the developmental fallouts of road-making, tourism and construction…

But even in this fast diminishing forest there is no lack of variety…. one just needs to be  appreciative, to realise the beauty of nature…. A good example was our routine weekly foray….

A ladybirds conference happening on a twig.. the difference in the number of spots on a ladybird usually signifies a different species (but not the only identification criterion), and it seems, interesting.. As we walked further, we suddenly spied a good sized ‘Morel‘ mushroom, looking carefully I saw that it was infested with tiny worms.. so wisely we left it to spread it’s spores into the soil for the next harvest (which can take up to five years)… As we move ahead, a white flower stood erect in our path, it  seemed unknown (well new for me at least)… quickly whipping out the ol’ camera I snap off a few shots of this little herb.. about 3 inches in height.. looks very similar to some of the other wild flowers to be found this time of the year… I’ll leave the identification for later.. A fungi growing on a piece of dead wood… looks like a jelly fungi, hmmmm… (will identify it back at home).. and the then on another dead tree nearby there is a slime mold.. growing like  fuzzy candy on a piece of stick.. (of course in a miniature form).. this is called ‘Stemonitis sp.’ difficult to identify properly without a microscope (I satisfy myself with the genus)… AHA.. I sight the white flowers of the ‘wild strawberries’, mmmm I could almost taste the season on my lips as I spy the ‘Wild raspberry’ flowers also growing on a shrub nearby…. And then as we move on… something under the dark underside of a fallen tree catches my eye… (by now I am quite good as spotting something unusual on the wood).. which is usually a bug or a fungi.. This one seems to be a ‘Slime mold‘ again.. could be belonging to the same species as I found earlier.. the ‘Stemonitis’ or there was another one ‘Arcyria’.. I feel quite happy at even having remembered this much.. (going by the fact that I almost failed in my high school science exams)…. Walking along the forest tracks, on a mild sunny day, after a few days of rain seems blissful. It is the time when one finds everything from birds, bees to flowers and mushrooms happily blooming and buzzing… And talking of mushrooms, we find one next to the path… a medium sized, brown colour, I take note of it’s surrounding and keep it in my sample box. Later at home I’d keep the cap on a piece of paper, where it would leave it’s spore prints which help in determining it’s species, next to it we find another mushroom growing on a rotten piece of wood… This has to be a ‘Polypore’, since it has pores on it’s underside. Great…!!! As we go further, I felt like chirping with the birds, but before I could let my euphoric yodelling echo in the mountains….. we find another mushroom…. and this one looks simply too good…. shaped like a cup, it is aptly called as the ‘Devil’s urn’…. It has been a fruitful day.. and not finished as yet… The paths are lined with the ‘Gerbera Daisy’ a flower from the ‘Aster’ family, and they look so beautiful…!! Around in the forest, I also sighted the ‘May Apple’ flowering, which I think is called so, be cause around the month of May it will bear large red fruits, and thus the name… The forests are full of wondrous things.. and once my eyes opened to these wonders, it became like a playground…. Now we sight a big silverish growth on a dead Cedar tree… a close examination and a conference before we decided that it was not a nest but a fungi of some kind…. and of course later we found it was a species of ‘slime molds’…. And then we decide to take a rest on the grassy patch in front of us… but here too, a butterfly (an ‘Indian Red Admiral’), decides to come and check if we are worthy place to sit and sun itself.. and sits on my knee contentedly while I click away… and then my attention wonders away to a small lump of white which seems to be moving, examining it closely, we found a small bug carrying it’s food/house (don’t know) on it’s back…. will wonders never cease, I think as we move back towards our home… but even in this last leg of our walk we come across a mushroom colony on a decaying trunk… doing their task of re-cycling the waste in nature.. and for the last time that day I again sit down next to the trunk, photographing what I know to be a species of the Coprinoid mushrooms…

Back home after a whole day in the forest, tired but happy, I set aside the material for research and identification… the walk providing not only breath of fresh air and exercise.. but also the opportunity to study and learn about these life forms co-existing with us on this earth. I know that after this where ever I might live.. I’ll always be aware and looking out for the beauty of nature… be it in desert, mountains, seas… where ever…..

Colours of March….

It has been quite a while since I managed to get in an update on my blog… Firstly, the spring is here and every spare moment is spent in the forests.. secondly as a layman to identify wild flowers is not an easy thing, since I do not know anything about the families of plants and their characteristics and there are no specific field guides available for the areas of Dalhousie or Chamba region. On the whole it is a great learning experience and did make me appreciate the nature around me much more. The medicinal uses of these plants have been given separately on the page of ‘Wildflowers in March‘.

Acknowledgement:

I have done a lot of searching on the internet and of course a lot of help through the members of the Google group ‘Efloraofindia’, especially mentionable are Dr. Gurcharan Singh, Shri Tanay Bose, Shri Pankaj Kumar, Amit Chauhan and the other members of the forum.

Nature ‘doctors’….

Viola serpens

A friend, once told me a story……

A long time ago, a young man was studying as an apprentice under an ‘ayurvedacharya’ (master of traditional Indian medicine) , in the Himalayas. After studying under the teacher for fifteen years, the young man once asked the teacher, how long would it take before he would know everything about herbs and their uses. The old master looked at him and smiled, then he bade him to go out in the mountains and bring him one herb which would be of no use to anyone…..

The young man left the master’s ashram to carry out the task…….

he searched… and he searched……

finally one day he returned to the master, after searching all over the Himalayas for twenty years, … empty-handed and downcast he touched the feet of the master and told him that he had failed the task and could not carry out the master’s instructions.. since he could not find even one herb which was of no use…. The master embraced him and congratulated him on passing his final examination.
Today, as I roam around these mountains admiring and trying to find out about the flowers and herbs in the Himalayas.. I often remember this story. On my pages for the ‘Wild flowers of Kalatope-Khajjiar Sanctuary’ I have put the relevant medicinal data about the various flowers that I have found…. And every new flower that I have found till now this year.. DOES have some use or the other… mostly they have a great medicinal value that we have overlooked or forgotten….

Whether it was among the  wild flowers of January Prinsepia utilis, Daphne bholua, or among those heralding the arrival of spring in February, like Viola serpens, Valeriana hardwickii, Berginia ciliata, Veronica persica, Stellaria media, Rubus ellipticus… etc. etc… they all have traditional medicinal uses… The plants which are being collected today in the mountains are mostly for utilisation by the large pharmaceutical companies… and very less quantity is used for naturopathy or holistic healing… but the awareness to these uses of plants is increasing especially in the west and hopefully these species will survive the ravages of development and people will again be able to use these herbs in these Himalayan backwaters…

the lost wisdom….

When I started collecting the data about the flowers of Kalatope-Khajjiar Wildlife sanctuary, I found various interesting facts about them. The most amazing were about the medicinal uses of the plants. In fact, most of the plants, I found in the sanctuary, were either used medicinally or were edible.

The two flowers I had written aboutPrinsepia utilis’ and Daphne bholua var. glacialis’ in my last post, also as it turned out, had traditional medicinal uses in Nepal.

The oil from the seed of ‘Prinsepia utilis’, is applied externally as a treatment for rheumatism and muscular pain caused by fatigue and also applied to the forehead and temples in the treatment of coughs and colds. The fruit is also used in Chinese medicine. Reference.

The juice of the roots, of ‘Daphne bholua’, combined with molasses, is used in the treatment of fevers and intestinal problems and a decoction of it’s bark is used to treat fevers. The leaves are also crushed and used for sinusitis.

Amazing….!! But the disturbing fact is that people are leaving this knowledge of their ancestors and relying more and more upon the antibiotic medicine, leading to more complications than cure…..

The end of a winter….

Even before the last of the snows melted…. there were new signs of life.. of the coming spring… beautiful flowers, delicate buds and new leaves that are budding.

Prinsepia utilis

The first flower to appear heralding the change of season was ‘Prinsepia utilis’, a thorny shrub with white flowers and pinkish buds belonging to the Rose family (Rosaceae)…. I have often observed that each season has predominance of flowers of a certain colour and as I progress along with this weblog maybe we’ll be able to prove that.

Daphne bholua var. glacialis

Meanwhile, soon after the appearance of ‘Prinsepia utilis’ we were out for a walk and come across a leafless shrub, the tips of the branches were pink with the flower buds and white flowers…. This was ‘Daphne bholua var. glacialis’. Daphne has also been traditionally used for paper making. and there in Nepal it is still made and called ‘Lokta‘ paper.

Now you know what I meant by similar colours of a season…

As the month of January slipped by, gradually the leaves and buds started appearing and by February there was plenty more to see…. all that for another post…

A beginning….

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Winter, spring, summer, rain…..

all the seasons are in their own ways,

unique, beautiful and so fresh…

just open your eyes once…

and, you’ll never be the same again…

Big or small..

green or black..

there’s a balance,

which even though not seen

is so fine…

that we could never replicate it..

with all our might…

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