The mountains are treasure trove for an amazing array of flora and fauna. The Himalayas have been successful in pulling travelers / tourists from all around the world with this exotic wildlife and natural exquisiteness. The bio-diversity of the Himalayas synched with its geographical features is truly an impressive biological feat. The western part of the Himalayas has forests of blue pine, spruce, silver fir, chir pine, conifers deodar and junipers while the eastern Himalayan region is covered with maple, alder, birch, oak, rhododendron and dwarf willows. The mid hills are covered with schima wallachi, bombax, chestnut castanopsis and Himalayan cherry. And the terai belt is covered with dense sal forest shorea robusta, sissoo, acacia catechu etc. It is recorded more than 6500 species of flowering and non-flowering trees / plants are found in Nepal. The best way to capture the true essence of the Himalayas with its exotic flora and fauna is to experience oneself. The best way to discover bio-diversity is to trek through the amazing mountain trails.

What is bio diversity?

Biologists most often define biodiversity as the "totality of genes, species, and ecosystems of a region". It measures the health of ecosystems. The greater biodiversity implies greater health in the environment. Unfortunately, the period since the emergence of humans has displayed an ongoing biodiversity reduction and accompanying loss of genetic diversity. Despite of global warming, our bio-diversity is still less affected in comparison to other countries.

Nepal is one of the richest countries in terms of bio- diversity from the 60 m elevation to highest point on earth. Therefore, it is often called the biggest natural museum in the world. The immense diversity in Nepal's flora and fauna is remarkable. The 136 ecosystem is confined to 11 bio-climatic zones and 9 eco-regions that are defined by ecological features, climate and plants and animal communities. We are going to discuss on very few topic regarding this.

Moths and Butterflies: There are 651 species of butterflies which are scattered throughout the country. The three endemic species of butterflies in Nepal are; Banded Apollo, common red Apollo and walnut blue. The Himalayan cliff honeybee (the world's largest bee species) and the Atlas moth (the world's largest moth) and Himalayan dragonfly are three of the best known insects unique to Nepal.

Flowers and Vegetations: Lying at the ecological crossroads of major floristic regions, Nepal boasts of over 6390 species of flowering plants, including 400 tree species. The Terai- Siwaliks (below 100m) contain subtropical vegetation like; Acacia Catechu, Dalbergia Sissoo, Bombax Ceiba and Shorea Robusta (Sal tree) which is the dominant tree of Terai forest. The mid-hills (1000 - 3000m) have the greatest ecosystem as well as species diversities in Nepal. The major species found in hilly zone are castanopsis indica, Schima wallichii, chir pine, Alnus nepalnensis, cedrala Albiza etc. in the lowest belt and Castanopsis tribuloides, castanopsis hystrix, Lithocarpus pachyphylla, blue pine, juglans and several species of oaks and rhododendron are found in the mid hills. The Highlands (above 3000m) include 38 major ecosystems covering one -third of the country's forest. They comprise around one third of the total forest cover of Nepal, representing birch, oak, rhododendron, juniper, fir, cedar, larch and spruce forests.

In every corner and terraces one can see beautiful flower blooming. Rhododendron, cherry, Poinsettia, trumpet flower, bougainvillea, marigold is some of the common flowers in Nepal. Wide varieties of Orchids (more than 425 species) are found in the forest. And, blue poppy (keshar), found in highlands, is considered as one of the most expensive flower used as medicinal purpose.

Beautiful Birds: Nepal, home to 856 species of birds, is known as the Paradise for bird watchers. From Dusk to dawn tourists utilize every minute possible to scan the area with their powerful binoculars in search of birds. Crested Kingfisher, Common Hopoe, Wood Peacker, Blue bearded Bee eater, Magpie (Lampuchre), Ruddy Shelduck (Chakehwa), Bulbul (Jureli), Tit (Chilchilkote), Flycatcher (Arjunak), Egrets, Drongo (Chibe), Minivet (Ranicharo), Shrike (Bhadrai), Pipet (Chuiya), Wagtail (Tiktike), Sunbird (Bungecharo), Thrush (Chachar), Martin (Gauthali), Kite, Eagle (Chil), Laggar Falcon (Baaj), Egyptian Vultures (Giddha) etc. are the common birds found in Nepal. Beside this, Spinny Babbler (Kadebhyakur) is the bird found in Nepal only and 7 Species of Impejanus Lophophorous DANFE (National Bird of Nepal) can be found in Pokhara only.

Note: words inside brackets are Nepali name.

Animals: Nepal has dense forest from Terai belt to alpine region so that, many type of animals can live in the forest. Animals like tiger, leopard, rhino, elephant, antelope, bear, wild boar, barking deer and folic-some monkeys are found in Terai belt like in Chitwan national park. And snow leopard, blue sheep. Red panda, Impala, black beer, wolf etc can be found in the Himalayan region. The varieties of animals have made the jungle more interesting to roam inside.

Trees & Plants

Nepal has got almost every species of trees of the world because of its altitude variation and unmatched climatic condition. There are more than 6,500 species of flowering and non flowering plants / trees found in Nepal. Bo tree or Ficus religiosa (Pipal), Banyan or Ficus benghalensis (Bar), Cassia fistula (Rajbrikshya), Delonix Regia (Gulmohor), Bahunia (Tanki), Schima Wallachi (Chilaune), Alder (Uttis), Oak (Dhalne kadus), Sisoo, Acacia Catechu (Khayer), Pine, Bombax (Simal), Shorea Robusta (sal), Chestnut castanopsis (Kadus), Fig (khanyu), Prunus cerasoides or Himalayan Cherry (Payu), Melia azaedarach (Bakaino), Michelia champaca (Chaap) are some of the common trees found in Nepal. Himalayan Herbs (For those who love nature and care nature)

No doubt, from the time immemorial, Himalaya is famous for medicinal Herbs / natural diversity. Realizing the importance, people have started to cultivate herbs professionally. Nardostachys grandiflora DC (Jatamasi), Picro rhiza scrophulariaeflora Pennell (Kutki), Zanthoxylum armatum DC (Timur), Rheum Australe D.Don (Padam Chal), Dioscorea deltoidea Wall (Bhyakur),Valeriana Jatamanshi Jones (Sugandhawal), Acacia Catechu Wild (Khayar), Swertia Chirayita (Chiraito), Berberis Aristata DC. (Chutro), Cinnamomum tamala (Tejpat), Lycopodium Clavatum Linn (Nagbeli), Acorus Calamus Linn (Bojho), Aconitum Spicatum (Bish), Bergenia Ciliata (Pakhanbedh), Seabuck thorn (Dalechuk), Taxus wallichiana Zucc.(Lothsalla), Rauvolfia Serpentina (Sarpagandha), Nepali Sassafras (Sugandhakokila), Salep (Paanchawle), Cordyceps Sinensis (Yarsagumba) are the major medicinal herbs found in Nepal. Among them Salep (Paanchawale) is Prohibited herb in Nepal.

Cordyceps Sinensis (Yarsagumbu)

It is the most expensive herb (present market price USD 20,000 per Kg.) in the world. Cordyceps Sinensis is found only in the Himalayan region of Nepal above 3800m. It is extremely high valued traditional medicine. It is created when a type of fungus parasites the larva of the Chongcao Bat. Moth and forms a fungus (larva) composite body. The larva forms a cocoon in the winter and hibernates in the ground. Because the fruiting body of the fungus emerges from the head of the larva in the summer time and trembles a grass sprout, this medicine's local name means roughly 'Yarcha Gunbu (winter caterpillar, summer grass)' TOCHYUKASOU in Japanese language meaning the same. It is the most valuable medicine for us. Poor renal function, renal injuries by chemicals, Chronic bronchitis, coughing, Regulating blood pressure (high or low), Asthma, allergic rhinitis, Anti-aging, weakness, Poor resistance of respiratory tract, Catching flue easily, Lowering raised blood lipid levels, strengthening the body's immunity, Poor function of lungs & kidneys, The declining of sex drive, Effective in to unifying arrhythmia, Treatment of Chronic Nephropathy, Chronic Nephritis and prevention of Nephralgia, Increasing the blood cells and protein for producing blood plasma, Strengthen the immune system of tumor patients who have received radiotherapy, Chemotherapy or operation. In short, this is 'Sanjivani' Life giving medicine.

- Rajesh Shrestha

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