We hope you have enjoyed the SRGC Forum. You can make a Paypal donation to the SRGC by clicking the above button

Author Topic: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012  (Read 42851 times)

alanelliott

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 195
  • Country: scotland
    • Flora of Nepal
Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« on: September 03, 2012, 03:09:30 PM »
From the 3nd of July to the 31st of July I was part of an international expedition exploring the flora of the Darchula district of Far West Nepal.  The expedition was organised and led by the Japanese Society of Himalayan Botany and consisted of six Japanese botanists from various Universities and research institutes in Japan, Dr Colin Pendry and myself from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and two Nepalese members of staff from the Nepalese Department of Plant Resources (DPR) who, like myself were to receive field skills training. The expedition was is part of the Flora of Nepal Project coordinated by the RBGE. All the specimen data, maps and the field images will (eventually) be freely available on www.floraofnepal.org and use the botanical locator link in the top right.

My part in the expedtion, as well as to recieve training, was to collect specimens for DNA analysis as part of my PhD project to investigate the biogeography of the Himalaya. I was reponsible for collectioning Ranunculaceae, Papaveraceae and Fabaceae. I am currently writing up the reports for the SRGC, who have yet again supported my studies. The SRGC library will recieve a written report with details of the expedition and a preliminary identification list of the the species that were collected. As well as this report for the library I am writing a version for the The Rock Garden.

As they will be a little while in the making and publishing I'll share some images of the landscape and some interesting plants. But I'll start with some statistics. We flew from Kathmandu to Dhanghadi at 80m above sea level (asl). Next day we were taken by Tata bus, basically a lorry with seats and no leg room, the 150km (90 miles) north to the start of the trek. The bus journey despite being a relatively short distance still took 13 hours. Our route was North up the Chamilaya Nadi. We walked for 8 days from our first camp in the school grounds at Dethala (730m asl) to reach Joge Tal our highest camp at 3800 asl about 65km (40 miles) to the North. We spent 4 nights at Joge Tal before retracing our steps.

This was a big expedtion consisting of 10 botanists, 10 sherpas, 1 sherpa leader, 1 cook, 5 kitchen staff, 65 porters. In total we collected 1178 herbarium specimens with 121 wood samples and 150 cytological samples.  Each herbarium specimen had seven duplicates made at the time of collecting. These were to distribute to various herbaria, unless they were CITES listed and in that case we collected two specimens for the two participating Nepalese institutes.



The image above is the view down on our highest camp at Joge Tal at 3800m. The camp was at the meeting three glaciers below the highest peak in the area Api at 7132m althought what you can see is the slightly lower second peak at 7076m.



The above image is the beautiful floriferous grazed pasture of the Joge Tal. We collected upwards of 40 species of flowering plants. At places the vegetations was easily 60cm-1m tall which is amazing for a grazed pasture. The regime was obviously just at the right level to keep the woody vegetation in check but not heavy enough to allow grasses to become dominant.



Above is one of the many bridges that fell into the category of 'Things not to tell your mother'. This particular bridge was made from Rhododendron arboreum stems woven together and with a covering of mud and was actually sturdier than it looked!



Cypripedium himalaicum growing at 4000m on the lateral moraine of the glacier coming down from the mountain of Bobaye east of Api.



Above is Silene nigrescens growing on top of the Bobaye glacier at about 4100m. We spent about an two hours collecting the plant community that was growing on top the glacier.



Finially today we have Saussurea obvallata this was growing to the east of the glacier about 4300m. We could smell the synthetic soapy citrus scent of the two flowering plants a good 500m away well before we spotted them.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2012, 08:49:11 PM by alanelliott »
Living Collection Researcher at the Botanics
Twitter: @alan_elliott

Maggi Young

  • Forum Dogsbody
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 43967
  • Country: scotland
  • "There's often a clue"
    • International Rock Gardener e-magazine
Re: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2012, 03:51:59 PM »
Super to see this, Alan - I have edited your post to show the photos full size.
Margaret Young in Aberdeen, North East Scotland Zone 7 -ish!

Editor: International Rock Gardener e-magazine

Brian Ellis

  • Brian the Britisher
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5196
  • Country: england
  • 'Dropoholic
Re: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2012, 03:57:59 PM »
Wonderful Alan, thanks for sharing this and I look forward to seeing more from the expedition.
Cheers ;D
Brian Ellis, Brooke, Norfolk UK. altitude 30m Mintemp -8C

Casalima

  • Not lost in translation
  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 465
  • Country: pt
Re: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2012, 10:54:13 PM »
Absolutely wonderfulo
Wonderful Alan, thanks for sharing this and I look forward to seeing more from the expedition.
Exactly what I was about to write!!!
Chloe, Ponte de Lima, North Portugal, zone 9+

alanelliott

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 195
  • Country: scotland
    • Flora of Nepal
Re: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2012, 02:14:56 PM »
Today I am going to start with a bit of egg sucking. First we have a map of Nepal with Kathmandu, Dhungadhi and Darchula District highlighted. The second map shows the camps we stayed a rough relief map and the heights of the camps and the mountains Api and Bobaye.





I’m sure most people will have a fair idea where Kathmandu is but Dhunghadi is rather off the beaten track. So to paraphrase Alec Guinness in Star Wars: “Dhungahdi. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Perhaps a bit harsh but it does have the feel of the Wild West. The airport is basic and run down, although it appears to be getting a car park. There is still evidence of the Far West’s recent troubled past with bunkers, trenches and barbed wire defences. Although nature is now taking it all back.  The following day we drove past a smaller airstrip near Gokuleshwor about an hour drive SW from Dethala. It had obviously been on the recieving end of a severe bombing. The control tower and landing strip were wrecked the whole thing had been bombed out of use presumably because the former Government did want it in controlled by the Maoists.

There are no commercial treks that go up to Api the way we did. So we camped when we found enough flat ground and this meant some days were relatively long compared to others. One of the most interesting camps we were at was a police check point above the Bitale hydroelectric dam construction site. To cross the dam there is a temporary scaffolding walkway that is bolted to the cliff to get you past the edge of the dam. When we got over it and in to the check point we found out that two folk had died 11 days earlier, killed by loose rocks falling on them while on the walkway. Sitting in camp we continually heard the ping of stone on metal and we'd watch the locals would run across it as fast as they could go, no matter their age.





If like Monty Don you are not a fan of Arisaema, apologies, but I am. I was first introduced to Arisaema when I was a student volunteer at Branklyn Garden in Perth by Boyd Barr. When I ended up at the RBGE I was fascinated by the distribution patterns within the genus. One of the first biogeography papers I read was on Arisaema and how with fossil evidence and molecular dating they estimated the divergence of the American species from the related Asian species. The timing suggested that the genus, like others, made use of the Bering land bridge. That blew my mind. That it was possible to do such a thing and as a result of that paper the analysis technique is something I am going to make use of in my PhD study and I’ll talk more about that another day.



Firstly there was Arisaema tortuosum. This species was fairly common but not abundant. It occurred from 800m right up to about 3000m. There was a fair amount of variation in the colour in spathe and sapdix and leaflet width. All inflorescence had the distinct smell of mushrooms found in this species. This species was generally found in shaded, rocky ground and especially growing out of dry stone dykes around villages.



Arisaema tortusoum was replaced as the common species in the valley by Arisaema jacquemontii above 2800m found as high as 4000m on the lateral moraines of the Bobaye glacier. Again found growing in amongst rocks but this time in open situations like boulder screes in the forest and in the grazed pasture near Joge Tal.  The wicked looking impliment next to the plant is imaginatively called a "digger" a useful tool for gouging out bulbous plants and sawing and hacking through woody roots.





Next up is Arisaema flavum. Much more restricted and only seen a  couple of times. This species is a particular favourite of mine, I think because it is the least sinister looking of the genus. This collection was just beyond Khayekot at 2100m in the forest, growing on a ledge at the base of a cliff. The Japanese also collected it at 2200m, on an open grassy hillside between Lithi and Khayekot. That collection was much taller approaching 1m and very robust, probably due to nutrition more than anything else.



Finally we have Arisaema utile and a gorgeous beast in my opinion. It was growing in truly remarkable mixed forest types north of Kayekot. The different types graded into one another and contained: Abies spectabilis, Acer campbellii, Alnus nepalensis, Betula utilis, Euonymus porphyreus, Rhododendron arboretum, Rhododendron campanulatum, Rhododendron barbatum, Sorbus cuspidata, Syringia emodi, Taxus wallichiana, Tsuga dumosa.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2012, 03:49:59 PM by alanelliott »
Living Collection Researcher at the Botanics
Twitter: @alan_elliott

Brian Ellis

  • Brian the Britisher
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5196
  • Country: england
  • 'Dropoholic
Re: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2012, 02:35:58 PM »
Goodness, Arisaema utile really is lovely Alan.  Beautiful markings on it too.
Brian Ellis, Brooke, Norfolk UK. altitude 30m Mintemp -8C

Pauli

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 466
  • Country: at
Re: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2012, 05:46:32 PM »
Beautiful photos!

I think the slipper in the first series is C. himalaiacum
Herbert,
in Linz, Austria

ranunculus

  • utterly butterly
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5069
  • Country: england
  • ALL BUTTER AND LARD
Re: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2012, 05:52:59 PM »
Superb report ... can't wait for more please!
Cliff Booker
Behind a camera in Whitworth. Lancashire. England.

alanelliott

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 195
  • Country: scotland
    • Flora of Nepal
Re: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2012, 08:29:58 PM »
Today I’m going to say a little about the collecting practices from the expedition. At the start of the trip each of us was assigned a set of families or groups of plants to collect. Each collection ideally had seven duplicates made at the same time, unless as I said earlier it was CITES listed and in the case there were only two duplicated made to say in Nepal. The idea being that it reduces duplication of collection. If everyone sees the same nice Primula, everyone collected the same nice Primula and at the end of the day there are 70 sheets of the plant.

The Japanese numbering system is fairly unusual. For example my first collection was given the number 1217001. Breaking down the number: 12 is the year of collection, 1 is first collection trip of the Society of Himalayan Botany this year, 7 is my personal number and the one that identifies the collection as mine and 001 is the first of my sequential numbers.


Everyone strung out collecting.

Each time we made a collection we recorded basic information in our personal field books. We’d note down the collection number, a name (if you knew it), the date, altitude and GPS coordinates, locality information, and basic habitat information. Finally, a description of any features of the plant that might be lost when pressed and dried: things like overall height of the plant, largest and smallest leaf and/or leaflet, flower colour, colour of anthers, filaments and stigma etc. It is amazing what’s lost on a herbarium sheet and how plants change once dry and crispy. The plant was also photographed in as much detail as you could manage so that there are associated field images to allow future researchers to see things that might be lost in the taking of the specimen.


Anemone polyanthes

My images field images are not always the greatest. Taking picture in the pouring rain under an umbrella in dense forest doesn’t always lend itself to artistic quality images. Also my aging DSLR is not great at macro shots and with hindsight I wish I’d taken a small compact camera to do those, but hey-ho.


Collecting Loranthaceae was interesting you can't press it normally because they just fall to bits. The trick is to put the plant in a sealed plastic bag with alcohol for 20min. The alcohol kills it and the plant and it stays together.

We each had a Sherpa field assistance and without their help the trip would not have been anywhere near as successful. My assistant was a guy called Myce, very funny, intelligent and genuinely interested the work. Myce and the others had the eyes of a hawk. When we’d come across a plant we’d want to collected one quick look at it and they’d be off scouting about nearby to find enough material for the seven duplicates. While looking for the material for the duplicates they’d often reappear with another species as well or at times see something we’d missed.

The specimens would be put into folded newspaper with the collection number written on the bottom right of the sheet, and then placed inside a field press. The Japanese field press is just two rigid bits of plastic with a belt with a plastic clip to keep it tightly shut.
Once we got to camp we’d process the specimens before drying. This meant tidying up the plants from the field press making things like the front and back of leaves were visible and that the flowers were open so the fertile parts were visible. As we processed the specimens we’d take a little bit of leaf material, about the size of a penny, from each collection and place it in a “teabag” and it looks exactly like one. All of the teabags were placed into boxes full of silica gel with a good sealable lid to dry.

The processed specimens would then be given to the some of the crew responsible for drying the specimens. They’d make large bundles and then put them over kerosene stoves and dry them for three hours. Next morning at 6 am, with a cup of tea, we’d check to make sure that each and every specimen was dry before they’d be bundled up and stored. If they were still damp they’d be put back in.




Most evenings Dr Colin Pendry and I would enter our field data straight into Padme the Flora of Nepal database, which we brought with us on a laptop, and Colin helped the Nepalese botanists input their data. The Japanese compiled their own spreadsheets and their data will be imported into the Flora of Nepal database at some point in the near future once its error checked. The laptop was also useful for having somewhere to back up images. We were able to take a laptop because the expedition had a generator, this let us have a few hours of light in the mess tent each evening, work on the laptop and charge cameras. It also allowed the trek crew to keep their mobile phones charged.


Specimen sorting

Once back in Kathmandu we took over the top floor of the Tibet Guest House and spent three days dividing the c.8000 sheets from the 1178 collections. The seven duplicate sets are for Tokyo University Herbarium (TI), Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (E), The Nepalese National Herbarium at Godovari (DPR), Tribhuvan University Herbarium (TU), one set was to be divided up so specialists on specific groups would get a set of a specific genera, for example Corydalis for Magnus Lidén at Uppsala (U). The other two sets the Japanese were deciding who would get them.


Nice view though
« Last Edit: September 05, 2012, 08:50:13 PM by alanelliott »
Living Collection Researcher at the Botanics
Twitter: @alan_elliott

alanelliott

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 195
  • Country: scotland
    • Flora of Nepal
Re: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2012, 08:42:31 PM »
Beautiful photos!

I think the slipper in the first series is C. himalaiacum

I took the ident from the Nepalese botanist collecting them. I am happy to "crowd source" identifications.
Thanks!
Living Collection Researcher at the Botanics
Twitter: @alan_elliott

Afloden

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 454
  • Country: us
  • why not ask him..... he'll know !
Re: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2012, 01:18:52 PM »
Somewhere I'll need to go for my own work, but did you get any Polygonatum images? I'll have to be more to the east near Sikkim and into Bhutan.

Very cool so far.

Missouri, at the northeast edge of the Ozark Plateau

alanelliott

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 195
  • Country: scotland
    • Flora of Nepal
Re: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2012, 02:53:00 PM »
Somewhere I'll need to go for my own work, but did you get any Polygonatum images? I'll have to be more to the east near Sikkim and into Bhutan.

Very cool so far.

Sorry didnt take any images of Polygonatum. We did collect 5 species, the only one with a field ident was P. recumbens. The Japanese Botanist Yonukura-san collected and imaged all those. We did collect a fair amount of extra rhizome of one species to fry up and eat one night - but thats no help.

Al
Living Collection Researcher at the Botanics
Twitter: @alan_elliott

alanelliott

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 195
  • Country: scotland
    • Flora of Nepal
Re: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2012, 03:45:35 PM »
One thing that struck me between Bhutan and the far west of Nepal was the lack of large massed populations of Primula that so often have that wow factor. When I was in Bhutan in 2009 there were huge swathes of Primula sikkimensis or at least large numbers of a species that occurred in over a large area. It was completely different in Darchula.



I found a small population of Primula floribunda growing in a vertical wet rock face under a waterfall at about 900m, after heeding nature as you might say. As an aside quite often some of the most interesting plants and views were found/discovered after a “pitstop”.



Primula munroi was only found in flower a couple of times up near the Bobaye glacier often as individual plants in the lee of boulders and never as sizable population. Another Primula species in the same boat was Primula macrophylla but I didnt see it in flower only fruit although a flowering specimen was collected by Colin.


Primula reptans


Primula elliptica maybe

In the short alpine turf about 4300m on the edge of a wee snow filled gully there were a fair number of two species of Primula growing together. Firstly Primula reptans and tentatively the second is Primula elliptica. I say tentatively because it will be a new species records for Nepal if it is - it Keyed out in John Richard's Primulas and is pretty close to herbarium material from N.W. India and Pakistan. These were the last two pictures I took that day before falling unwell.
 


I had a raging fever and the whole walk down is fairly blurry.  I remember bits, like Myce picking the best line for me to walk and stumble down the hill and stopping to remove layers. The bridge (this picture taken as we left camp that morning with Myce in shot) is where my legs gave up and I collapsed in an undignified heap. Myce, the legend that he is, must have dragged me across because I don’t remember. I spent the next days and a half on my back in my tent. 



Crucihimalaya himalaica we found growing all through the sandy rocky edge to the river’s flood plain up at Jage Tal. You might know this better as an Arabadopsis but molecular evidence has placed this and a number of other species from the Himalaya and SW China in a new genus.



I always like seeing plants I know from Scotland like Oxyria digyna a relative of Rumex. I’ve only seen this on Mull, where it was a much more vigorous plant, but it is a good example one of the many circumboreal plants that occur around the northern hemisphere and into the Himalaya. This floristic link in one I will be investigating in my project using molecular techniques.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2012, 04:26:10 PM by alanelliott »
Living Collection Researcher at the Botanics
Twitter: @alan_elliott

ranunculus

  • utterly butterly
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5069
  • Country: england
  • ALL BUTTER AND LARD
Re: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« Reply #13 on: September 10, 2012, 04:23:58 PM »
Another superb report, Alan - many, many thanks.

You reminded me that I was once privileged to grow (and exhibit) a large pan of Primula reptans in full flower at Southport AGS Show but, like everyone else in the UK (unless you know different), subsequently lost it over the following three or four years.  A very tiny, but beautiful creeping moss-like species that honoured us with it's immaculate presence for such a fleeting but glorious period.
Cliff Booker
Behind a camera in Whitworth. Lancashire. England.

Botanica

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 247
  • Country: fr
Re: Darchula District Far West Nepal 2012
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2012, 06:12:06 PM »
Extraordinary adventure  :o

You have realize one of my dreams ! So cool.  8)

I hope you make many other personnal photo of Landscape and plants of course.

Good continuation and see you soon.

 


Scottish Rock Garden Club is a Charity registered with Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR): SC000942
SimplePortal 2.3.5 © 2008-2012, SimplePortal