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Botany – Orchids, Rhododendron, Himalaya-Flora: Botany Travel

On the small area of only about 7‘000 square km Sikkim’s vegetation zones go from the tropical all the way to the alpine. Accordingly Sikkim hosts an extremely diverse flora and fauna on a very small area.

In the southern valleys of Sikkim tropical fruits like mango and pineapple are being grown. On the slopes of the subtropical and temperate zones rice, maize, buckwheat and finger millet are cultivated on terraced fields. Ginger, turmeric, mandarins and guava also grow here – and in the shade of lush forest thrives the black cardamom which is an important cash crop to the farmers. Higher up even in the sub-alpine zone farmers cultivate apple orchards, potato, barley and cabbage.

In fall bougainvillea in many colours and a seven-foot tall, bright red poinsettia-variety embellish the roadsides of Sikkim. The dense forests come with a great variety of lianas (philodendron), ferns, bamboos, mosses, orchids and lichens.

In the tropical and sub-tropical deciduous forests species include fig, laurel, banana, sal and bamboo while in temperate forests oak, chestnut, maple, birch, alder and magnolia are found. A wealth of different kinds of the elegant cobra lilies (Arisaema) are also encountered along the roads and in forests. At higher altitudes even forests are rich in varieties of rhododendron, pine, fir, juniper and cypress. In the alpine zone and beyond the tree line (12’800 ft/3900 m) one can find a great variety of Himalayan alpine flora such as gentians, primroses, dwarf rhododendron, anemones, blue poppy (Meconopsis) and at altitudes of 13’800 ft (4200 m) or higher even the unique tall-growing Himalayan rhubarb (Rheum nobile).

For good reason Sikkim is considered one of the world’s “biodiversity hot spots”: it is home to around 5000 species of plants: 515 species of orchids (Cymbidiums, Vandas, Cattlelyas, Dendrobiums, Hooheriana, Farmeri , etc.), around 60 varieties of primroses, 11 species of oak, 16 of conifer, 24 of bamboo, about 400 of fern, over 600 kinds of medicinal plants and over 500 species of trees! Sikkim is a true paradise for dendrologists, orchid lovers and rhododendron enthusiasts.

On prior notice and request we organize botanist travel in the footsteps of Dr. J.D. Hooker who studied Sikkim’s botany extensively in the mid-20th century. Such botany travels usually include excursions to the most remarkable botanical hot spots in the state. Such tours are accompanied by a local expert and enriched with excursions to nature reserves and visits to local orchid lovers as growers. Enough time is allowed for botanizing and photography along the way. In cooperation with local experts we also offer presentation, and slide shows on Sikkim’s fascinating flora & fauna.

Keywords used in this page Tags: Sikkim, India, Botany, Flora, Botany, Plant doctrine Phytology, botanist, rhododendrons, orchids, travel excursions, primulas, trees, dendrologie
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