Diverse and Exotic !
Kashmir is rich in the cultural diversity of the people, as well as diversity of flora and fauna in the forest areas, and domesticated species outside the forest. Plant diversity is the life support of almost all terrestrial eco-systems, with both humans and animals being entirely dependent on plants directly or indirectly.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir has a fairly rich diversity of plant life, and on this the people depend for their daily needs of food, medicine, fuel, fiber, etc. The varied plant life also contributes to the food and habitat needs of the wild and domesticated animals in the state. Plants are also an integral part of the social fabric of the state. The environmental, social and economic values of plants are very well known. On the other hand, the faunal component of the bio-diversity of the state is rich, with interesting and unique forms both in the forest zones and above the forest-line. The variety of animal forms ranges from higher groups like vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and lower groups like invertebrates including insects and even unicellular micro-organisms.
The flora of Himalayan Kashmir comprises about 3,054 species. About 880 species are found in Ladakh. The flora of the Jammu district comprises 506 species. These figures include only the angiosperms, gymnosperms and pteridophytes. The species lists of different districts are being continually updated in taxonomic publications. The lower plants like fungi and algae have not been studied exhaustively; information on the micro-flora of isolated regions is available for some plant orders and families only. The plants of the western Himalayas are well known for their medicinal properties.
This area is a storehouse of medicinal and aromatic plants, which are used in pharmaceutical and perfume industries. The list includes 55 species of important medicinal and aromatic plants. There are 11 medicinal plants in the temperate, cold, arid regions of Jammu and Kashmir. Several medicinal plants grow wild in the temperate and alpine habitats. Some native medicinal plants have been taken up for cultivation, e.g. Dioscorea deltoidea is now cultivated for its tubers which are rich in diosgenin and yield cortisone, a steroid hormone.
Locally called “The Booune” in the Kashmiri language, Chinar tree holds a special place in Kashmiri civilization. Almost every village in the valley has a Chinar tree. You can experience a cool breeze under the shadow of this majestic tree which is very conducive to health.
It is unfortunate that in recent years the number of Chinar trees is decreasing. It is no wonder that if the present trend continues, the day is not far-off when the tree will see its extinction from the land of Kashmir. However, it is heartening to note the government is making its honest best to stop the illegal felling of this great tree of Kashmir.
Chinar is a gigantic sized tree, found growing throughout valley. Its scientific name is platanus orientalis. Its family is plataneae. A deciduous tree, Chinar traces its origin to Greece. Its incredible beauty has to be seen to be believed. The tree is at its most elegance and exuberance during autumn. Though its majesty can be seen all through the year. Iqbal, the poet of the East, traces the warmth of the Kashmir soil to the “blaze of Chinars it nurses in its bosom”.
Chinar grows up to a height of 25 meters and a girth exceeding 50 feet in certain cases. This tree with the largest circumference of 60 feet is located at a village named Chattergam in central Kashmir.
These days conscious efforts are being made to undertake plantation of this tree to other states. The tree has been successfully planted in New Delhi, Chandigarh, Dehradun and Meerut. But the size and girth attained in these places are no parallel to those of the tree in Kashmir valley.
The fauna of Jammu and Kashmir is diverse due to its unique location and climatic condition. About 16% of the Indian mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies are presented in the state. Birds contribute much to the chordate diversity following by mammals, reptiles, fishes and amphibians. The state is home to about 75 species of mammals, besides several sub-species, belonging to 54 genera, 21 families and 8 orders. Carnivores represent 32% of the total mammalian fauna in the state. Of the 19 species of the ungulates reported from the state, 13 have been listed as globally threatened.
The avian diversity of the state varies seasonally and available data suggests the existence of as many as 358 species of birds belonging to 179 genera, 51 families under 16 orders. The state is home to 14 species of amphibians belonging to 6 genera, 5 families and 1 order, and 68 species of reptiles belonging to 43 genera, 12 families and 2 orders. The available data suggests that 44 species of fishes belonging to 14 genera under 5 families occur in the state. The available data also reveals that as many as 225 species of insects, besides several sub-species, belonging to 136 genera, 35 families and 4 orders occur in the state.
Jammu and Kashmir is home to number of species that are listed as endangered like the Kashmiri stag called ‘Hangul’ and snow leopard that has survived here from times unknown. You can see many more fascinating and exquisite forms of life in the many national parks and sanctuaries that are here in the state.
Dachigam National Park
Dachigam National Park is situated around 22 km away from Srinagar and covers an area of more than 141-sq. km. Located amidst the mountains, there is a huge variation in the altitude of the park that ranges from 1600 m to 4200m above sea level. Due to this difference, the park is divided into two regions, the upper region and the lower region. The park is without a doubt the most scenic of all the parks in the state. The animal for which the park is most famous is the endangered species Hangul, the Kashmiri stag. Other animal species that you will see in the park are Musk deer, Brown Bear, Leopards, Jungle Cats and many more. The park is also home to numerous rare and splendid looking birds like Black Bulbuls, Cinnamon sparrows, Himalayan Monals and Kashmir Flycatcher. There is accommodation available inside the park as well.
This is a park that is rich in everything, right from flora and fauna to avi-fauna. Gulmarg Biosphere is located at a distance of 48 km from Srinagar and covers an area of 180 sq. km. The park has acquired fame because it has been able to protect most of the animals that are found here, which are Musk Deer, Hangul, Brown Bear, Leopard and Black Bear. Most of the park is covered in forest consisting mainly of Conifers. The common birds that you will see here are Griffon Vulture, Monal, Koklas, European Hoopoe and many more. Best time to come here is between September and March for mammals and March to May for birds.