My trip to Himachal in September last year was a trip of many firsts — the first time I saw the mighty Himalayas, the first time my under-graduate and post-graduate classes on Himalayan Geology came alive, the first time I saw apples on trees, the first time I tasted a yellow plum, the first time I saw the confluence of two rivers … and so much more. It was also a trip where an old interest in the plant life around me got rekindled.
It started of slowly enough with the magnificent trees in the region grabbing my attention: the pines, the deodars, the fruit trees. Then it was the flowering shrubs that my attention shifted to, especially the wild rose plant that I thought was a pomegranate plant ! Go ahead and laugh. You have my permission 😛 Soon words like bryophytes, pteridophytes, angiosperms, gymnosperms, mycota… were floating around my head, dredged up from some corner of my brain, courtesy college-level Botany. And slowly, with each passing day, other plants came into focus, especially the non-flowering variety of ferns, mosses, lichens and fungi. (Strictly speaking fungi are not plants, but since they were considered to be part of the Plant Kingdom in the recent past, I have included them here.) And before I knew it, I was traversing the fascinating world of ferns, mosses, lichens, fungi… and then some more.
The Ferns… The Mosses… The Lichens… The Fungi… Then there were plants that were so unexpected (for me that is) that I just have to share them with you here.
And these teeny-tiny flowers that peeped out among the ferns, mosses, lichens and fungi… aren’t they beautiful, too? While I could identify which plant group a particular plant belonged to or did not belong to, I could never identify their specific names. And those that I have identified here is thanks to Sheila Tanna, one of my tour group members She was absolutely brilliant. I followed her around pestering her with questions and she answered each one of them patiently. At the Chail Wildlife Sanctuary, we lagged behind the rest of the group– we were so engrossed in examining each tree, each plant and delighting over the discoveries. Thank you, Sheila. You’re the best and I hope to travel again with you someday. 🙂
As I read what I have written, I realise that this blog post is a first of sorts — this is the first time I have written exclusively about plants. In a way, it was inevitable. One can’t spend time in a place like Himachal Pradesh and not notice the environment around, especially when it is a road trip and also when one is walking around to explore the place. When I travel to a new place, the first couple of days are always a sensory overload and Himachal Pradesh was no exception. Here rocks, mountains, people, food, architecture, plants, birds, weather, sights, smells… everything just came rushing in. And then slowly the strands separated for me to make my own connections and memories, and write about and share some of them here.
Like this post on plants. 🙂