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Wild Flowers in Tibet
Text and photographs by Xu Fengxiang and Zheng Weilie


    Desolate, out-of-the-way places rarely provide a home for luxuriant flowers, but the Tibetan Plateau is an exception. Here, flowers of many species and colors can be found in secluded valleys and on steep cliffs, adding a colorful beauty to the landscapes of the plateau.

    In twenty years of exploration and field investigation in Tibet, we often felt touched by the wild flowers, which show off their beauty and great vitality despite the harsh environment. It is our pleasure now to share our knowledge about them.

    The wild flowers in Tibet are scattered at different elevations and the varieties of ecotype can be attributed to the tremendous changes in landforms as a result of crustal movements. Some 40 million years ago, this area was a vast expanse of water. The Tibetan plateau did not reach 1,000 meters in elevation and the Himalayas did not top 2,000 meters until two million years ago, and since that time, the area has witnessed rapid and profound geological changes: the Tibetan plateau was elevated by another 3,500 meters, and Mount Qomolangma (Everest) reached a height of 8,848 meters.

    There are hundreds of species of wild flowers in Tibet, many of which are mountain flowers. According to incomplete statistics, Tibet is home to 190 kinds of rhododendron, 120 kinds of primrose, and 110 kinds of gentian. There are also many other flowers of economic value, such as Pedicularis (lousewort), Meconopsis (poppies), Corgdalis, and Impatiens.

    Because of the high elevation, the wild flowers in Tibet have late and short florescence. Except those growing in the low ravines, a third of the flowers blossom in the period from mid-spring through early summer and the rest blossom in midsummer.

    In mid-spring, the Tibetan peach trees blossom before their leaves stretch out, and if the florescence coincides with a snowfall, the blooming flowers in the shower of snowflakes create a captivating panorama. In early summer, colorful rhododendrons decorate the coniferous forests and high mountains, and in midsummer, Pedicularis (lousewort), Meconopsis (poppies), gentian, buttercup, and wild roses burst into bloom, composing dramatic pictures on the mountains and meadows.

    In the wilderness of Tibet one also finds medicinal plants such as Aconitum, Angelica, Lilium, Polygonum, Fritillaria, Co Donopsis pilosula, Rheum, Rhodiola, and Saussurea.

China Pictorial 2002-04



     
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