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,