Biodiversity / Plants
The altitude above which trees no longer grow varies with altitude, aspect, slope, and other factors, but is generally above 3600m in the western Himalaya. For high altitude animals, this is one of the most important zones. The vegetation is mostly in stunted form due to the extreme cold climate and is dominated by low shrubs, such as junipers, dwarf rhododendrons, bell heather, and stunted willows. Common herbaceous genera of alpine zone again include many introduced into gardens in the West: Primula, Leontopodium, Corydalis, Pleurospermum, Saussurea, and Senecio. Berginia and Sedum dominate the desert habitats between 3600-4200m.
Rocky outcrops and ridges are interspersed with grazing meadows, used by wild bharal. These areas are dominated by a luxuriant growth of Anemone, Thalictrum, Corydalis, and Arenaria. However, in places, heavy grazing by domestic sheep has led to the spread of weed species, such as docks, nettles and Impatiens. Their presence indicates the overgrazing in the area, as most of these plants only spread where the droppings of sheep and goats provide a nitrogen-filled medium for them.
For flower-lovers, May and September are probably the best time to visit GHNP. May is good for flowers at lower altitudes, and primulas dot the forest glades as the snow retreats. Trekking is arduous during the rainy season, but many rainy season flowers can still be seen in September, which is the best month to visit the alpine meadows. Whatever season you come, there will be something to interest the botanist. For those less interested in the details of the vegetation, it may be enough to experience the soaring forest trees: the great shafts of the firs, the wonderful spreading canopy of the oaks. This is an experience that now can be rarely seen in most of the unprotected Himalayas.