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The flower that paints Himachal red and pink

Friday April 01, 2011 10:04:55 AM, Vishal Gulati, IANS

Shimla: The hills have turned a flaming red and pink as spring is in the air. The rhododendrons are busy blooming - the first among the floral species in the wild to do so as the chill thaws in Himachal Pradesh.

 

"The flowers start appearing during March and will bloom till June depending upon the elevation at which the plant is grown," Vinay Tandon, principal chief conservator of forests, told IANS.

He said only two varieties of the flower - rhododendron arboretum and rhododendron campanulatum - are found in the state.

The former, found at an altitude of 6,000 ft to 8,000 ft, bears deep red flowers, while the latter, found at an altitude ranging from 8,000 ft to 11,000 ft, yields pink flowers.

He said most hills in Shimla, Mandi, Kullu and Kangra districts wear a red and pink mantle these days. "The entire Kangra Valley has turned red, whereas Ani in Kullu district is pinkish."

Since the flowers with multiple medicinal and therapeutic properties are highly sought after, the locals used these for making jam, squashes and jellies.

They believe the flowers, known as buras locally, help in heart ailments and controlling blood pressure.

Said Harbans Singh of Baijnath in Kangra district: "The locals are collecting the flowers. After drying them, they are used for making jams and squashes. They are used during worshipping also."

To beautify the 'Queen of Hill', as Shimla was fondly called by the British, the Britons had planted red rhododendron flowers in Jakhu, Tara Devi, Summer Hill, Chowra Maidan and Boileauganj. These plants are still blooming.

However, the forest department in 2007 introduced other varieties like rhododendron grifithianum, rhododendron grande and rhododendron dalhousiae. These varieties were brought from Darjeeling and will bloom flowers in pink, yellow and cream.

R.K. Raj, the then divisional forest official when these new varieties were planted, said the first flush in the new plantation would come in the next two years.

He said 5,000 rhododendron plants were planted at various locations in Shimla under the Green Shimla project.

However, the pink rhododendron species has been fast declining in the Himalayas as it's a slow-growing shrubby tree. It's listed in the Red Data Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a compendium of species facing extinction.

Its distribution stretches from Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand through Nepal to the eastern states like Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh as well as Darjeeling.

To prevent its extinction, the state in 2007 declared it as state flower.

Tandon said the state flower status has helped creating awareness about this endangered species.



(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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