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