Valley of Flowers National Park
Valley of Flowers National Park is an Indian national park, located in West Himalaya, in the state of Uttarakhand and is known for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers and the variety of flora. This richly diverse area is also home to rare and endangered animals, including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, musk deer, brown bear, red fox, and blue sheep. Birds found in the park include Himalayan monal pheasant and other high altitude birds. At 3352 to 3658 meters above sea level, the gentle landscape of the Valley of Flowers National Park complements the rugged mountain wilderness of Nanda Devi National Park to the east. Together, they encompass a unique transition zone between the mountain ranges of the Zanskar and Great Himalaya. The park stretches over an expanse of 87.50 km2 and it is about 8 km long and 2 km wide. Both parks are encompassed in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (223,674 ha) which is further surrounded by a buffer zone (5,148.57 km2). This Reserve is in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2004.
The place was little known to outside world due its inaccessibility. In 1931, Frank S. Smythe, Eric Shipton and R.L. Holdsworth, all British mountaineers, lost their way while returning from a successful expedition to Mt.Kamet and happened upon the valley, which was full of flowers. They were attracted to the beauty of the area and named it the “Valley of Flowers.” Frank Smythe later authored a book of the same name.
In 1939, Joan Margaret Legge,(21 February 1885 – 4 July 1939) a botanist deputed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, arrived at the valley to study flowers and while traversing some rocky slopes to collect flowers, she slipped off and lost her life. Her sister later visited the valley and erected a memorial near the spot.
Prof. Chandra Prakash Kala, a botanist deputed by the Wildlife Institute of India, carried out a research study on the floristics and conservation of the valley for a decade, beginning in 1993. He made an inventory of 520 alpine plants exclusively growing in this national park and authored two important books – “The Valley of Flowers – Myth and Reality” and “Ecology and Conservation of the Valley of Flowers National Park, Garhwal Himalaya.
The Valley of Flowers is a high-altitude Himalayan valley that has long been acknowledged by renowned mountaineers, botanists, and in literature. It has been recognized internationally for over a century and is referenced in the Hindu religion. Local people have visited the valley since ancient times. Indian yogis (Yogesh Mota) are known to have visited the valley for meditation. The Valley of Flowers has many different colourful flowers, taking on various shades of colours as time progressed. The valley was declared a national park in 1982 and now it is a World Heritage Site.
The Valley of Flowers has gained importance as a region containing a diversity of alpine flora, representative of the Western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows ecoregion. The rich diversity of species reflects the valley’s location within a transition zone between the Zanskar and Great Himalayas ranges to the north and south, respectively, and between the Eastern Himalaya and Western Himalaya flora. A number of plant species are considered threatened. Several have not been recorded outside of Uttarakhand. Two have not been recorded in Nanda Devi National Park. The diversity of threatened species of medicinal plants is higher than has been recorded in other Indian Himalayan protected areas. The entire Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve lies within the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA). The Valley of Flowers National Park is the second core zone of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Seven restricted-range bird species are endemic to this part of the EBA
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