When we talk about protected areas like national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India, the only thing comes to our mind is the wild animals roaming free under full protection. We always think that the protected area has been created to protect some highly endangered species of wild animal and it is true, most of the National Parks and sanctuaries are created keeping in mind the conservation value of the wild animals found within its boundary. But on the contrary, there are few protected areas created purposefully for the conservation of highly endangered and endemic species of flora. These protected areas are mostly found in the hot spots of biodiversity where increasing anthropogenic pressure on natural resources send these species on the verge of extinction. Protection by creating national parks and sanctuaries helped them to survive and keep contributing to the ecosystem services for mankind.
Valley of Flowers National Park
Species focus: Various species of flowering plants
Valley of Flowers National Park was established in 1982 to protect the floral wealth of the region and contribute to conservation of flowering plants in India. The credit for the discovery of this beautiful valley goes to British Mountaineer, Frank Smythe, who was not only a botanist but also an adventurer and played a significant role in conservation of flowering plants in India. His explorations, first in 1931 and later in 1937, have given international recognition to the valley, emphasizing the importance of conservation of flowering plants in India.
When the valley started getting attention from ecologists and botanists from around the world, the state government decided to declare it as a national park to protect the flora and fauna of the region, further promoting the cause of conservation of flowering plants in India.
The Valley of Flowers National Park is situated in the remote corner of Garhwal Himalayas and is known for its diversity of flora, contributing significantly to conservation of flowering plants in India. It constitutes over 520 species of high-altitude vascular plants, of which 31 are rare and endangered, including 13 medicinal plants, further underscoring the importance of conservation of flowering plants in India. There are three major vegetation zones in the park: temperate, sub-alpine, and alpine, each unique and contributing to conservation of flowering plants in India with their distinct flora and fauna.
Apart from flowering plants, this park is also a good habitat for high-altitude wildlife, showcasing the interconnectedness of flower conservation and wildlife preservation in India. The major species of birds and animals found in this park include the Snow leopard, common leopard, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan musk deer, Himalayan tahr, Himalayan griffon, Yellow-rumped honeyguide, Pipits, rosefinches, spotted bush warbler, and many more, all of which play a vital role in the ecosystem and contribute to conservation of flowering plants in India.
The park is open for visitors but only trekking is allowed, which is a moderate to tough type of trek due to high altitude and steep hikes.
Best time to Visit: August & September months are best when snow has been melted already and most of the plants are in full bloom.
Shirui National Park
Species focus: Shirui Lily (Lillium mackliniae)
Shiroi or Shirui National Park is located in the Shiroi hills in Ukhrul district of Manipur state of north-east India. The area was declared a national park in the year 1982 to protect a species of Lily known as Shirui lily (Lillium mackliniae) found only here. This lily is the state flower of Manipur and always on high priority for the conservation. There is a very interesting local lore on the discovery of this flower. This flower was discovered by a British Botanist in 1940s when a team was searching for an RAF plane which was crash landed on the hill slope.
The forest is not only home to this lily but also have species like Hoolock gibbon, stump tailed macaque, slow loris, clouded leopard, common leopard, Indian wild dog and occasional tiger and gaur are also reported form here. Among the birds the park is known for Mrs. Hume’s pheasant, rufous necked hornbill and western tragopan.
Most part of the Shiroi hills is denuded of the forest cover due to Jhum cultivation which is a type of shifting cultivation. Subtropical broad leaf forests are still found on hill slopes and grasses and shrubs are on top.
Trekking is the only way to visit this park and a trek to the top of the hill is a great hike especially during the lily season and it will take four hours.
Best time to visit: best month to visit is from April to June which is the peak lily season.
Kurinjimala Wildlife Sanctuary
Conservation focus: Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana)
Kurinjimala Wildlife Sanctuary, located in the southern state of India, Kerala, was notified on 6th October 2006. The sanctuary was declared primarily for the long-term conservation of Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana), a vibrant blue bell-shaped flower that blooms once in 12 years and is endemic to a small stretch of shola forests in the Western Ghats, from Mangaldevi hills to Nilgiri hills. Because of the vivid blue color of the Neelakurinji flowers, the hills in the region are aptly called Nilgiri (Nil meaning blue). This sanctuary, covering an area of 32 sq. km. with an altitude ranging between 1600 – 2400 m, is an essential hub for conservation of flowering plants in India.
The Kurinji Wildlife Sanctuary is intricately connected to Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in the north, Anamalai Tiger Reserve to the northeast, Anamudi Shola National Park to the south, and Palni hills to the east. It is an integral part of the biodiversity hotspot of the Western Ghats and is renowned for its rich animal diversity. In addition to being a sanctuary for Neelakurinji, the sanctuary also plays a vital role in conservation of flowering plants in India.
The first-ever bird survey conducted in 2012 in this sanctuary recorded 51 species of birds, further highlighting its significance in the realm of flower and wildlife conservation. The endemic Nilgiri pipit thrives in the grasslands of the sanctuary, while the Palni laughingthrush is commonly found in the shola, shrubs, and edges of the grassland. The sanctuary is also home to other rare bird species like the black and orange flycatcher and olive-backed pipit, emphasizing its dual role in flower and bird conservation in India.
In addition to its floral and avian treasures, the sanctuary hosts a diverse range of mammals, including elephants, leopards, Indian gaur, wild dogs, sambar deer, Malabar giant squirrels, and Nilgiri langurs, further underscoring its importance in the broader context of wildlife and conservation of flowering plants in India.
Best time to visit: Neelkurinji flower blooms once every twelve years and next cycle of blooming is 2030. The blooming season starts in August and ends in November, while the peak blooming period will be September and October.
Sessa Orchid Sanctuary
Conservation focus: Several species of orchids
Sessa Orchid Sanctuary is a 100 sq. kms. Sanctuary situated in the Eastern Himalayan state of India, Arunachal Pradesh. The Eaglenest sanctuary is adjacent to it and both were notified as a protected area in the year 1989. The Kameng river and its tributaries drain the area. The sanctuary has high habitat diversity due to altitudinal variations which ranges from less than 900m to 3000m. from tropical evergreen and semi-evergreen forest to broad leaf subtropical forests, coniferous subtropical forests, broadleaf temperate forests, and coniferous temperate forests the high habitat diversity leads to high species diversity.
The sanctuary is known for 183 species of orchids, of these, 144 are epiphytes and 39 terrestrials including 6 saprophytic. The sanctuary is unique in having 7 endemic species of saprophytic orchid. The tropical and sub-tropical climate with annual rainfall from 2000 mm to >3000 mm makes it a perfect habitat for the orchids and other tropical and sub-tropical flora and fauna.
The total bird species with adjacent Eaglenest sanctuary is more than 500 species. Blyth’s tragopan, Rufous necked hornbill and beautiful nuthatch are vulnerable species of birds found in the sanctuary. The restricted range species are Hoary-throated barwing, beautiful sibia and white-naped yuhina have also been reported from this sanctuary.
The notable mega fauna in the sanctuary are Asian elephants, capped langur, Indian gaur, red panda, marbled cat, golden cat and clouded leopard.
Best time to visit: The best time to visit the sanctuary is from October to April when rainfall is low compared to Monsoon months.
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Baghmara Pitcher Plant Sanctuary
Conservation focus: Khasi Pitcher plant (Nepanthes khasiana)
The Baghmara Pitcher plant sanctuary is a small sanctuary of 0.027 sq. km. but is a part of a big complex known as Balpakram which includes three protected areas namely Balpakram National Park and Siju wildlife sanctuary with reserve forests and community owned unclassified forest. The sanctuary was notified in the year 1984 for the conservation of highly endangered and endemic species of a carnivorous plant known as Khasi Pitcher plant (Nepanthes khasiana), named after the hill and tribal community lives in the region, contributing to conservation of flowering plants in India.
The pitcher plant has modified leaves that take the shape of a pitcher with a lid. When any insect enters, it gets trapped when the lid closes, and then a digestive fluid inside the pitcher drowns the insect and dissolves its body, then absorbing the required nutrients from it, further emphasizing its significance in conservation of flowering plants in India.
Apart from the pitcher plants, the complex is known for its avian diversity, with about 320 species reported from here. The complex falls in the Eastern Himalayan Endemic bird area and is represented by species like Mountain Bamboo partridge, white-cheeked partridge, grey peacock pheasant, grey sibia, striated bulbul, slaty-bellied tesia, etc. This avian diversity also plays a crucial role in conservation of flowering plants in India.
The complex is also under the migratory route of Amur falcon, which is a passage migrant in the area, contributing to the understanding of bird migration and its impact on conservation of flowering plants in India.
The complex is extremely rich in terms of mega fauna, which includes Tiger, Asian elephant, Wild dog, Asiatic black bear, Indian gaur, barking deer, golden cat, marbled cat, sun bear, and clouded leopard. The primate diversity of the complex is compared to only a few areas of the north-east, comprising Hoolock Gibbon, Bengal slow loris, Assamese macaque, pig-tailed macaque, stump-tailed macaque, capped langur, and rhesus macaque, further highlighting the importance of this complex in the broader context of conservation of flowering plants in India.
Best time to visit: November to April is the best time to visit.
Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary
Conservation focus: Several species of rhododendron
Eastern Himalayas are famous for the diversity of Rhododendron and Sikkim state of India is known for its conservation. Rhododendron is a genus of about 1000 species of woody flowering plants. They are known for their beautiful flowers which blooms together create a mesmerizing view in the mountain. In India there are 80 species, 25 subspecies and 27 varieties of rhododendron is found. They are either a small tree or a bushy shrub.
To protect this natural wealth, government of Sikkim has created Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary which covers around 104 sq. kms area between Khangchendzonga National Park and Singalila National Park. Due to its location in wet and cold climate of Eastern Himalayas, this national park harbors some pure strands of Rhododendron and a variety of orchids, ferns, mosses and lichens.
The sanctuary is also a paradise for birdwatchers and species like Rufous sibia, White-browed Tit-Babbler, Ashy-throated warbler, rufous bellied niltava are reported from here.
Mammals found in this sanctuary includes, leopard, clouded leopard, spotted linsang, yellow throated marten, goral, Himalayan black bear and red panda.
Best time to visit: Between April and May when Rhododendron is in full bloom.
Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary
Conservation focus: Rhododendron (Rhododendron niveum)
This sanctuary in Sikkim is home to Rhododendron niveum, the state tree, endemic to the eastern Himalayas. This species of Rhododendron can easily be distinguished from other species by its purple or blue flowers and the snow-white undersurface of the leaves. The tree can be seen in full bloom in April while ripe fruits can be seen in December, making it a significant focus for flower conservation in India.
The rhododendron trees laden with lichens provide a good habitat for avifauna and flora, contributing to the conservation efforts related to flowers and wildlife. The birdlife here is not extensively explored, but species such as the blood pheasant, Himalayan monal, Gould’s shortwing, rufous-bellied crested tit, fire-tailed sunbird, and wood snipe have been reported from this sanctuary, further highlighting its importance for flower and bird conservation in India.
The notable mammals of the sanctuary, including the red panda, Alpine musk deer, Yellow-throated Martin, Himalayan weasel, and Himalayan grey langur, also play a role in the overall ecosystem preservation and flower conservation in India. This sanctuary serves as a crucial hotspot for the conservation of both flora and fauna in the region, contributing significantly to the broader efforts of conservation in India.
Best time to visit: Between April and May when Rhododendron is in full bloom.