Re: Fern trekking in Nepal
- Many thanks for that account of your trip, Chris, you paint such an illuminating picture. It is something I would like to see for myself, particularly those Dryopteris, but a combination of lack of money in retirement and my dislike of long flights prevents me from going there. Therefore your reports are highly appreciated.
But you say there are three subspecies of D. wallichiana? I quote from your message,
"....from Ulleri one enters the dense forest of tall moss-covered Oaks - and what a forest it is. On one side of the path the villagers graze their animals, and there are only occasional big umbrellas of Pteris wallichiana, plus golden green and densely scaly shuttlecocks of all three subspecies of Dryopteris wallichiana."
I have read of subspecies himalaica and nepalensis. Can you tell me about the third one, please, or was this just a slip of the tired typing finger?
- Dear Howard,
Thanks for your comments. No, nothing to wonder about - the third subspecies is none other than subsp. wallichiana!
I seem to have two further, pretty critical, infraspecific taxa here, which I'm not capable of investigating further - one would definitely need a detailed molecular study, which works very well in close-knit, critical groups. One is a taxon intermediate between D. wallichiana and D. lepidopoda - like a big D. lepidopoda - perhaps corresponding with "D. pachyphlebia" Hayata. The other is confined to the East Indo-Himalaya, Bhutan eastwards, and is like a small subsp. wallichiana with rather large, very square segments, more glaucous beneath, and with dense, narrowish, jet-black scales (but scales wider than in subsp. wallichiana, which varies in scale-colour from pale, to brown to black) - possibly might be "D. neorosthornii" Ching, a dubious name he gave to a specimen. This second thing I've not seen in cultivation in Britain.
They look like some kind of genuine entity, which I can't really investigate further without techno-help!
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "howardfernlover" <howard.fernman@...> wrote:
> Many thanks for that account of your trip, Chris, you paint such an illuminating picture. It is something I would like to see for myself, particularly those Dryopteris, but a combination of lack of money in retirement and my dislike of long flights prevents me from going there. Therefore your reports are highly appreciated.
> But you say there are three subspecies of D. wallichiana? I quote from your message,
> "....from Ulleri one enters the dense forest of tall moss-covered Oaks - and what a forest it is. On one side of the path the villagers graze their animals, and there are only occasional big umbrellas of Pteris wallichiana, plus golden green and densely scaly shuttlecocks of all three subspecies of Dryopteris wallichiana."
> I have read of subspecies himalaica and nepalensis. Can you tell me about the third one, please, or was this just a slip of the tired typing finger?
> Kind regards,
> Howard Matthews.
- Dear Chris,
Been there, done that!
I think that it was 1993, when I did the complete circuit of the Annapurna range. It took me about three weeks. Of course, I approached Ghorepani from the other side, from Tadopani (or is it Tatopani - I keep getting the two villages mixed up. The other one is on the crest of a ridge immediately in front of Machhapuchre, with arguably the best view in the world). Anyway, from Tadopani, with its hot springs, it was a long uphill trek of 1700 metres to Ghorepani, then a further 300 metres to the top of Poon Hill, with its superb views. On the way down the other side, from Ulleri on the crest of the ridge, it's a continuous flight of steps down to the valley bottom - I think that the sign at the bottom says that there are 3847 steps, which makes the 199 steps up to Whitby Abbey of no significance whatsoever (but try telling that to some of the overweight tourists who make the journey - or fail to, as the case may be! The two highlights of the trek for me were, of course, the pass of 5000+ metres, and the Pisang Wall, which is absolutely incredible.
For other readers, I can thoroughly recommend trekking in Nepal. I have done three of them now, the other two being to the Annapurna Base Camp and the Everest Base Camp. Unfortunately I could only admire the ferns, without knowing what they were, although in many cases I could make a good stab at the genus.
Chris, hope to see you in the not too distant future.
All the best
--- In email@example.com, "chrisophilus" <chrisophilus@...> wrote:
> Dear all,
> I was lucky to be able to make a quick get away from Kathmandu last weekend
> - just about had enough money left over to take a bus to Pokhara in central
> Nepal and walk up to the well known "Poon Hill" (3200 metres), which has a
> simply spectacular view of the snow-peaks of the Annapurna range towering above,
> almost seemingly overhead - and across to the massive cliffs and spires of the
> Dhaulagiri Himal to the west. One takes a local bus from Pokhara for 80 rupees
> (only 50 Indian rupees) to "Naya Pul" over a pass looking back over its famous
> Phewa Lake and island-temple. Then from there it's a long, long walk up the
> valley and up maybe 30 or 40 thousand leg-acheing steps, from lodge to lodge,
> through very fine prime forest across small fern-rich gorges, up to the
> attractive stone houses of Gorepani village, just opposite the main heights of
> Not only was I longing to get out into the huge forests and among my old
> ferny friends again, but I thought to take some photos of ferns before I should
> be heading away to Britain a little later this year. In fact the whole walk was
> spectacular for ferns. To start with, one heads up from about 600 metres
> altitude through subtropical forest with all the species one would expect,
> Pyrrosia costata, Lepisorus contortus, Pteris biaurita, Dryopteris sparsa (both
> with various subspecies), Microlepia rhomboidea, hanging Huperzia squarrosa, and
> the odd Cyathea spinulosa. But I was sorry to see a quite unnecessary new road
> being pushed right through it - so much for the nonsense of rules preventing
> natural historians and scientists from collecting even a leaf from the
> "biodiversity", and so much for the sanctity of the Annapurna Conservation area,
> just smash a road right through it, instead! I also filmed a team of youths
> chopping down a tree for their use for firewood or building, destroying all the
> epiphytic ferns and orchids it was covered with in the process!
> Further up there was a steep climb up to Ulleri village at 1950 metres,
> where it was nice to see the little Asplenium laciniatum subsp. kukkonenii
> peeping out among the bright-green fronds of Aleuritopteris formosana, from
> among the schistaceous stone-walls of the lodges and houses in the village
> itself. One also gets a fine view from there of the incredible vertical
> double-tower peak of Machapuchare Himal, the Fish-tail mountain. But from
> Ulleri one enters the dense forest of tall moss-covered Oaks - and what a forest
> it is. On one side of the path the villagers graze their animals, and there are
> only occasional big umbrellas of Pteris wallichiana, plus golden green and
> densely scaly shuttlecocks of all three subspecies of Dryopteris wallichiana.
> But on the other side it had been securely fenced off, and the contrast was
> amazing - the ground was completely packed with masses of ferns of a rich
> assemblage, including Dryopteris gamblei, D. redactopinnata, Athyrium dubium,
> the finely-cut A. fimbriatum, A. fangii, A. setiferum, finely dissect
> Cornopteris quadripinnatifida, black-scaled Diplazium stoliczkae, Hairy young
> fronds of Polystichum longipaleatum and black-scaly P. piceopaleaceum, huge
> quadripinnate fronds of Acrophorus [or Peranema] paleolulatus, beautiful scaly
> young baskets of Dryopsis apiciflora, imitating the Dryopteris wallichiana
> group, and pink young fronds of Pteris aspericaulis. It was a fairy-land of
> ferns and a delight to be among them.
> On a damp, dark mossy cliff near the stream-crossing I was interested to
> find a large population of Asplenium magnificum - Professor Bir's larger
> cytotype of "Ceterachopsis paucivenosa" - with fronds up to a foot long, and
> covered in wide sori beneath, with its sinuous alternate lobes. Apart from
> that, the cliffs were covered in hanging clumps of the dark, glossy-green,
> spikey little Polystichum stimulans, which is a most attractive miniature fern.
> Up at about 2500 metres on mossy boulders by the side stream at Nangethanti
> hamlet there were attractive, dark-green, stiff-fronded plants of Asplenium
> khullarii, fittingly named after its esteemed discoverer, Professor S.P.
> Khullar, of the famous erstwhile pteridological school of Panjab University,
> The ferns up here were changing into the upper-forest species, such as the
> pink young fronds of Dryopteris lepidopoda, the delicate new leaves of Pteris
> pubescens (syn.: P. nepalensis), which is a winter-deciduous species. And on
> stone walls, the proliferous little Polystichum stenophyllum, and I was pleased
> to see Lepisorus morrisonensis, while the tree-trunks were commonly festooned in
> copper-coloured and delicate Araiostegia beddomei, with pink axes and large,
> loose scales on the rhizome and lower stipe, plus hanging fronds of
> Pichisermollodes (formerly within Crypsinus or Phymatopteris) stewartii, P.
> quasidivaricata (syn.: P. stewartii), P. ebenipes and P. subebenipes (at its
> western extremity, it seems). Hanging down from every mossy and orchid
> festooned branch were the succulent long fronds of Lepisorus loriformis and
> grassy clumps of Vittaria taeniophylla (syn.: V. himalayensis), with the sori
> lying almost flat on the surface and quite well in from the margin.
> At last Gorepani came into view over the ridge and staying in a lodge there
> one could see the peaks of Annapurna South and Annapurna 1 appearing through the
> clouds, while having hot soup and noodles! Early next morning the whole range
> was clear right opposite from my bedroom window and so high up in the sky it was
> quite surprising, with Dhaulagiri going golden in the first rays of sun, across
> the deep Kali Gandaki gorge to the west. I also went up Poon Hill, above
> Gorepani, where one can see all the surrounding ranges, including the whole of
> the steep spire of Machupachare, but by the time I reached the top,the monsoon
> itself had at last come in after a delayed week of waiting for it, and a huge
> bank of dark clouds and gleaming cauliflower thunderheads rolled up from the the
> line all along the south and began to hide the pristine white snow-peaks away
> for the next few months. What lucky timing!
> The trudge down rather hurt my ankle with all the bang, bang, banging down
> the stone steps, but was still manageable, if a bit tiring, taking two days.
> Thank goodness my faithful porter, Keshab Nepali, was strong enough to carry my
> rucksack, with spare clothes, some food etc. - making the whole excursion so
> much easier! Thanks to him. Luckily my leech-socks also saved me from all but a
> few of the most persistent little suckers, so with the comfortable and friendly
> lodges, the whole trip was a great pleasure.
> Now I've downloaded my fern-photos at home. They are quite a nice lot,
> though I'd love to get a better camera one day - but it must be able to fit in
> the pocket like my present little Cannon job.
> Happy ferning from Nepal!
> Chris Fraser-Jenkins, Kathmandu.
- Dear Ken,
Great to hear of your trip up in the hills here, too - I see my 20,000 steps was somewhat exaggerated (unknowingly) - but it certainly felt like that, and my left ankle is only just back to normal now.
Talking about taking stabs at genera - I have found myself doing just that recently, despite 30 years of Himalayan pteridology, as I was working on new collections from Arunachal Pradesh. That's the Indian state right up the Brahmaputra, up in the far N.E. corner of India with Tibet on one side and Myanmar on the other (and Calcutta a long way down below). It is the tribal area that always managed to resist the intrusions of the British, or Indians, though I found people extremely friendly and nice and was invited to disco to a tribal feather, sword 'n shield dance (mainly just feathers actually! - though from the physique of the tribal dancers if it HAD turned to sword and shield one should have to rather brick it right out of there somewhat rapidly, I fear!).
But the ferns up there are something else! I was able to visit there in 2009 after years of trying to get permission, and found superb untouched forest packed with rare and interesting species, 5 species of tree-ferns, and India's greatest rarities growing everywhere as roadside weeds! The vegetation runs up from tropical rainforest, its most northerly extension in the world, right up to Himalayan snow-peaks, with temperate and conifer forest up high - and also fascinating semi-dry high-altitude rocky and scattered-forest areas packed full of unknown pteridological goodies of the Sino-Himalayan type.
From collections made by the Botanical Survey of India and others, I found myself struggling even to put a genus onto what I've now found is a rare Tibetan Bolbitis, also a curious Thelypteris of Sect. Pronephrium/Cyclosorus. Then a proliferous little fern that I thought near to Ctenitis, which I've now seen is a Dryopsis (an over-splitty genus of Ctenitis, really) that I thought new after a while - but it now turned out to be a Philippine to Borneo species. Also a proliferous Cyrtomium balansae, actually nearer to Polystichum in a genus Phanerophlebiopsis - but not known to be proliferous before.
Altogether some 26 species new to India and one new Pteris - and these collections, made at random by people who did not know what they were looking at, are just scraping the surface. If I could, I'd feel like adopting the feathers and swords (or a botanical ice-axe) myself, and retiring there! I'm sure one ought to be able to find some new pteridological equivalent of an Aruca nut myth to finance one's pteridomania for a few years up in the N.E. Frontier?!
All the best,