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Ferns in Gorkha

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  • Christopher Roy Fraser-Jenkins
    Hello! Just to shake off that New Year torpor (and hoping I m not boring everyone to tears!). Had to get up early this morning to fill water-buckets as today
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 2, 2007
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      Hello! Just to shake off that New Year torpor (and hoping I'm not
      boring everyone to tears!). Had to get up early this morning to fill
      water-buckets as today is our alternate day of 1 hour of water coming
      down the pipe at 5.00 a.m! - managed to spray my fern-pots before the
      tap ran dry, too.
      A couple of days ago I went up for a visit to my in-law's village
      in Gorkha (after which place the Gurkhas are named, as our first
      Ambassador in Nepal, the Hon. Edward Gardner, the Botanist for
      Wallich, started recruiting the impressively brave ex-Gorkhali Army
      soldiers in 1817, after the Gorkha Wars). It is now full dry season,
      and the steep climb up was a bit tiring, also with our baby Jacob, who
      has to be carried over rocks and things. But after a rather
      sleeplessly uncomfortable night on the floor in the village (called
      Deurali) I had a ferny stroll around and was much impressed by
      something I'd rather forgotten, how everything gets so very wet in the
      early morning dew, even during the dry season. What had been
      powder-dry the evening before was now slippery (very!) damp soil in
      the chilly morning mist, that lasted up to mid-day - this is down at
      about 800 meters altitude in the more southern part of W. Central
      Nepal. The trees were dripping and the dried up, hanging Pyrrosia
      porosa, a common epiphyte, that was coiled like furry watch-springs
      the evening before, was flattened and spreading out in the morning.
      Lots of common terrestrial things, like the medicinal "Black Fern"
      (from its glossy black stipes), Tectaria coadunata, also Microlepia
      speluncae and Pteris biaurita are still all in full frond on the
      steep, muddy path-banks, even the evergreen hanging fronds of
      Selaginella pallida (syn. S. nepalensis) - and I realised it is all
      due to the mist and dew, as we've had no rain for a good while now
      (one weak Winter storm brought light rain for a couple of days last
      Going down the path towards the Marsyangdi river - which is an
      amazing bright blue, with natural copper coming from the limestone
      areas around Pokhara - I noticed some of the Adiantum philippense is
      still out, though a lot has dried up and the leaves dropped off and
      blown away. Recently I've been working on that species along with
      Professor S.C. Verma of the erstwhile famous botany school at Panjab
      University, Chandigarh. He discovered a considerable semi-cryptic
      cytological complex in it in the 1960s, but then went no further, but
      we are now describing a subspecies teestae (after the Teesta River,
      below Darjeeling, where he first found it). So I was interested to
      see quite a lot of A. philippense subsp. teestae, with small fronds up
      to 2 inches long, growing in the stone walls - even though it would be
      good to chromosome-count it for confirmation as it is a diploid sexual
      cytotype. I have now found it from southern Myanmar right through to
      Assam, Nepal, and below Nainital Hill Station in Uttaranchal (the new
      State including the Kumaon Hills in the eastern part of the Indian W.
      Himalaya, just west of Nepal - which latter area I am now completing a
      large and detailed Revised Pteridophyte Flora of). The normal, big
      plant, subsp. philippense, which would be a nice addition to the
      greenhouse, with glossy, black stems rooting at the apex and delicate
      half-moon shaped pinnae on wiry stalks, is a triploid apomict, and I
      was lucky enough to find the original specimen of it sent to the early
      English botanists, John Ray and James Petiver, from Luzon, in the
      Philippines, in the Sloane Herbarium at the BM a couple of years ago.
      It was collected in about 1690 by the by the Revd. Joseph Camel, a
      Moravian Missionary from Brno, who became a good botanist - and after
      whom, of course, Camellia, including the Tea Plant are named. Camel's
      (or Kamel's) original drawing, which is the type cited by Linnaeus, is
      there, too.
      From the monsoon time I had previously found the tiny,
      round-leaved Ophioglossum, O. parvifolium, always reported in error as
      O. nudicaule, near the family's old house by the forest, down below
      the village (abandoned now due mainly to the Maoist difficulties). It
      grows on compressed mud beside the path there, and has a flat, round
      leaf about 3 mm. across. Later on the very thin Adder's tongue
      fertile spikes come up, when it is a bit more easy to see, but now it
      was a hands-and-knees job, parting the sparse grasses to find one or
      two round, green leaves half buried in the soil - some passers by were
      very curious as to what on earth I was doing! But I explained it was
      like a tiny version of the Gibre Sag (Tongue Spinach), which is the
      bigger species O. reticulatum, which they knew well as it is plentiful
      and eaten as a spinach here - quite nice, if a bit soft. This
      Ophioglossum would surely all be dried up if it weren't for the dew
      and morning mist.
      I was aiming for the oak-woods where I previously made a little
      fern-garden, as I didn't risk going there during the fighting of the
      last few years. I was glad to see quite a number of things still
      surviving, including a big Cyathea spinulosa I rescued from an
      approaching forest-fire on the other side of the mountain some years
      ago. Although the damned termites had got several nice things, now
      just eaten-out stumps, there were still a couple of big plants of
      glossy-leaved and scaly-stiped Cyathea gigantea I collected from
      Begnas Tal, near Pokhara. Also a Khasi Hills Diplazium and a nice
      Pleocnemia like a big Tectaria, that I found in a forested gulley on
      the way to Pokhara, miles further west than before, and previously
      unrecorded from Nepal. The large fronds of the stalked and feathery
      Selaginella fulcrata (first discovered by Dr. Buchanan Hamilton during
      the unsuccessful British diplomatic expedition to the Rajah of Nepal
      in 1802) were also still growing well - it is abundant all along the
      road-sides going down to India, south-west from Kathmandu towards
      Narayanghat, but is surprisingly almost unknown to botanists, though
      it should be a very fine garden-plant, too.
      But I particularly wanted to see a couple of natural species
      there, a huge clump of hanging clubmoss, Huperzia squarrosa, now
      spreading well up an old mossy tree-trunk (where I found that the
      little Nephrolepis undulata, syn. N. delicatula, I introduced from
      Pokhara is also spreading, but fronds now dead and falling off for
      Winter). The same tree also had a few plants of tiny, grass-like
      Vittaria sikkimensis growing in white Leucobryum moss - again the
      furthest west locality known until I refound it below Annapurna Himal,
      Pokhara, a few weeks ago. Now I was pleased to see it has multiplied
      into about half a dozen clumps, tiny, stiff fronds just sticking out
      of the moss by about a centimetre; and it has also spread to another
      mossy tree-trunk nearby and formed a bigger colony. I transferred
      another one onto some mossy root-masses hanging down the cliff there
      to see if it can spread up there, in mid-air - as it is the same moss,
      Leucobyrum, that it is always associated with - which is really the
      best way to find it, as it is hardly something that leaps out at you!
      But the real gem there is a tiny Trichomanes I found by accident
      coating a few boulders up in a cave above my old garden. It is again
      natural there, even though previously unknown from Nepal - and is
      probably the smallest fern in Nepal, with tiny simple to trilobed
      fronds about 1 to 2 mm. high, forming a mass. When I first found it
      it was very difficult to find out what species it was, as it is not in
      any of the Indian or Nepalese literature (and is only known from one
      or two localities up in NE India, anyway) - but Dr. Iwatsuki from
      Tokyo and his student, Dr. Ebihara, kindly identified it for me at the
      BM a few years ago and I could later confirm it, as Trichomanes
      (Microgonium) parvifolium. Despite its grandiose size, it was fully
      fertile with sori at the tips and has gradually been spreading onto
      smaller stones and around inside the cave, where it is pretty dark.
      During the monsoon there is a crashing great waterfall pouring down
      over the cave-mouth, so you can't get in there unless you fancy a
      high-pressure shower (quite a fun experience, actually, as we once
      tried, except for small stones coming down as well!), but now it is
      easy of access as there isn't even a trickle, and I was glad to see
      this special fern in such good state, along with simple-leaved Colysis
      decurrens also spreading on the boulders, also natural there, and
      again about as far west as is known.
      My in-laws' place just happens to be one of the richest fern-sites
      I discovered in Nepal for miles around - which is how Nirmala and I
      got to know each other, but that is another story!
      Now I must get ready for the new January volunteer-teachers
      arriving in Nepal, so am back in Kathmandu - at least for now!
      Cheers and Happy Ferny New Year,
      Chris Fraser-Jenkins.
    • Denise
      Hello all Nothing boring at all with this post, but instead of me imagining all these scenes and ferns as I am reading I think it would make a wonderful video
      Message 2 of 2 , Jan 3, 2007
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        Hello all
          Nothing boring at all with this post, but instead of me imagining all these scenes and ferns as I am reading I think it would make a wonderful video or documentary???   Keep it coming.  Interesting re watering on alternate days with a bucket so other countries other than Australia have drastic water restrictions to.
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