Picrorhiza kurrooa Royle, Ill. Bot. Himal. Mts. 291 1836. (syn: Picrorhiza kurroa Royle ex Benth.);
Myanmar [Burma] (Kachin, Sagaing), Pakistan (Hazara), Pakistani Kashmir
(Deosai), Jammu & Kashmir (Kashmir), N-India
as per Catalogue of life;
 
Neopicrorhiza scrophulariiflora (= Picrorhiza scrophulariiflora)and Picrorhiza kurrooa are closely related in morphology. Neopicrorhiza has corolla larger than calyx and uppermost lobe of corolla is longer than others, while in P.kurrooa corolla lobes are equal and corolla are shorter than calyx.
Kutaki;
 
Important constituent of many Ayurvedic medicines;  

Picrorhiza kurroa is one of the major non-timber forest found in the Himalayas. It is one of the oldest medicinal plants traded from the Karnali zone. Kutki is a perennial herb and is used as a substitute for Indian gentian (Gentiana kurroo).[1]

It is found in the Himalayan region from kahsmir to sikkim at an elevation of 2700-4500.
Leaves:5–15 cm long leaves, almost all at the base. Leaves are coarsely toothed, narrowed to a winged stalk. Rhizomes of the plant are 15–25 cm long and woody. Flowers: Flowers are small, pale or purplish blue, borne in cylindric spikes, spikes borne on almost leafless erect stems. Flowers about 8 mm, 5-lobed to the middle, and with much long stamens. Fruits:Fruits are 1.3 cm long.
(From Wikipedia on 31.7.13) 
 


Can any body give me the information regarding the cultivation of Picrorrhiza kurroa i.e. Kutaki. I know that Pune is not the suitable destination but I want to try it in shed net or polyhouse etc. It may be difficult but not impossible. In Ayurveda it is most wanted drug or raw material and righ now overexploited.Need to conserve and cultivate in large.
Please send details, Sites, links whatever you have.

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It grows at higher altitudes I think so not sure about its cultivation at lower elevations. Just for information, I am attaching two pics of the plant from Tunganath, Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, Uttarakhand. Pic was taken in 2009.

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Please check the following link. It gives a little detail that it can be cultivated in polyhouse at 1300 M above MSL
It also mentions certain pests etc.
http://www.ihbt.res.in/picro.htm


 

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Flora of Chakrata: Picrorhiza kurroa from Deovan Herbal garden Chakrata:  Picrorhiza kurroa from Deovan Herbal garden Chakrata

An important Medicinal Plant called as Kutki


Its a very high value medicinal plant.


Yes … important constituent of many Ayurvedic medicines


Medicinal link for the plant
http://picrorhiza-kurroa.101herbs.com/


Correctly identified. Its ease of cultivation in a number of botanic gardens in the Indian Himalaya suggest this is an adaptable species.
I have also seen it growing in a botanic garden in Norway.


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This one was shot from Herbal Nursery Deoban, Chakrata..
Picrorhiza kurrooa Royle ex Benth. a medicinal plant of family Plantaginaceae..
hope this is rightly identified..


Correctly identified.

 

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Plant ID_kashmir : 4 posts by 3 authors. Attachments (1)
Please see the attached photograph and kindly help in its ID.
Taken from Nichnai (alpine), Sonamarg in Kashmir.
My guess id Scrophulariaceae/Plantiginaceae

Neopicrorhiza scrophulariiflora (Plantaginaceae). 


I have add here that Neopicrorhiza scrophulariiflora and Picrorhiza kurrooa are closely related in morphology. Neopicrorhiza has corolla larger than calyx and uppermost lobe of corolla is longer than others, while in P.kurrooa corolla lobes are equal and corolla are shorter than calyx. The plant here seems in fruiting stage where differentiation becomes tricky. As per the general distribution there are more chances of P.kurrooa


I am in agreement that this must surely be Picrorhiza kurrooa rather than what is now Neopicrorhiza scrophularifolia.  Having seen the images from Tawang on eFI, I wholeheartedly endorse the separation of the two taxa into different genera.
I have seen P.kurrooa in Kashmir above Kolahoi glacier (somewhere I doubt if any Indian botanist has explored in) and Gadar. Roy Lancaster recorded this plant from Aphawat, Lashpatri and Vishensar during a botanical tour in Kashmir.  I have seen it in the Upper Kulu Valley. 
Stewart recorded it as common on alpine meadows in Kashmir @ 3000-4300m. 
I disagree with this plant being included under Appendix II of CITES!  I shall comment further when I post a couple of images of this being grown in the Nehru Botanical Garden, Kashmir.

 

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A couple of images of P.kurrooa growing well in the Nehru Botanical Garden, Kashmir.
I have seen this growing abundantly in a botanical garden in Norway and there are images of it growing well in another Indian botanical garden on eFI. All this suggests the plant is adaptable and can readily be cultivated. Very much a CURIOSITY in ornamental terms, rather than outstanding i.e. would be of NO interest to the vast majority of gardeners in the West and even specialist rock gardeners would only rate it as of moderate interest.
I DISAGREE with the listing of this plant under Appendix of CITES.
Simply because a plant has medicinal uses and is collected does NOT automatically mean it is THREATENED let alone ENDANGERED.
Stewart knew this as a COMMON species on alpine meadows in Kashmir (it was collected at that time).
Unless one regularly visits said locations in Kashmir (and also H.P.) and MONITORS populations, they CANNOT judge accurately the status of this species in the wild.  During my travels in the Kashmir Valley and Himachal Pradesh with an understanding of the distribution of this species (which exceeds that of any Indian botanist), I see no reason why this plant is seriously endangered. Quite a number of colonies/populations
of this species are in places beyond the reach of Indian botanists AND local collectors!
But fundamentally, unless the more accessible meadows are visited, how can anyone actually judge?  Abundance or rarity cannot be determined in an office or even a herbarium.
Furthermore, as this plant is found in colonies close to the Pakistan border (as well as well away from the border), as access has been restricted (incl. a REDUCTION in grazing pressure) by patrols of the Indian Army (I can cite the situation on Mt. Aphawat) this could well have INCREASED the size of such colonies in recent decades…..
Koelz noted from local amchis in Lahaul that this was known as ‘Wanglen’ in Tibetan.  Commenting that the roots were an old Indian remedy for fever & colds.  At that time (the 1930s), MANY people, usually Tibetans and Rampuris made a business of collecting the herb for sale wherever it grew in the high mountains (THOUGH I REPEAT I HAVE SEEN PLENTY OF TERRITORY TOO STEEP FOR NON-ROCK CLIMBERS) with their
encampments being seen amongst the peaks in summer months.
More recently one should consider ‘Tibetan Medicinal Plants’ Kletter & Kriechbaum (2001).  According to the authors, translated from ancient Greek ‘picros  rhiza’ means bitter root.
Specimens of ‘hong len’ collected on the Rohtang Pass were both Picrorhiza kurrooa AND Lagotis cashmeriana (which it seems is considered as an adulterant of ‘Kukti’ (Picrorhiza kurrooa).  Samples of ‘hong len’ collected in Nepal were Neopicrorhiza scrophularifolia)  whilst another sample from Ladakh was Lagotis kunawurensis (neither Picrorhiza nor Lagotis cashmeriana grow in Ladakh).
According to Singh et al. P.kurrooa has been cultivated in Western Nepal but as this is well beyond its range, more likely to be N. scrophulariifolia. When I began work as a consultant to The Royal Government of Nepal on the ‘Cultivation of Medicinal Plants for Traditional Medicine Project’ in the 1990s, ‘hong len’ in Bhutan had been identified as P.kurrooa – a misidentification for N.scrophulariifolia.
The authors of ‘Tibetan Medicinal Plants’ observe that the drug derived from P.kurrooa is very important, not only in Tibetan Medicine, but particularly in  Ayuvedic medicine.  Its importance and the big market for the plant become clear when one browsed the internet (presumably
this is still the case), where several sites displayed products prepared from Picrorhiza.  Concern had been expressed by naturalists,
claiming it was “Extensively exploited by local people for sale”.  But this has no doubt been going on for a century or more.  There is a claim that large-scale exploitation may lead to its extinction.  Incorrect.
I STRONGLY DISAGREE.  THE WORST THAT WILL HAPPEN IS THAT POPULATIONS WILL BE REDUCED BUT EVEN IF SEVERELY (AND WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THIS CLAIM), SUFFICIENT COLONIES WILL CONTINUE TO INHABIT INACCESSIBLE SPOTS, ENSURING ITS SURVIVAL.
SURELY, THE QUESTION IS EFFICIENT MANAGEMENT TO ENSURE SUSTAINABLE COLLECTION – IF IT IS SUCH AN IMPORTANT PLANT.
KLETTER & KREICHBAUM STATE THAT THIS WOULD NOT BE AT ALL THAT DIFFICULT IF THE HARVESTING OF PLANTS WERE REGULATED BY THE GOVERNMENT AND CONTROLLED BY THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES (as is the case for gentians in the alps): THE GOVERNMENT PROTECTS THE SPECIES BY LAW, GIVING SPECIAL PERMITS ONLY TO LOCAL FAMILIES, WHICH ARE CONTROLLED BY THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES OR GROUPS ON THEIR OWN, AND SELL THEIR HARVEST TO TRADERS.  THE LOCAL COLLECTION AREA IS DIVIDED INTO SEVERAL PARTS WHICH ARE EXPLOITED IN A ROTATION SYSTEM.  THE HARVEST TAKES PLACE IN ONE OF THESE SUBAREAS ONLY, AND ONLY PART OF THE PLANT POPULATION IS COLLECTED, ABOUT ONE THIRD REMAINS AS “SEED PLANTS” FOR REGENERATION, WHICH TAKES PLACE FOR SEVERAL YEARS DURING WHICH THE AREA IS NOT TO BE TOUCHED.  THUS, HARVESTING CAN TAKE PLACE EVEY YEAR, BUT ALWAYS ROTATING TO ANOTHER AREA, AND NEVER TAKING ALL PLANTS FROM A SINGLE POPULATION.
I realise the above example is from Switzerland and surrounding countries and not India but why cannot India and Indians follow an example which works?  This could be applied to other medicinal plants where ‘concerns’ exist (valid or otherwise).  Strikes me as a much better way
of operating, rather than repeated rather sensationalist ‘claims’ of species being ‘Critically Endangered’ (the PROPER definition of which
needs to be understood i.e. AT SERIOUS RISK OF EXTINCTION.


The debate about assigning red-list categories to some taxa assessed to be facing one or the other category of threat on account of excessive/ destructive removals from their natural habitats or loss/ degradation of the natural habitats is likely to continue forever. Protagonists for both the sides are aplenty. In my experience on the subject of over more than twenty years, I treat this debate as a typical case of tussle between the taxonomists and the conservationists. In many cases, both the parties seem to be far away from the ground reality as there usually is a wide time lapse between the time of actual field surveys and the time of making the threat assessment. Threat per se is sure a matter of perception. One person records a good grove of an otherwise uncommon tree species and records it as common. The other person observes the same grove and records it as endangered due to paucity of regeneration. The major issue is whether the species under consideration is continuing to occupy the areas in its natural range of occurrence it was occupying say twenty/ thirty years back! If the area under such occupation is reduced over time and/ or regeneration seems to be a problem, then there sure is an issue. Red-listing only flags such issues and brings such species under management focus. 
I concede to … point to the extent that more serious surveys are required to assign a threat status to a species. The issue has, however, long been settled and personally I agree to it. The reigning principle now is to assign a red-list status to a species on the basis of whatever recent knowledge about the population status and threats is available. This red-list categorisation is then followed by extensive field surveys and PHVA (population and habitat viability analysis). The species is again taken up for threat evaluation on the basis of field surveys and red-list category could be changed/ reversed based on the information. Thus, threat categorisation/ red-listing is, thus, a preemptive measure to save the genetic range of a species perceived to be under threat. 
I cite the typical case of Colchicum luteum from Lahaul valley. The species has not been reported from the area in the district floras. However, during one threat assessment exercise a local person from Lahaul insisted that the species is present in the area and that extent of its occurrence has drastically shrunk over the years. I thereafter mounted a survey for the species in Lahaul and recorded the occurrence of species at various locations around Kukumseri (Udaipur). Now a 3 hectare plot containing about 300 plants of this species has been closed as in situ reserve.
Coming specifically to Karu (Picrorhiza kurroa), the species has fairly vast range of occurrence and makes dense mats wherever it occurs. The cause of worry is the rising commercial demand of the rhizomes of this species that has grown to more than 1000 metric tonne (dry weight) now. To meet this demand, the wild gatherers have now taken to camping at higher altitudes for months together and uproot the entire colonies of this species from a location. I have, during my field visits over time, have noticed the Karu colonies vanish at many places. It is correct that the leftover rootstock will help the colonies spring back, but it will happen only if the the area is left unexploited for 2-3 years. Alas, it is not happening! Wild populations of Picrorhiza kurroa have taken a good beating over the past about 20 years. At many places the dug up areas have been taken over by Phlomis sp., Cirsium sp., Rumex sp., etc. leaving no space for re-establishment of Karu. 
In as far as the sustainable harvest practices are concerned, India has some very old traditions of cyclic sustainable harvest. The most common one linked to harvest of underground parts of temperate and alpine herbs is to start such harvest only from bees bhadon (twentieth of the Indian month of Bhadon, usually corresponding to the first week of September) after paying obeisance to the local deity. It was considered that by this time the roots would have accumulated the required alkaloids and the seeds would have fallen ensuring regeneration. There are also forest-wise management prescriptions in place for rotational harvest under which an area opens up for harvesting once in 4 years. The question is not about the systems, but it is about the implementation of these systems. In a situation where the harvest of medicinal herbs forms one of the key opportunities of cash income, it is rather difficult to implement the prescriptions. It is sad but true. The issue gets compounded with increasing grazing pressure in these areas. With no other means of sustaining livelihoods, grazing in these areas is not a matter of choice. It is a compulsion. 
Various programs are nevertheless going on to involve the local communities, including graziers, in management of wild resources, including Karu, with various degrees of success. I am hopeful that these efforts will bear fruit and such species would be managed more professionally.
My above discourse is only to create wider appreciation about the issue and not to thrust any opinion.


 
 
References:

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