Image by Suresh Rana

Bot. name: Codonopsis ovata
Location: Paddar valley J&K
Altitude: 3800 meters asl
Date: 2nd August 2011

This appears to be correctly identified. Please provide close-ups next time incl. shots showing the interior of the flowers.


Campanulaceae & Gentianaceae Fortnight: Campanula for ID from Himachal : GSG-03 : 5 posts by 2 authors. 2 images.

Kindly help in identification of the species… About 75 cm tall, erect. [Alt. 3000 m asl; District Chamba]

May be Codonopsis ovata.

efi page on Codonopsis ovata

Yes, this does seem to be Codonopsis ovata – see my recent posting of close-up images of this species taken in Kashmir.

Fwd: The true Codonopsis ovata in Kashmir : 2 posts by 1 author. Attachments (12)
Here with a selection of close-up images of a delightful species below Aphawat (about 3800m I think) above Gulmarg, Kashmir; I also saw it below Khelanmarg – which show what digital photography can do, making it SO MUCH clearer as to the DIFFERENCES between species that may have been confused in the past.
I did not take any photos of the leaves – it is good that I managed to snap the images I did, as I was under extreme time (and other) pressures….
The shape of the corolla, markings in the interior and shape of the calyx lobes (not reflexed) readily distinguish this from Codonopsis clematidea – though these species are often found in different places/ districts anyhow.
Such images of LIVING plants in the wild provide MUCH MORE information than most pressed specimens in herbaria do.  BUT IT DEPENDS ON MORE THAN 1 OR 2 IMAGES WITH 10 or even more QUALITY IMAGES, CLOSE-UP, IN GOOD FOCUS, being posted covering floral parts and foliage, habit & ideally habitat as well.
This images taken SEVERAL years ago on a MODEST digital camera (WITHIN THE BUDGET OF ALL MEMBERS OF THIS GROUP).  It does take practise and application to become a skilled photographer (and to know which parts of a plant should be photographed) but it is NOT a question of cost.  A large, heavy, complicated camera is NOT required to achieve these results.
I am pointing the way in my posts as to WHICH PARTS of plants of EACH GENUS need to photographed as well as what should be photographed in ALL CASES.
Digital cameras nowadays have light-weight batteries, light-weight and efficient battery chargers and memory cards which can store AS MANY images as anyone could possible take either on a day-trip or weeks trekking (all one needs to do is carry some spare batteries and memory cards).
ONE JUST NEEDS TO GET OUT OF THE HABIT OF ONLY TAKING 1 OR 2 OR EVEN A MAXIMUM OF 4 IMAGES PER PLANT – as one was OBLIGED TO in the days of non-digital cameras or perhaps the very early days of digital.
I hope to start seeing more members posting 10 or so images per plant for the eFI data-base, showing detail of flowers, foliage, habit and habitat – making the entries SUPERIOR to ANYTHING in herbaria – except when examination at HIGHER MAGNIFICATION is required (necessary for certain characteristics).
Returning to Codonopsis ovata in the Himalaya.
Flowers of the Himalaya record this from Pakistan to Kashmir (in fact it is also found in Himachal Pradesh) on rocky, alpine slopes @ 3000-4000m.
Stewart found this to be common on high meadows and passes, 2700-4000m in Kashmir.  He also collected specimens in Ladakh at Kharbu and Mulbekh.
Yet, Dickore & Klimes do not record this species in the most up-to-date check-list for Ladakh.
Flora of Lahaul-Spiti records C.ovata as common on moist slopes at Darcha.  I find that a somewhat surprising record (though not impossible).  What increases the question-mark for me is the very rudimentary key used to distinguish between C.ovata and C.clematidea – which mentions NOTHING about the main characteristics typically used!  The trouble with printed floras is that one cannot view the pressed specimens – though this flora does give a collection number. However, said specimen is in an Indian herbarium, which is prohibitively expensive for me to visit and based on previous experience, I may well not be granted access otherwise.
My doubts about the specimens from Darcha are compounded by C.clematidea being recorded from there during a botanical tour about 30 years ago…
Roy Lancaster recorded this species from Aphawat and Vishensar, Kashmir some 40 years ago.
I recorded this (in my 1983 Kashmir Botanical Expedition Report) from near Mt. Kolahoi’s north glacier, Gadsar and Vishensar.
‘Plants of Gulmarg’ record this from among boulders, Khelanmarg to Aphawat.

Some of you may have noticed my WARNINGS not to rely too much on images available of species supposedly from the Himalaya on the internet.
ANYONE can post an image giving the name THEY think it is – very few of these people, a significant proportion of whom have not botanical training whatsoever, let alone any expertise in plant identification. Often they either are nurserymen selling plants or commercial suppliers of seeds or just hobbyists who like to grow more unusual plants and have a web-site, which for some reason appears near the top when a search happens.  Some of the nursery customers specialise in growing particular genera and thus wish to obtain EVERY known species in that genus, which influences the sellers.
Whilst I do not accuse them of deliberate deception, just that they are OVER-OPTIMISTIC as to what they are offering for sale. To be fair, few reference works exist, some of which are not available to them. IF they offer a species uncommon or rare in cultivation (this does not necessarily mean it is rare in the wild), sales will be higher than listing a common species in cultivation, which the potential clients probably already has.
It is difficult to earn a living running a specialist plant nursery in the UK, Europe or North America.  A majority do well to “break-even”, quite a number lose money. So can they be expected to question the identity of plant material which arrives from another source under an uncommon species name, which has a better prospect of selling?
Similarly, much seed is circulated on a donation-basis (for free) within specialist society seed exchanges by members grown in their private gardens. Once again, the growers are often OVER-OPTIMISTIC as to what they are growing (the same weaknesses as mentioned above, apply).
EVEN the items within most INDEX SEMINA (seed-lists) produced by botanic gardens are littered with misidentifications. I have certainly observed plenty of misidentified plants with the wrong labels at the WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS BOTANIC GARDENS.
A further complication is hybridisation (and other changes that take place in cultivation).
Quite a number of well-known genera are prone to crossing in cultivation (the more ornamental/garden worthy) will have plant breeders actively crossing them e.g. Geranium, Aquilegia, Meconopsis, Primula but there are many others, not widely-recognised as being susceptible to crossing, are.  Thus many plants in cultivation are no longer the true species.
Ignoring hybridisation (and other changes) my informal investigations to-date, suggest AT LEAST 50% of plants from seed-sources or plant nurseries with ‘Himalayan’ names, were impostors i.e. MISIDENTIFIED.
So EFI members should be very cautious, suspicious in fact, of ANY image on the internet.  They MUST NOT decide upon a likely identification based upon such images ALONE –AND THEN THERE IS THE MATTER OF RELYING UPON ONLY 1 or 2 IMAGES – which
as I have frequently explained are INSUFFICIENT anyhow……
Sorry, identifying plants is not easy.
Time for some examples as supporting evidence for what I am saying:
When I type Codonopsis ovata into a search engine, the first entry is –
The above is an image of Codonopsis clematidea.  I posted images of C.ovata on EFI.
The other consideration here is that C.clematidea has proven much easier to grow than C.ovata – THE VAST MAJORITY OF PLANTS GROWN IN CULTIVATION UNDER THE NAME C.OVATA are in fact C.clematidea.
The second entry is: pfaf
Also misidentified for C.clematidea.
This is correct, with line drawings and very brief (inadequate) descriptions attempting to distinguish between the two species.  STILL likely to lead to continued confusion.
Fourth entry: flowersofindia
This looks OK.
Sixth entry: hessenhof
This looks correct.
Ninth entry: hkolster
This is also misidentified – the images are of C.clematidea
EFI – the entry improved thanks to my postings of images and comments.  I have further images and comments to make about other Himalayan Codonopsis incl. C.obtuse
As to the second page, there are further misidentifications but also some correct, the BEST entry number 15 is:
Entry 16 is a checklist of the Karakoram National Park, which lists Codonopsis ovata/pilousula. It is certainly possible that this species is found here – though I would need to investigate further.  I suspect, even if it is, that C.clematidea is also found here and may be the only one.  C.obtusa (assuming this is a separate taxon) needs checking for.  As for the suggestion of C.pilousula – leaving aside the incorrect spelling, this species is not found anywhere near Pakistan or anywhere near it! It is C.pilosula – which looks NOTHING like C.ovata or C.clematidea…. 
Unfortunately, it is not just photos on the internet which are often misidentified but also images in books, species listed in check-lists, printed floras of different regions/ districts of the Indian Himalaya and now on-line data-bases – most RIDDLED with misidentifications.  Perhaps, if I am permitted, I shall give examples of these….
Another aspect of misidentification are the CONSERVATION considerations.  It is essential for species to be CORRECTLY and RELIABLY identified.  Otherwise attention is diverted to the WRONG species.
Also, biochemical/medicinal studies.  IF a plant being investigated in the laboratory, perhaps using up-to-date analyses, the resulting information can lead to confusion when PUBLISHED, should it actually be a different species from the one in the publication!!
A great deal rides on a CORRECT identification.


Identify request … 96vc:
Location: Kupwara, J & k.

Habit: herb.
Date of collection 23/07/2021.

Codonopsis ovata Benth.

Yes sir your id is correct…



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