Valley of flowers- August’ 12 Trips- Requirements, Flora photography, Wheather, Landslides, Home-coming etc.;
Let me first wish the members visiting Valley of Flowers next month, a happy and enjoyable journey, memory cards, pen drives and external hard discs full of lovely photographs (they will need it thanks digital photography which allows you to take as many photographs as possible without much recurring expenditure; it will be useful if one or two members have a small laptop to download pictures from camera into storage drives for other members also). I wish I was a part of it, my long standing desire. Unfortunately I won’t be a part of this dedicated team of explorers, as I am flying to USA towards the end of this month.
I have seen and to some extent had some role to play in making members to get identifiable photographs. It was a practice (and still with many often citing time constraint) to take a single (or a few) close up of the flower only that makes identification a difficult task most of the times. More so digital photography often gives very confusing estimate of size, unless a measurable object or scale is used. The size of plant, size and shape of leaves, their insertion, arrangement of flowers on the inflorescence axis, bracts (presence, size and shape), pedicel (presence or absence and length if present), size of calyx in relation to corolla (including size relation of lobes and tube), corolla colour, length, diameter; number of sepals, number of petals, size relation of corolla tube and lobes, numbers of stamens and length, numbers of styles and stigmas and their length in relation to ovary, the type, shape and size of fruit are all important characters very crucial in identification. More so in different families different characters hold more importance, which even not the trained taxonomists may know for all the families.
I am not here to confuse you the least. Just enjoy your trip and photography. Forget about these terms if you are not a botanist. Just take a few good photographs of each plant that you encounter, upload it when you come back, and let the experts extract the identifying features from your photographs. I hope it would be ideal if you bring back at least four good photographs of a plant:
1. Habit of the plant, showing a twig well in focus, taken from side of the branch.
2. Close up of the flower from side so that its insertion on the axis is visible.
3. Close up of the flower from the top so that corolla, stamens and carpels are in focus.
4. A close up of the fruit (in available.
Any additional photograph would be a bonus, but please don’t miss any of these as far as possible.
Please spend an extra shot of a small twig with flowers along side a scale (a pen especially its tip pointing the objec; or on your palm so that you can later estimate size) to get accurate estimate of size of flowers and leaves (and by inference other parts.
Again wishing you a Happy and fruitful trip of Valley of Flowers
Thank you very much for your valuable inputs…I would surely follow them. I am forwarding your email to all 37 participants who are travelling in my group, under great leadership of Balkar Singh ji. I am sure they would be happy to be at the receiving end of your suggestions.
The rains, the vegetation and the long planned trips:
My mother just paid a small visit to holy city “Haridwar” last week. She disappointingly said that it was not raining and of course the temperature was also not as cold as it is suppose to be in Himalayan plains, in this season. She stressed that during her week-long stay in the city , she didnt even opened her umbrella once. Her observation is leading me to a question. The question of Valley of Flowers. The question of insufficient rains and its impact of vegetation.
I am too immature to co-relate the rains, Himalayas and sub-alpine vegetation that erupts in July-Augsst at VoF. But since I am part of a team (HUGE TEAM) that is leaving next week; many people for the first time in their life, to Bhyunder Valley; hence my concern is very much valid and reasonable. We have planned this trip atleast five months back and any disappointment ( if any) will lead to big chaos to the members who are visiting from far offs of the country.
My request to members to please suggest the co-relation of no rains and VoF and its impact, if any.
My personal hunch is- it would not change anything up in the VOF.
You all will enjoy it as much as earlier or even more.
I have earlier heard about the trips getting cancelled due to heavy rains followed by landslides. Less rains is no problem. In fact it would be good for observing flowers. I agree with … that for local herbs there is no much change with scanty monsoon elsewhere.
… not to worry. I am agree with …. We will fully enjoy this Tour
Don;t worry on this account. The nature knows how to preserve its wild plants although we may often fail with our crops. Even if you may experience less rainfall in plains, rest assured those height would have experienced several short spells of rain to keep plants hale and hearty. And since you are visiting the place in August be prepared for huge haul of photographs in flowering. Only remember to carry extra charged battery packs and good storage space, preferably extra memory cards. You get such chances rarely so grab them fully and enjoy your trip.
And yes, I remind all visiting the place, take multiple photographs of all plants and at least two close ups, side and top views. And if you find a member of sunflower family, make extra effort to take a photograph of fruit (achene/cypsella) with pappus (hairy structure if present). You will find it rewarding during identification.
So party members enjoy your trip and come back with lot of uploads for us who were not lucky enough to join you this time.
Hey …, do not think too much, Valley of flowers is Heaven, its always blooming who cares more or less … if in case, there will be less flowering we will enjoy huge mountains, tall trees, blue sky there you need to be positive then you can enjoy anything absolutely you know what once me and my friend went to Bondala sanctuary Goa..
few step before entrance a person told us ..its closed on Thursdays.. ahh
no problem… it started raining we have enjoyed rain..ate ice cream in heavy rain made ‘pepate’…rolled leaf , blown to produce sound..and enjoyed :):)
Wow! What a positive spirit!! No doubt the team is going to enjoy a lot 🙂 Best wishes for the VoF team!
Yes, it is a great inspiring mail.
Positive thinking always lead to achievements.
We can not run or go ahead keeping a readily available goal ahead. The goal is always invisible but is always a truth.
Yes things do go wrong if it doesnt rain in VoF or other places on higher altitudes. I have seen Cypripedium getting burnt in bright sun along with other orchids too. They cant stand straight and hence they cant set fruits even if they are pollinated. But VoF thought it is bright if not cloudy, its not a hot area. Hopefully things will be fine. Trust me, this is not a bad time to go. Infact you should go again at the end of rain.
With your feedback, I am of understanding that all will be well……at VoF!
Wishing you all a very productive and enjoyable trip. Leave your apprehensions and worries behind, just be a little watchful and take full benefit of this rare opportunity to visit this rich area of biological diversity. There are lots of people to take care of the roads and your welfare. Just concentrate on your primary goal:: bringing back a lot of photographs. And not getting tired of my regular urge: bring back multiple photographs of each plant, and to remember leaves and fruits are as important as flowers for identification as well as completeness of your database.
I on behalf of more than 1800 members of this Group Wish you a very fruitful trip.
Don’t forget to take along spare charged batteries and storage space. You will surely find them handy.
And yes our two capable leaders Rajesh Sachdev and Dr. Balkar Singh will surely take good care of you. Give them your full support.
Dont worry, In the VoF in anyways cellphone doesnt work !!
Flood is on the Gangotri side as far as I know on the knews. VoF is on different route (Badrinath route).
Just to update:
… and his group is safe and secure at Joshimath.
Lanslide are common at this time of the year & I hope everybody is careful.
Yes …, Landslides are common but people getting stranded is not a good news….Have heard that another group which was suppose to depart from Joshimath for Valley of Flowers was trapped last night due to land slides from both end. I am on constant touch from people who were suppose to be at VoF during these days.
Just to update, we have devised alternative plan for our group, in case if VoF doesnt work, for Chakrata.
All is well, dear friends!
Uttarakhand is a tourist destination and lot of tourists come during this time, hence government takes good care of clearing roads as fast as they can unless there is a very bad damage to road due to land slides. Even if there is, if you can cross the landslide area on foot, you can find vehicles on the other side. People in the himalayas are also very kind, if you need then you can ask for shelter and they are ready to help always.
During this time there are lot of free Langars by sikh community too where you can stay and eat on way to VoF and Badrinath.
Whatever may be the case, stay safe and stay healthy!!! Keeping 4-5 maggie pouches in your bag always help 🙂
Thanks …, for writing back and updating us about locale situation and happenings. I was much relaxed after we spoke over the phone and have encouraged my team also. Though our team has reduced down from 40 to 20, but that happens….
Thanks again for valuable inputs, I noted them.
Welcome back … from a great tour…to the area which I always dreamt to see…got a chance this time..I hope our group will enjoy all the happy times..along with getting enriched in floristic knowledge of the area…will share our feelings/experiences on return as we are to proceed tomorrow..
I share same thoughts as yours. Best wishes to you and all heading to VoF.
So happy to see you back. I am waiting to see the pictures from vof. It is unfortunate for me that I am not able to participate the vof trekking this time. As I had joined new job and had/have to take family related reasons, I am unable to take leave. I hope I would get a chance next year.
I am back from my Valley Of Flowers Trek. It was a wonderful experience. We had also visited Hemkund Saheb and Mana- Vasundhara falls. Will share my collection of photographs.
Just returning back from VoF (now in train at Haridwar), we were finally 23 people who completed this trek. I think I have personally got above 250 species but lead was with …, … with his team , who secured more species . I think, on Sunday onwards I would be able to upload the pics.
Thanks, …, for organising such a big expedition & succeeding in it.
Thanks to all for nice words…this was really a very exciting, memorable and productive trip…we got so many new learning experiences through very experienced and cordial group members…it was fantastic…hope to get my collection ready for the proposed VOF week in coming September…thanks to the entire group..and I hope
VOF Month: Lessons to be learnt: Whereas Valley of Flowers has been a very enriching experience and all of us have greatly benefited from this episode, it would be even more useful if we learn from our shortcomings (partly because of pressure of time), so that our next trip and its results are still better and helpful for experts who spend their time and energy to identify these plants. Here are what I think some thing that can help:
1. First and foremost, never forget to record and mention place and also approx. altitude in your uploads, especially for plants meant for ID. Govindghat is at an altitude of 1800 m (roughly 5800 ft) and Gangharyia 3050 m (roughly 10000 ft), from lower edge of Temperate climate to almost upper edge of subalpine climate, a huge gap as far as climatic and vegetational diversity is concerned. It may be difficult to remember the name of intermediate stations but one can take some time to know the time taken for the trek, time (fortunately it is recorded with your photograph) when photograph was taken, use this information to roughly calculate altitude and mention this altitude in your uploads. I assure you it will help a lot in identification as well as final documentation.
2. It is the time we learn the importance of multiple photographs covering different aspects of plant (aptly exemplified by Nidhan ji and Balkar ji). I had written about it before the trip also. Different genera may need different characters for identification of species. Basal leaves are essential in some genera like Valeriana, Primula, Saxifraga, etc; form of stem leaves (insertion, presence or absence of petiole, presence and absence of stipules and their shape and size, leaf being simple or compound, number of leaflets, margin of leaf/leaflet, colour of upper and lower surface, size) are essential in almost all genera; presence or absence of bracts and their size and shape, length of pedicel equally important in several genera; size of flower is crucial in many genera especially Impatience and others; size of sepals and their relative size with bracts and bracts are crucial in most genera; number of stamens are almost universally important as are the number of styles and stigma; information about fruit size is always a boon……………………..Agreed a nonbotanist can’t be expected to know all this, but I assure you that if you take a minimum of 4-5 photographs (I have seen most persons taking more than 5 photographs of same plant, but mostly of same flower……so time can be no justification), it will help you a lot, experts will find it easier to identify and this will greatly enrich our database:
a) Photograph of habit so that basal leaves are well in focus.
b) side view of flowering twig so that insertion of leaves and flowers is visible.
c) Close up of side view of flower right from the point it arises from the inflorescence axis.
d) Close up of top view of flower so that stamens and styles can be seen
e) photograph of fruit if possible (it is extremely helpful in almost all composites, species of Solanum, Veronica,
Kindly remember the size of flower and leaves. As it is often difficult to recall I find it very useful to place leaf or flower over your palm and photograph it. It helps a lot to determine size fairly accurately later on. Alternately keep any marker such as scale or tip of pen to estimate size.
I know it will be difficult to forget the old culture of this Group, and Flowers of India where flower only has been considered as sufficient. Luckily more are more members are now learning the importance of other characters: Balkar ji and Nidhan ji have shown us the way. Let us follow it in our future trips. It will be much more enjyable and rewarding.
Well said …
This is very important
now that this group is a few years old and most of its members have been watching the episodes and good photography and features essential for diagnosis, its time we had some more guidelines. the writing above is excellent . every body should bookmark this and put on the bookmark toolbar, I did. . its very important.
I have been saying this to various our members in various ways…
so one habit the experts have to develop is to they need to be disciplined enough not to jump in with a diagnosis when the photograph is poor in quality or content….
I think you have been saying this repeatedly and so has Mr. Garg from time to time
granted not every one has great photo equipment, but even with point and shoot in the pocket one can take enough pictures very quickly and provide enough clues…
Thanks a lot Gurcharan sir for describing the issue nicely.
Taxonomy in basic word is THE STUDY OF SIMILARITY AND DIFFERENCES.
For me to work on orchids, some time I took years to identify one plant. My first new species, Peristylus sahanii was collected in 2005 but I published it only in 2010 though on the first day itself I knew it has to be a new species and I had reasons too. Some times it becomes very challenging to even identify a simple species because orchid is the biggest family of flowering plants.
Sometimes I really get surprised how within minutes a plant from remote part of India gets identfied. That is the strongest part of our efl family.
Thanks for your comments and concerns. Please don’t get confused by jargon of complex botanical terms. I have repeatedly written that nonbotanists need not bother about these terms (although I am happy to see … and several others making use of these finer terms in their identification process). I have repeatedly requested only to take photographs from different angles as specified above and leave it to experts to identify them. You can also help in this identification process by finding local names (and use them for identification), comparing with illustrations, photographs on the net and in various handbooks.
Please don’t also get confused by changing scientific names. As I wrote earlier our aim on this group is identifying a plant. As I wrote earlier you may identify our common plant as tamatar, tomato, Solanum lycopersicon, Lycopersicon esculentum, does not make an error in identification. So I request nonbotanists to just not worry about these changing names. Just go to any website The Plant List, GRIN, Sorting Plant names if you are interested in latest name, otherwise forget it completely. Your aim of joining this group is to share your photographs and know their names (even a local name or common English name will do. It is only for making our database up to date and comparable with others that we and … findout the latest scientific name and put in our database.
I will request … and other such members not to have any apprehensions. Continue to photograph your plants without bothering about any technical terms, but give us different angles of photographs (as mentioned above) if you want us to serve you better.