Fwd: Ex-Situ CONSERVATION OF KASHMIR FLORA – a lost opportunity. : 3 posts by 2 authors.
B.O.Coventry is known for his 3 Series ‘Wild Flowers of Kashmir’ originally published in the late 1920s and early 1930s illustrating with remarkable quality colour photos for the period, a selection of Kashmir Flowers.
Bernard Coventry was Conservator of Forests in Kashmir for a period (as well as other places in the NW Himalaya) between the World Wars.
In addition to his duties and keen activities as a photographer (his glass plates were donated by the family to the Natural History Museum Botanical Library in London), he had an interest in seeds and the cultivation of Kashmir wild flowers in Kashmir (though never pursued this on his return to the UK).
He had hoped to published a Series IV and V (at least) to add to Series I, II & III of ‘Wild Flowers of Kashmir’. But by the late 1940s/early 1950s it was too expensive to publish more.
Last time I was in Kashmir I came across a dreadful version of ‘Wild Flowers of Kashmir’ printed, very poorly in black & white. Do not be conned into purchasing any!
Copies of Series I-III are available second-hand. 1000 of each were printed but it seems 500 were lost when sent back to India for sale.
Returning to Coventry’s interest in seed. He produced a List of Kashmir Plants showing when their seeds ripen and Descriptions of the seed of some species.
Most importantly, in terms of “Ex-situ” Conservation of Kashmir Flora, particularly those which grow in the mountains, he compiled from 1932-34, a ‘Calendar showing Dates of Ripening of Seed of Kashmir Wild Flowers’.
Interestingly, he had a garden (no doubt near the hut he rented) at Gulmarg and was able to flower a wide range of ‘alpine’ plants native to Kashmir.
I strongly recommend that much greater success would be had with Ex-Situ Conservation Projects covering mountain plants if they are:
FIRSTLY, raised from seed, rather than having living specimens dug up – which is far more ECO-FRIENDLY, as INTELLIGENT SEED-COLLECTION DOES NOT DAMAGE THE POPULATIONS OF PLANTS. Transporting the plants down thousands of feet to conditions they stand little (in most cases zero) chance of be grown in, is wasteful and if it concerns species which are supposedly ‘Rare & Endangered’, questionable.
SECONDLY, very few truly mountain species from 3600-4000m in Kashmir, can cope with being cultivated at much lower elevations such as at Srinagar (including the Kashmir University Botanical Garden). Thus, a STATION at higher elevation, manned by staff skilled in the cultivation of more unusual and rock-garden species, is required for successful ex-situ conservation of said species. This principle would apply in other parts of the Indian Himalaya (and in Nepal, where the conditions at the Godawari Botanical Garden are unsuitable for the cultivation of most mountain plant species). To attempt to do so is a FUTILE waste of time & resources.
It is a great pity that the authorities did not take advantage of the considerable expertise of Prem Nath Kohli, formerly of the Kashmir Forest Service (who collected, on behalf of the Maharajah of Kashmir, seeds & bulbs of Kashmir plants to be grown in the Royal Parks & Gardens). He established P.Kohli & Co. in 1928, with two nurseries in Srinagar, cultivating bulbous species for export. He had un-rivalled knowledge in the cultivation of Kashmir and other Himalayan plants, writing in journals and as a freelance journalistraising concerns about conservation decades before it became fashionable to do so.
The same applied with one of his daughters, Mrs Urvashi Suri, who took over as Proprietor. She studied for an M.Sc. in Botany being in the first class at the University of Kashmir.
There was a plan for the family to establish a small botanical garden in the honour of P.N.Kohli (who passed away in 1986) at either Tangmarg or Gulmarg, where mountain plants could be grown better than in Srinagar but this had to be abandoned after a terrible event 3 years later.
Then there has been my own expertise in the study, conservation and cultivation of Himalayan flora since the 1980s. No interest has been shown. I have been ideally placed to help advise upon and supervise Conservation Projects, providing the necessary training to counterparts. Specialist gardeners and societies have unique knowledge in the cultivation of Himalayan plants (albeit in the UK but
the expertise can be applied including back in the foothills of the Himalaya). The new rules & regulations that have come into force mean that increasingly, such skills and expertise will be lost. Genuine conservation projects will suffer as a result.
In 1984 I was a Consultant to The Royal Government of Bhutan on ‘The Cultivation of Medicinal Plants for Traditional Medicine Project’ funded through the European Union.
More than 80 years ago, Coventry successfully flowered Primula elliptica, Saxifraga pulvinaria, Waldheimia tomentosa, Cremanthodium decaisnei, Aquilegia nivalis, Paraquilegia anemonoides, Primula macrophylla, Codonopsis ovata, Meconopsis aculeata, Gentiana venusta and many others, in his Gulmarg Garden!
Just goes to show what COULD BE DONE.
Could Mrs Suri (with some input from me) have ensured such projects worked in Kashmir in the 1980s? Yes.
What a wasted opportunity. Though a terrible event meant she had to flee the Valley in 1989. She has been able to visit Kashmir
in more recent years but ill-health means her expertise (and what she picked up from her father) is now lost.
I am still available but my expertise will, at some point, also be lost…….
I meant to say that 500 of the 1000 printed of Series II of ‘Wild Flowers of Kashmir’ were sent back to India (with the intention, of being
distributed amongst high schools – there is a strong educational element within these books), thus Series II is hardest to obtain. I do not have a copy myself