What Plants & Flowers Live in the Himalayas?

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The Himalayas maintain great biological diversity.
The Himalayas maintain great biological diversity. (Image: himalaya image by Balogh Eniko from Fotolia.com)

The Himalayan mountains stretch across Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and northern India. They include Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain, as well as some of the world's deepest river gorges. Because of the region's freezing temperatures, low levels of oxygen and strong winds, plants grow closer to the ground as altitude increases and have short growing seasons.

Orchids

Approximately 50 species of orchids from the genus Paphiopedilum, commonly called "lady slippers," are native to the Himalayas. Some of these orchids temporarily capture wasps in their bulbous sac, referred to as the "slipper," to aid in pollination. The route wasps must take to leave the flowers forces them to crawl next to the stamen, where they are likely to brush up against and collect pollen.

Some "lady slipper" orchids trap wasps for pollination.
Some "lady slipper" orchids trap wasps for pollination. (Image: yellow lady slipper flower bloom rain wet mist image by Paul Retherford from Fotolia.com)

Rhododendrons

The American Rhododendron Society notes that many species of rhododendrons are native to the Himalayas, with their cultivated hybrids found growing in gardens around the world. Some Himalayan rhododendrons are used for medicinal purposes. For example, the root of Rhododendron anthopogon is used for cuts and wounds, and the flower of Rhododendron arboreum provides juice. Both have been the subject of conservation study.

Some parts of rhododendrons are used as medicine.
Some parts of rhododendrons are used as medicine. (Image: rhododendron image by Vortigern69 from Fotolia.com)

Begonias

Rex Cultorum begonias have striking, distinctively colored leaves that garner more attention then their flowers. The leaves are streaked, bordered, spotted and splotched by many colors. The University of Missouri College of Agriculture reports that when it was introduced in England in 1858, B. rex (rex means "king" in Latin) "was so strikingly different from other begonias of the time that it created a sensation in horticulture. The plants were worth a lot of money, which led to a great deal of breeding work."

Geraniums

Certain types of geraniums are native to the Himalayas. According to Professor Leonard Perry of the University of Vermont, the Wallichianum or Wallich Geranium can be grown in the United States in zones 4-7. It reaches up to 6 inches in height and spreads out 2 to 3 feet. Its purple flowers blossom in late summer.

Blue Poppies

According to Jennifer Schultz Nelson of the Illinois State University Extension, the Himalayan Blue Poppy is one of the only true blue flowers in the world. The poppy grows in areas where summers are cool and moist, preferring temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees. They grow as a woodland plant in well-drained, acidic soil, a necessity for blooms with a clear shade of blue. According to Ms. Nelson, "The blue color is provided by the pigment delphinidin, named for being originally isolated from delphinium. For the delphinidin in the flower to appear blue, the environment inside the plant's cells must be acidic. The soil provides this acid. This 'acid factor' is what makes blue such a rare find in the plant kingdom. Not only does a plant have to have the gene to make delphinidin in its flower cells, the plant must be able to maintain a level of acidity within the cell to make the pigment appear blue."

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