Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mustang VIII

Despite its barrenness Mustang  has a surprisingly  rich flora, most of it small-leafed, armed with thorns and only noticed by the careful observer. Throughout my trip I had Watanabe’s Handbook of Medical Plants of Nepal with me. One of the few trees of any size I saw was  this twisted and gnarled apricot tree in Tangbe (picture1). The villagers told me it was 400 years old and I noticed that it still  has fruit on it. You would almost expect to see a Taoist sage sitting under a tree like this. The beautiful yellow Rosa serica (picture 4) is common everywhere although I only saw one Rosa macrophylla (5), its pink-blossomed cousin, at Mukthinath. It is this lovely pink flower that is often depicted in Tibetan scroll paintings (thanka). Picture 7 is  Bergenia cilita and 9 is Juniperus indica from which the Tibetans make their incense. Of course junipers  can grow into large trees but throughout Mustang they are gnarled and stunted like this one, probably because of the dryness and because they are always having their branches torn off for firewood. I noticed that plants in steep  gorges sometimes had a golden-colored lichen growing on them (10), probably because  the occasional mists gather in such places and provide them with moisture. The locals told me this particular lichen is used as a dye. The valley in which Mukthinath is set is fertile and green and I saw many interesting plants there, the most notable being a wild iris (11) and some beautiful pure  white flowers with a   delightful fragrance   (12) which grow  in a grassy   bank below the temple where the spring water bubbles out. One plant I was particularly interested to see was the Ephedra gerardiana (13) because Watanabe and quite a few others identify   it as being  the mystical Soma of the Vedas, which I think, is possible. I picked a leaf from this plant and cautiously tasted its  sticky, yellow  sap but I did not go into a trance, become hyper-alert or see  any  divine beings. In fact the  sap is so bitter I cannot imagine it being made into a drink.
Every time I downloaded this picture it appeared in its side and I have been unable to find out why or rectify the problem. Apologies.
This is the last of my posts on Mustang. I hope you enjoyed them.

1 comment:

Ken and Visakha said...

Much looking forward to your book on Flora and Fauna in the Pali Canon.