Monday, July 15, 2019

Orchids in Tibet

Cypripedium tibeticum
Harry had warned us that we'd probably be too late for ladyslippers in Tibet. We were all delighted that he was (for just this once) wrong! We stumbled on these when searching for Meconopsis Baileyi on the slopes of Serkhyem La. We didn't see this dark one (there turned out to be several scattered n the wooded slope. Last year I saw its cousin a few times in Yunnan (the more purple C. macranthum).  A thrill to add yet another ladyslipper to one's life list.

 Cypripedium tibeticum
The flower is truly startling...singly or

Cypripedium tibeticum
When we noticed this colony with three...

Cypripedium guttatum
Dianne Barrie, from Melbourne, spotted from the road. I've seen thisn in a garden in Anchorage, and more recently in a garden in Chicago. But neither could compare to seeing this little army in the wild!

Cypripedium guttatum
Ponenorchis chusua
There are no en of orchids in the meadows, woods and bogs. One of the commonest of these is this variable little sprite we saw again and again--here in a wet meadow with primulas at Guza La

Ponenorchis chusua
And the same one on a dry bank on the way to Lake Tianchi in Yunnan. Now if only we could find these in nurseries!

Tibetan "Thane of Cawdor"

Primula cawdoriana
 As we started the gradual climb up to Serkhyem La on our long drive from Bayi in Southeastern Tibet, Harry Jans as scanning his GPS signal to find just the right spot where he had found a few Primula cawdoriana a decade or so earlier...He'd been here at a slightly different season, obviously, because this year they suddenly appeared in enormous drifts on many cliffs along the way!

Primula cawdoriana
Surely one of the most distinctive primulas, what this primrose has to do with Cawdor escapes me--perhaps named for an explorer? The Thane of Cawdor was a title assumed by Macbeth, and it's likely that the village in Scotland that still exists with that name might be a likely place where this primula might grow and thrive!

Primula cawdoriana
 Seeing drifts of Primula cawdoriana clinging to the steep slopes was a thrill...

The toothed rosettes reminded me a bit of its cousins, P. reidii and P. muscarioides. These are wonderfully fragrant, and I'm kicking myself now I didn't sniff to see if this tiny Thane of Cawdor was fragrant too. The bells remind me a tad of anorexic Soldanellas...

Primula cawdoriana
I, for one, would never associate this little gem (with its narrow, slashed inflorescence) with the murderous King whose name it shares. I can think of other heads of state far more like the dramaturgical Thane of Cawdor, and I can only hope some Thane of Fife shall come soon to "set it right".

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The poppies of Serkhyem La (mostly blue)...

Meconopsis speciosa ssp. speciosa
There's something about the blue of blue poppies! We found more than our share of them on our three forays onto Serkhyem La, one of the many high points (literally and figuratively) of our trip. Not QUITE up to 5,000m. where we stopped, it was still over 16,000'! The variability of M. speciosa strained my credulity--surely there must be more than one species lurking here?

Meconopsis speciosa ssp. speciosa
The leaves on some in the full sun were hardly lobed,.

Meconopsis speciosa ssp. speciosa
And some had multiple branch stems from the base...
Meconopsis speciosa ssp. speciosa
I love the pale blue of this one...
Meconopsis speciosa ssp. speciosa

Meconopsis Baileyi
And there is a special thrill in finding THE iconic giant blue poppy--especially in such lush stands.

Meconopsis Baileyi

Meconopsis impeditum
There were only a few plants of this strange purply-mauve species.

Meconopsis speciosa?
And more of the tall phase of what we were told was speciosa...

Meconopsis speciosa?

Meconopsis speciosa?

Meconopsis pseudointegrifolia ssp. robusta
And for a real change of pace, the fantastic colonies of moolight yellow lampshade poppy--our third yellow species of the trip!
Meconopsis pseudointegrifolia ssp. robusta
Meconopsis pseudointegrifolia ssp. robusta
I love the way they formed random patches among the Lapponicum series rhododendrons.

One never tires of mecs!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Of yaks and flowers

Bos grunniens
What sheep and goats are to the Mediterranean and much of Western Asia, yaks are to Tibet. The ubiquitous mowers of the countryside, nibbling almost everything to the nubbins...

Yak statues on Mi La Pass today (July 9, 2019) in the snow at 5000 m.

That said, they are a large part of the economy and food chain of the Tibetan people, who simply can't have enough of them! They are celebrated in almost every large town with monumental statues (including a string of golden yaks in the river flowing through Lhasa I didn't have time to photograph).

For miles and miles we drove through virtually flowerless fields that were cropped low...until Hans noticed bright color: in between cultivated fields, a little strip of ungrazed riparian meadow persisted: literally dozens of plants that likely grew elsewhere once were here in profusion!

There were several species of Pedicularis,

Pedicularis longiflora
 I am especially fond of the little single flowered species like this yellow one we saw again and again elsewhere.

Add caption
This enchanting Aster, probably allied to Aster alpinus.


The queen of the meadow was an orchid that resembles Dactylorhiza, but doesn't seem to match up with any in our references.  Dozens of these were scattered hither and yon..

There were several species of gentian, and many kinds of Fabaceae--too many to show right here and now...

Delphinium kamaonense  and Harry Jans, leader of the wonderful trip to Tibet. More on HIM later...

This delphinium is what first caught our eye and made us stop--and this would likely survive the yaks since it's poisonous...

One little strip of heaven after untold miles of overgrazing. This isn't a story of Tibet--the same can be said of the American Midwest, most of lowland Europe and much of the so-called civilized world where cities, farms and disturbance have eliminated the rich bounty of wild flowers.

What cost progress? I say "too high a cost".

Friday, July 5, 2019

A few treasures from Dongda La

Meconopsis racemosa
Tibet is chockablock full of "La's"--and this is one of the best. We found dozens of beauties here, and these are just a few of them...

Meconopsis racemosa
By the way, these pictures were all taken at nearly 17,000' or MORE!

Meconopsis racemosa

Corydalis hendersonii

Corydalis calcicola

Gentiana urnula

Corydalis pachycentra

Anaphalis nepalensis v. nepalensis

Saxifraga tibetica

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The hammered horse pasture and its jewels

Iris barbulata (or dolichosiphon?)
 I visited this same spot a year and a week earlier last year: it was strangely different! There were lots of irises then, but this year there seemed to be twice or three times as many, and they were clumped up with more stems and flowers. Few things on earth for me are more enchanting than to wander through a meadow filled with wild iris, admiring and comparing one clump next to the other...

Iris barbulata (or dolichosiphon?)
The variation seemed even greater than I remembered. This iris is apparently in firm cultivation in New Zealand (and probably Europe). I would dearly love to grow it. I'd like to grow LOTS of these--and hope one day to have a chance!

Iris barbulata (or dolichosiphon?)
Another delicatrely striped specimen,,,

Iris barbulata (or dolichosiphon?)
Or perhaps this solid colored one's my favorite? YOU choose!

Iris barbulata (or dolichosiphon?) Albino
I'm kicking myself that 1) I didn't spend more time and make sure I got more pictures of this to be sure and get one in focus 2) that I didn't scamper after Harry Jans, who found a second albino that might have been less moth-eaten.  My Scottish roommate Norman got a stunning picture of this, but we haven't figured out yet how to transfer images!

I shall wander through this meadow time again in my dreams...

Little blue dots forever and a day--acres and acres. Would I could have lingered and photographed each one!
Stellera chamaejasme v. chrysantha
This stunning cousin to Daphne is found over a vast swath of Central Asia and the Himalayas--but only in Yunnan does it come in yellow. We saw this again and again, but not the Iris (on this trip).
Thermopsis barbata
The primary reason we stopped at this meadow is that it's one of the best locations to see this wonderful pea. It has thus far eluded cultivation. I'd like to try again--we have abused horse pastures in Colorado!

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