HERBS, SHRUBS, AND TREES
Affinities of Panjab Flora.— It is hopeless to describe except in the broadest outline the flora of a tract covering an area of 250,000 square miles and ranging in altitude from a few hundred feet to a height 10,000 feet above the limit of flowering plants. The nature of the vegetation of any tract depends on rainfall and temperature, and only secondarily on soil. A desert is a tract with a dry substratum and dry air, great heat during some part of the year, and bright sunshine. The soil may be loam or sand, and as regards vegetation a sandy desert is the worst owing to the rapid drying up of the subsoil after rain. In the third of the maps appended to Schimper's Plant Geography by far the greater part of the area dealt with in this book is shown as part of the vast desert extending from the Sahara to Manchuria. Seeing that the monsoon penetrates into the province and that it is traversed by large snow-fed rivers the Panjab, except in parts of the extreme western and south-western districts, is not a desert like the Sahara or Gobi, and Schimper recognised this by marking most of the area as semi-desert. Still the flora outside the Hills and the submontane tract is predominantly of the desert type, being xerophilous or drought-resisting. The adaptations which enable plants to survive in a tract deficient in moisture are of various kinds. The roots may be greatly developed to enable them to tap the subsoil moisture, the leaves may be reduced in size, converted into thorns, or entirely dispensed with, in order to check rapid evaporation, they may be covered with silky or felted hairs, a modification which produces the same result, or their internal tissue may be succulent or mucilaginous. In the plants of the Panjab plains there is no difficulty in recognising these features of a drought-resisting flora. Schimper's map shows in the north-east of the area a wedge thrust in between the plains' desert and the dry elevated alpine desert cut off from the influence of the monsoon by the lofty barrier of the Inner Himalaya. This consists of two parts, monsoon forest, corresponding roughly with the Himalayan area Cis Ravi above the 5000 feet contour, and dry woodland of a semi-tropical stamp, consisting of the adjoining foot-hills and sub-montane tract. This wedge is in fact treated as part of the zone, which in the map (after Drude) prefixed to Willis' Manual and Dictionary of the Flowering Plants and Ferns, is called Indo-Malayan, and which embraces the Malayan Archipelago and part of North Australia, Burma, and practically the whole of India except the Panjab, Sindh, and Raj put ana. In Drude's map the three countries last mentioned are included in a large zone called "the Mediterranean and Orient." This is a very broad classification, and in tracing the relationships of the Panjab flora it is better to treat the desert area of North Africa, which in Tripoli and Egypt extends to the coast, apart from the Mediterranean zone. It is a familiar fact that, as we ascend lofty mountains like those of the Himalaya, we pass through belts or regions of vegetation of different types. The air steadily becomes rarer and therefore colder, especially at night, and at the higher levels there is a marked reduction in the rainfall. When the alpine region, which in the Himalaya may be taken as beginning at 11,000 feet, is reached, the plants have as a rule bigger roots, shorter stems, smaller leaves, but often larger and more brilliantly coloured flowers. These are adaptations of a drought-resisting kind.
Regions.—In this sketch it will suffice to divide the tract into six regions :
- Plains 1. Pan jab dry plain.
- 2. Salt Range and North West Plateau, from the frontier to Pabbi Hills.
- 3. Submontane Hills on east bank of Jhelam.
- Hills 4. Sub-Himalaya, 2000-5000 feet.
- 5. Temperate Himalaya, 5000-11,000 feet.
- 6. Alpine Himalaya, 11,000-16,000 feet.
Of course a flora does not fit itself into compartments, and the changes of type are gradual.
Panjab Dry Plain.—The affinities of the flora of the Panjab plains south of the Salt Range and the submontane tract are, especially in the west, with the desert areas of Persia, Arabia, and North Africa, though the spread of canal irrigation is modifying somewhat the character of the vegetation. The soil and climate are unsuited to the growth of large trees, but adapted to scrub jungle of a drought-resisting type, which at one time covered very large areas from the Jamna to the Jhelam. The soil on which this sparse scrub grew is a good strong loam, but the rainfall was too scanty and the water-level too deep to admit of much cultivation outside the valleys of the rivers till the labours of canal engineers carried their waters to the uplands. East of the Sutlej the Bikaner desert thrusts northwards a great wedge of sandy land which occupies a large area in Bahawalpur, Hissar, Ferozepur, and Patiala. Soil of this description is free of forest growth, and the monsoon rainfall in this part of the province is sufficient to encourage an easy, but very precarious, cultivation of autumn millets and pulses. The great Thai desert to the south of the Salt Range between the valleys of the Jhelam and the Indus has a similar soil, but the scantiness of the rainfall has confined cultivation within much narrower limits. Between the Sutlej and the Jhelam the uplands between the river valleys are known locally as Bars. The largest of the truly indigenous trees of the Panjab plains are the far ash (Tamarix articulata) and the thorny kikar (Acacia Arabica). The latter yields excellent wood for agricultural implements, and fortunately it grows well in sour soils. Smaller thorny acacias are the nimbar or raunj (Acacia leucophloea) and the khair (Acacia Senegal). The dwarf tamarisk, pilchi or jhao (Tamarix dioica), grows freely in moist sandy soils near rivers. The scrub jungle consists mostly oijand (Prosopis spicigera), a near relation of the Acacias, jdl or van (Salvadora oleoides), and the coral-flowered karil or leafless caper (Capparis aphylla). All these show their desert affinities, the jand by its long root and its thorns, the jdl by its small leathery leaves, and the karil by the fact that it has managed to dispense with leaves altogether. The jand is a useful little tree, and wherever it grows the natural qualities of the soil are good. The sweetish fruit of the jdl, known as pilu, is liked by the people, and in famines they will even eat the berries of the leafless caper. Other characteristic plants of the Panjab plains are under Leguminosae, the khip (Crotalaria burhia), two Farsetias (farid ki buti), and the jawdsa or camel thorn (Alhagi camelorum), practically leafless, but with very long and stout spines; under Capparidaceae several Cleomes, species of Corchorus (Tiliaceae), under Zygophyllaceae three Mediterranean genera, Tribulus, Zygophyllum, and Fagonia, under Solanaceae several Solanums and Withanias, and various salsolaceous Chenopods known as lana. In the sandier tracts the ak (Calotropis procera, N.O. Asclepiadaceae), the harmal (Peganum harmala, N.O. Rutaceae), and the colocynth gourd (Citrullus colocynthis, N.O. Cucurbitaceae), which, owing to the size of its roots, manages to nourish in the sands of African and Indian deserts, grow abundantly. Common weeds of cultivation are Fumaria parviflora, a near relation of the English fumitory, Silene conoidea, and two Spergulas
Fig. 19. Banian or Bor trees.
(Caryophyllaceae), and Sisymbrium Irio (Crucif erae). A curious little Orchid, Zeuxine sulcata, is found growing among the grass on canal banks. The American yellow poppy, Argemone Mexicana, a noxious weed, has unfortunately established itself widely in the Panjab plain. Two trees of the order Leguminosae, the shisham or tali (Dalbergia Sissoo) and the sir is (Albizzia lebbek), are commonly planted on Panjab roads. The true home of the former is in river beds in the low hills or in ravines below the hills. But it is a favourite tree on roads and near wells throughout the province, and deservedly so, for it yields excellent timber. The siris on the other hand is an untidy useless tree. The kikar might be planted as a roadside tree to a greater extent. Several species of figs, especially the pipal (Ficus religiosa) and bor or banian (Ficus Indica) are popular trees.
Salt Range and North-West Plains.— Our second region may be taken as extending from the Pabbi hills on the east of the Jhelam in Gujrat to our administrative boundary beyond the Indus, its southern limit being the Salt Range. Here the flora is of a distinctly Mediterranean type. Poppies are as familiar in Rawalpindi as they are in England or Italy, and Hypecoum procumbens, a curious Italian plant of the same order, is found in Attock. The abundance of Crucifers is also a Mediterranean feature. Eruca sativa, the oil-seed known as tar amir a or jamidn, which sows itself freely in waste land and may be found growing even on railway tracks in the Rawalpindi division, is an Italian and Spanish weed. Malcolmia strigosa, which spreads a reddish carpet over the ground, and Malcolmia Africana are common Crucifers near Rawalpindi. The latter is a Mediterranean species. The Salt Range genera Diplotaxis and Moricandia are Italian, and the peculiar Notoceras Canadensis found in Attock is also a native of the Canary Islands. Another order, Boraginaceae, which is very prominent in the Mediterranean region, is also important in the North-West Panjab, though the showier plants of the order are wanting. One curious Borage, Arnebia Grifnthii, seems to be purely Asiatic. It has five brown spots on its petals, which fade and disappear in the noonday sunshine. These are supposed to be drops of sweat which fell from Muhammad's forehead, hence the plant is called paighambari phul or the prophet's flower. Among Composites Calendulas and Carthamus oxyacantha or the pohli, a near relation of the Carthamus which yields the saffron dye, are abundant. Both are common Mediterranean genera. Silybum Marianum, a handsome thistle with large leaves mottled with white, extends from Britain to Rawalpindi. Interesting species are Tulipa stellata and Tulipa chrysantha. The latter is a Salt Range plant, as is the crocus-like Merendera Persica, and the yellow Iris Aitchisoni. A curious plant found in the same hills is the cactus-like Boucerosia (N.O. Asclepiadaceae), recalling to botanists the more familiar Stapelias of the same order. Another leafless Asclepiad, Periploca aphylla, which extends westwards to Arabia and Nubia and southwards to Sindh, is, like Boucerosia, a typical xerophyte adapted to a very dry soil and atmosphere. The thorny Acacias, A. eburnea and A. modesta (vern. phiddhi), of the low bare hills of the N.W. Panjab are also drought-resisting plants.
Submontane Region.- The Submontane region consists of a broad belt below the Siwaliks extending from the Jamna nearly to the Jhelam, and may be said to include the districts of Ambala, Karnal (part), Hoshyarpur, Kangra (part), Hazara (part), Jalandhar, Gurdaspur, Sialkot, Gujrat (part). In its flora there is a strong infusion of Indo-Malayan elements. An interesting member of it is the Butea frondosa, a small tree of the order Leguminosae. It is known by several names, dhdk, chichra, paldh, and palds. Putting out its large orange-red flowers in April it ushers in the hot weather. It has a wide range from Ceylon to Bengal, where it has given its name to the town of Dacca and the battlefield of Plassy (Palasi). From Bengal it extends all the way to Hazara. There can be no . doubt that a large part of the submontane region was once dhdk forest. Tracts in the north of Karnal — Chachra, in Jalandhar — Dardhak, and in Gujrat — Palahi, have taken their names from this tree. It coppices very freely, furnishes excellent firewood and good timber for the wooden frames on which the masonry cylinders of wells are reared, it exudes a valuable gum, its flowers yield a dye, and the dry leaves are eaten by buffaloes. A tree commonly planted near wells and villages in the submontane tract is the dhrek (Melia azedarach, N.O. Meliaceae), which is found as far west as Persia and is often called by English people the Persian lilac. The bahera (Terminalia belerica, N.O. Combretaceae), a much larger tree, is Indo-Malayan. Common shrubs are the mar-wan (Vitex negundo, N.O. Verbenaceae), Plumbago Zeylanica (Plumbaginaceae), the bdnsa or bhekar (Adhatoda vasica, N.O. Acanthaceae). The last is Indo-Malayan. Among herbs Cassias, which do not occur in Europe, are common. The curious cactus-like Euphorbia Royleana grows abundantly and is used for making hedges.
Sub-Himalaya.— A large part of the Sub-Himalayan region belongs to the Siwaliks. The climate is fairly moist and subject to less extremes of heat and cold than the regions described above. A strong infusion of Indo-Malayan types is found and a noticeable feature is the large number of flowering trees and shrubs. Such beautiful flowering trees as the simal or silk-cotton tree (Bombax Malabaricum, N.O. Malvaceae), the amaltds (Cassia fistula), Albizzia mollis and Albizzia stipulata, Erythrina suberosa, Bauhinia purpurea and Bauhinia variegata, all belonging to the order Leguminosae, are unknown in Europe, but common in the Indo-Malayan region. This is true also of Oroxylum Indicum (N.O. Bignoniaceae) with its remarkable long sword-like capsules, and of the kamila (Mallotus Philippinensis), which abounds in the low hills, but may escape the traveller's notice as its flowers have no charm of form or colour. He will in spring hardly fail to observe another Indo-Malayan tree, the dhdwi (Woodfordia floribunda, N.O. Lythraceae) with its bright red flowers. Shrubs with conspicuous flowers are also common, among which may be noted species of Clematis, Capparis spinosa, Kydia calycina, Mimosa rubicaulis, Hamiltonia suaveolens, Caryopteris Wallichiana, and Nerium Oleander. The latter grows freely in sandy torrent beds. Rhus cotinus, which reddens the hillsides in May, is a native also of Syria, Italy, and Southern France. Other trees to be noticed are a wild pear (Pyrus pashia), the olive (Olea cuspidata), the khair (Acacia catechu) useful to tanners, the tun (Cedrela toona), whose wood is often used for furniture, the dhdman (Grewia oppositifolia, N.O. Tiliaceae), and several species of fig. The most valuable products however of the forests of the lower hills are the chir or chit pine (Pinus longifolia), and a giant grass, the bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus), which attains a height of from 20 to 40 feet. Shrubs which grow freely on stony hills are the sanattha or mendru (Dodonaea viscosa, N.O. Sapindaceae), which is a valuable protection against denudation, as goats pass it by, the garna, which is a species of Carissa, and Plectranthus rugosus. Climbers are common. The great Hiptage madablota (N.O. Malpighiaceae), the Bauhinia Vahlii or elephant creeper, and some species of the parasitic Loranthus, deserve mention, also Acacia caesia, Pueraria tuberosa, Vallaris Heynei, Porana paniculata, and several vines, especially Vitis lanata with its large rusty leaves. Characteristic herbs are the sweet-scented Viola patrinii, the slender milkwort, Polygala Abyssinica, a handsome pea, Vigna vexillata, a borage, Trichodesma Indicum, a balsam, Impatiens balsamina, familiar in English gardens, the beautiful delicate little blue Evolvulus alsinoides, the showy purple convolvulus, Ipomaea hederacea, and a curious lily, Gloriosa superba.
Temperate Himalaya.— The richest part of the temperate Himalayan flora is probably in the 7500-10,000 zone. Above 10,000 feet sup-alpine conditions begin, and at 12,000 feet tree growth becomes very scanty and the flora is distinctly alpine. The chir pine so common in sub-Himalayan forests extends up to 6500 feet. At this height
Fig. 20. Deodárs and Hill Temple.
Fig. 21. Firs in Himálaya.
Fig. 22. Chinárs.
non-Mediterranean orders are very beautiful, for example, the Begonias, the Amphicomes (Bignoniaceae), Chirita bifolia and Platystemma violoides (Gesneraceae), and Hedychium (Scitamineae). More important members of the flora are species of Clematis, including the beautiful white Clematis montana, anemones, larkspurs, columbine, monkshoods, St John's worts, geraniums, balsams, species of Astragalus, Potentillas, Asters, ragworts, species of Cynoglossum, gentians and Swertias, Androsaces and primroses, Wulfenia and louseworts, species of Strobilanthes, Salvias and Nepetas, orchids, irises, Ophiopogon, Smilax, Alliums, lilies, and Solomon's seal. Snake plants (Arisaema) and their relation Sauromatum guttatum of the order Araceae are very common in the woods. The striped spathe in some species of Arisaema bears
Fig. 23. Rhododedron campanulatum.
a curious resemblance to the head of a cobra uplifted to strike. Orchids decrease as one proceeds westwards, but irises are much more common in Kashmir than in the Simla hills. The Kashmir fritillaries include the beautiful Crown Imperial.
Alpine Himalaya.— In the Alpine Himalaya the scanty tree-growth is represented by willows, junipers, and birches. After 12,000 or 12,500 feet it practically disappears. A dwarf shrub, Juniperus rccurva, is found clothing hill-sides a good way above the two trees of the same genus. Other alpine shrubs which may be noticed are two rhododendrons, which grow on cliffs at an elevation of 10,000 to 14,000 feet, R. campanulatum and R. lepidotum, Gaultheria nummularioides with its black-purple berry, and Cassiope fastigiata, all belonging to the order Ericaceae. The herbs include beautiful primulas, saxifrages, and gentians, and in the bellflower order species of Codonopsis and Cyananthus. Among Composites may be mentioned the tansies, Saussureas, and the fine Erigeron multiradiatus common in the forest above Narkanda. In the bleak uplands beyond the Himalaya tree-growth is very scanty, but in favoured localities willows and the pencil cedar, Juniperus pseudosabina, are found. The people depend for fuel largely on a hoary bush of the Chenopod order, Eurotia ceratoides. In places a profusion of the red Tibetan roses, Rosa Webbiana, lightens up the otherwise dreary scene.