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Valley of flowers is located in Chamoli and Pithoragarh districts of Uttarakhand, India. It is a UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The valley is around 11km long and is at an altitude of 3,350 to 3,650 meters (10,990 to 11,900 feet)above sea level. The valley is also known as Bhyunder Valley and was a pasturing meadow for the local shepherds beforeit was converted into a reserved national park. The locals knew about the valley for centuries. However, in 1931 Britishmountaineers Frank S Smythe, Eric Shipton and R. L. Holdsworth found it while returning from an expedition on MountKamet. They had lost their way and accidentally wandered to the valley. Later Frank Smythe wrote a book named, "Valleyof Flowers".
As the name suggests, the Valley of Flowers (VOF) national park is most famously known for its flowers. It is believedthat this high altitude valley is home to around 300+ varieties of flowers. The valley is also home to animals such asAsiatic Black Bear, Red Fox, Musk Deer, Brown Bear, Blue Sheet and the most reserved Snow Leopard.
VOF is generally open to the public from 1st week of June till End of Sept - depending on the weather conditions in thatyear. For the rest of the year, the valley is covered in snow. The flowering season is from late April onwards. It is said thatthe valley changes its colour every few weeks during the flowing season due to the flowers. Read our blog on the best time to visit the Valley of Flowers.
In this blog, we will showcase the rare, unique and also popular flowers found in the valley. The valley was surveyed for the flowers was surveyed and inventoried in 1987 by the Botanical Survey of India, in 1992 by the Forest Research Institute and in 1997 by the Wildlife Institute of India which found five species new to science.
Aconitum heterophyllum (Ativisha in Ayurveda)
General Information: Ativisha (Aconitum Heterophyllum wall) of family Ranunculaceae is an Ayurvedic herb that isknown for its important medical properties. The roots of the plant find use in one form or the other in various ayurvedicpreparations and, therefore, an attempt has been made to review the various studies carried out in its chemistry as well aspharmacology.
Flowering time: July to Sept
Location in the valley: Generally found near or around the elephant rock (Big rock after around 1.5-2 km from the start).It may also be found at the start before the Puspavati River bridge.
Saussurea Obvallata (Brahma Kamal)
General Information: The Brahma Kamal, the much-revered flower of the Himalayas, is an excellent example of plant life at the upper limit of high mountains (3,000 - 4,600 m). The flowerheads are actually purple but are enclosed in layers of greenish-yellow, papery, boat-shaped bracts. The flowers bloom at the height of the monsoons and abundant in high-altitude places like The Valley of Flowers. The bract cover provides the warm space needed to bloom in the cold mountains. The flowers are used as offering in the hill temples, like the shrines of Badrinath. The thick curved root of the plant is applied to bruises and cuts, as part of local medicine. Brahma Kamal is the state flower of Uttarakhand. A postal stamp was issued by the Indian Postal Department to commemorate this flower.
Flowering time: July to Sept
Arisaema consanguineum aka Snake flower (Himalayan Cobra Lily)
General Information: Wallich’s Cobra Lily is a species with very good resemblance to a cobra hood. The plants grow upto 30 cm tall, with 1-2 very large, trilobed, yellowish-green leaves. The spathe, or the cobra hood, is dark purple oblong-ovate, prominently striped with white or purple, and a nettled pattern in the upper part, and with a narrowed tail like tip, 1-4 cm long. The spadix is thick at the base, with a long thread-like appendage 8-20 cm long. Leaf stalk and stem are oftenbrown-spotted. Wallich's Cobra Lily is found in the Himalayas, from Kashmir to SE Tibet, at altitudes of 2,400-3,600 m. Flowering time: May to June
Location in the valley: There are 3 varieties of this flower. They are not generally found inside the Valley of Flowers.However, you can find them before the helipad - around 1 km before Ghanghariya.
Papaver guilelmi-waldemarii aka Blue Poppy (Vanita, Kanta)
General Information: This is a rare flower. One is very lucky to see this flower during the trek. It is found from Kumaonto Kashmir at elevations of 3,000 to 4,500 meters. A postal stamp was issued by the Indian Postal Department, tocommemorate this flower.
Flowering time: June to September - but can be found in abundance in first week of August on Shri Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara trek route. (Last 1 km stretch)
Location in the valley: This flower can be found near Shri Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara. If you are lucky, you can also get this flower within 1 km of the Valley of Flowers trek - before Pushpavati River Bridge.
Cosmos Bipinnatus (Cosmos, Mexican aster)
General Information: Cosmos flaunts bright colourful disks gracefully balanced on long slender stems, and lacy foliage.It is a plant that's easy to grow and thrives even on poor soil. This tender annual has fine feathery foliage, its pinnateleaves growing to 10 in in length. Cosmos will grow 1-7 ft tall depending on variety and growing conditions. TheMexican aster, as this cosmos is also called, has showy solitary red, white, pink or purple flowers that are 2-3 in diameterand up to 4 in some selections.
Flowering time: May to June
Location in the valley: This is not from the valley of flowers. In fact, this photo is near the artificial lake at Auli,Uttarakhand. We went to Auli for an acclimatisation trek before Valley of Flowers Trek.
Himalayan Cinquefoil (Vajardanti, Nagabhya)
General Information: East Himalayan Cinquefoil is a perennial herb distinguished by its beautiful, closely compoundleaves, with numerous pairs of leaflets of nearly equal size. Flowers are large, yellow, few, usually on stems as long orlonger than the leaves. Petals are yellow, obovate-circular. The sepal cup is silky-haired. Leaves are up to 20 cm long,mostly at the base, silvery-haired when young, oblong, with many overlapping oblong, deeply toothed leaflets, mostly1.3-2.5 cm long, with long silvery hairs beneath. Himalayan Cinquefoil is found at altitudes of 3,000-4,500 meters.
Flowering time: June to August
Location in the valley: Within 1 km of the gate. Behind the helipad area.
Senecio Laetus (Cheerful Senecio)
General Information: Cheerful Senecio is a tall perennial herb reaching 2 m in height. The flower is mostly availableduring the trek from June to Sept. However, from Mid July to Mid August, we can see this in abundance. As per the localbeliefs, it is used for body swelling and throat pain.
Flowering time: June to September
Location in the valley: Mostly found 1 km before Ghanghariya, after the main gate and inside the valley.
Thymus Linearis (Himalayan Thyme, Wild Thyme, Mother of Thyme, Creeping Thyme, Jungli Ajwain)
General Information: Himalayan Thyme contains essential oils including thymol which is a strong antiseptic that isgentle on the skin. In addition to being antiseptic Himalayan Thyme is known to be an expectorant, antispasmodic andcarminative (relieves digestive gas) Himalayan Thyme has been used to treat gastrointestinal problems, respiratorydisorders and against hookworm. European herbalists have long used it for relaxing baths or in compresses and gargles. Itis reportedly beneficial in treating the headache from a hangover and toothache.
Flowering time: April - September
Location in the valley: Found inside valley of flowers after the large rock. It is strongly scented and provides pink colourto the valley.
Epilobium Laxum (Evening Primrose or Willow herb family)
General Information: Lax Willowherb is one of the most distinctive species in the region, with its large flowers, ovateand acuminate leaves, sessile capsules and large seeds. This species is very common in the western Himalayas at middleand upper elevations. Lax Willowherb is an erect perennial which can grow up to 30 cm, with often branching stem.Leaves elliptical to narrow ovate, long-pointed, distinctly toothed. Flowers purplish-pink, erect or slightly nodding inclusters occurring at the end of branches. Petals 6-16 mm. Lax Willowherb is found in Western Himalayas fromAfghanistan to Kumaun, at altitudes of 2,100-4,200 m.
Flowering time: July to September
Location in the valley: Mostly found the middle part of the valley near streams.
Parnassia Nubicola (Himalayan Bog Star)
General Information: Himalayan Bog Star is a perennial herb easily distinguished by its solitary white flower.Himalayan Bog Star is found in the Himalayas, from Afghanistan to Kumaon, at altitudes of 2,900-4,300 meters. Theplant extract is used for snakebite and food poisoning (as per local beliefs).
Flowering time: June to September
Location in the valley: Found near the gate of valley of flowers and after first stream.
Polygonum Amplexicaule (Red Mountain Fleeceflower)
General Information: Red Mountain Fleeceflower is an erect perennial herb, with ovate-heart-shaped stem leaves,clasping the stem. Lower leaves are long-stalked, 5-15 cm long, minutely toothed. Deep red to pink flowers are borne inerect spikes 5-15 cm long, usually solitary, sometimes branched. Flowers are tiny, 3-6 mm long, numerous, crowded,with5 tepals. Stamens have dark blue anthers. Red Mountain Fleeceflower is found in the Himalayas, at altitudes of 2,100-4,800 meters.
Flowering time: June-September
Location in the valley: Generally not found inside the valley of flowers. Can be found before Ghanghariya on the trekroute or behind helipad.
Inula Grandiflora, Showy Inula (Sunflower family)
General Information: Showy Inula is an attractive Himalayan plant, with golden-yellow flower-heads at branch-endsand solitary, 4-6 cm across, borne on erect leafy stems. Showy Inula is found in the Himalayas, from Pakistan to C. Nepal and W. Asia, at altitudes of 2,000-3,300 meters. A postal stamp was issued by the Indian Postal Department tocommemorate this flower. The word Grandiflora means a grand-looking flower.
Flowering time: July-September
Location in the valley: Mostly found after the entry gate and on the trek route - 1 Km before reaching Ghanghariya.
Pedicularis Hoffmeisteri (Haldya Phool)
General Information: Hoffmeister's Lousewort is a perennial herb 0.5-2 ft tall. Flowers are yellow, sometimes verypale,in a cluster borne on a very short stalk, each flower with a very distinctive long slender flower-tube many timeslonger than the calyx, and with what appears to be a hooded bell-shaped flower, looking down. Upper and lower lip of theflower is rounded, equal, encircling the long slender beak which is curved in a circle, lateral lobes small, triangular.Hoffmeister's Lousewort is found in the Himalayas, from Himachal Pradesh to E. Nepal, at altitudes of 2,500 - 4,500meters, in shrubberies and open slopes.
Flowering time: June to August
Location in the valley: Generally found near and after the gate. Also, near the Pushpawati river bed.
Meconopsis Aculeata (Himalayan Saxifrage)
General Information: Himalayan Saxifrage is found in shrubberies and open slopes in the Himalayas, from Uttarakhandto Bhutan, at altitudes of 1,900-4,500 meters.
Flowering time: August to October
Location in the valley: These flowers are found inside the Vally after the big rock or during the last stretch in theHemkund Sahib Trek. This photo was taken near a stream inside the valley.
Spiraea Canescens, Jhair-Mairala, Kathmantiyal
General Information: Grey Stem Spirea is a stiff deciduous shrub, 1-5 meters tall, with arching grey-haired branches.Leaves are small, elliptic-obovate, entire or have 3-5 teeth at the apex. Leaves are hairy. White flowers, 4-6 mm across, innumerous dense flat-topped clusters. The clusters are borne on short side branches forming a long inflorescence. Ripecarpelsare long-haired, partly sunk in sepal tube. Grey Stem Spirea is found in thickets, thicket margins,valleys, riverbanks, streamsides, dry places, at altitudes of 1,500-3,000 meters.
Flowering time: May - June
Location in the valley: These flowers can be found in the Govindghat to Ghanghariya trek. They are also found insidethe valley.
Polygonum Polystachyum, Himalayan Knotweed, Ama-Haldu, Durfi
General Information: Himalayan knotweed is a beautiful plant, which is however a persistent weed. Introduced forgarden purposes in the West in the 19th century from the Himalayas, it is now established in a few places in the wild - onroadsides, slopes etc. The leafy shoots grow up to about 6 feet high from underground rhizomes and produce clumps ofsmall white or pale pink flowers in late summer. The stems take on a striking red colour, and the small white flowers,occurring in rich branched clusters, also have a reddish tinge. The inflorescences are panicles occurring at the end ofbranches. Flowers have white or pinkish petals which are oblong to obovate in shape. Stamens are prominent with red orpurple anthers.
Flowering time: July to September
Location in the valley: This flower is actually a weed and is found in most places inside the Valley of Flowers. As aweed, this is a parasitic plant and government planned to remove it a few years back. The valley is filled with this plant inlate September and is responsible for its rustic colour.
Himalayan Fleabane (Erigeron)
General Information: Erigeron is a genus of about 200 species - The most widely used common name, fleabane, isshared with related plants in several other genera. Himalayan fleabane is a beautiful perennial with erect hairy stems up to 12-30 cm, and aster-like flowers. Leaves can be inversely ovate or lance-like, pointed or blunt, entire or coarselytoothed. Flower-heads vary in size 1.5-5 cm across, solitary or clustered, long-stalked. "Petals" or ray florets are darkpurple, long threadlike, spreading. The central disk is yellow. Himalayan fleabane is found in the Himalayas, fromKashmir to Bhutan,at altitudes of 2,600-4,400 m.
Flowering time: August to September
Location in the valley: These flowers are more common in late September. They can be found just after the main gate,before Pushpawati River Bridge and sometimes inside the valley near streams.
Himalayan Marsh Orchid
General Information: Himalayan Marsh Orchid is a medicinal herb that is now considered critically endangered. It is aperennial herb with erect, leafy, stout and hollow stems. Leaves are oblong-lance-shaped, with sheathing base. Pinkpurple flowers are borne in an upright spike. Flowers are purple and the bracts green, narrowly lance-shaped, lower longer than the flowers, upper slightly shorter. Flowers are about 1.8 cm long, including the curved spur. Sepals and petals arenearly equal. Three of them form a hood, and the two side sepals spread outwards. The lip is rounded and shallowly 3-lobed spotted dark purple. Marsh Orchis is found in shrubberies, open slopes and marshes, in the Himalayas, fromPakistan to SE Tibet, at altitudes of 2,800-4,000 m. Flowering: June-July. Roots are tuberous, divided into 2 or 3 lobes.
Medicinal uses: The tuber yields salap and is reputed as expectorant, aphrodisiac and as nervine tonic. Locally it is usedas a nervine tonic and aphrodisiac.
Flowering time: July and August
Location in the valley: This is a very rare plant. It may be found inside the valley near the streams and water bodies.
If you want to know more about the Valley of Flowers. Please visit the following pages.
Source of Information: Flowers of India, Google, Wikipedia, Our trek photos. Please write to us if we have incorrectly identified a flower. Please share your pictures and information of flowers to include in our blog.