THE FLORAL DALE
The famous Valley of Flowers with the largest concentration of various species of wild flowers is off the Rishikesh-Badrinath road, 16 km from Govindghat. A virtual treat to the eyes, this beautiful valley in the Himalayas was established in the year 1982.This park, the smallest national park in the Himalayas was created to protect the catchment area of the Pushpavati River.
This stream emerges from a glacier then tumbles downward to meet the Ganges. The park spans an area of 87.5 sq. km and is perched on the upper reaches of the Bhyundia Ganga of Chamoli district of Garhwal. The Pushpawati River flows by the valley while the awesome Rataban peak forms a spectacular backdrop.
THE EXOTIC TREASURE
The park boasts of more than 300 species of wild flowers like the Himalayan Blue Poppy, Snake Lilly, white and yellow Anemones, Daisies, Calendula and Dianthus. A wide variety of butterflies, snow leopard, brown and Himalayan black bears, tahr, musk deer, Blue sheep (bharal) and serow are the other attractions of the national park.
WITNESS THE RIOT OF COLOURS
The best time to visit the valley begins from late April when the snow on the mountains starts melting and flowing down the gullies, providing the appropriate moisture for flowers. With the advent of monsoons in June, the valley is painted pink and red, though the seasonal shades of yellow, purple and white are not subdued. By August, the place is a virtual riot of colours splashed leisurely, by the bountiful nature!
The visitors during September and October get to witness the sun-kissed meadows, the crystal clear atmosphere and the rain-washed rocks, preparing to be covered by immaculate snow. The park can only be visited during the day. Overnight stay is prohibited.
Flora & Fauna
The Valley of Flowers is an alpine valley, and has been formed by the retreating glaciers whose periodic advances and retreat pulverized hard rocks, resulting in a smooth U-shaped valley, which was later colonized by numerous plants adapting themselves to the harsh colonised conditions prevailing there.
The Valley remains snow covered from November to May but when the ice envelope thaws in June, it is signal for profusion of colours hidden in petals of alpine herbs to blaze during July and August. Some important flowering plants having tremendous medicinal values are : Anemone, Geranium, Marsh, Marigold, Primula, Potentilla, Geum, Aster, Lilium, Himalayan blue poppy, Aconite, Delphinium, Ranunculus, Corydalis, Indula, Saussurea Abvallate, Campanula, Pedicularis, Morina, Impetiens, Bistorta, Ligularia, Anaphalis Saxifraga, Lobelia, Thermophis, Trolises, Aquilogia, Codonopsis, Dactylorhiza, Cypripidium, Straw berries and Rhododendron etc.
Apart from the flowering plants, wild animals like Himalayan birds, phigents, butterflies, Tendula, Musk deer, Bharal (Mountain goats), Himalayan bear,, tail less rate etc. are enhancing the beauty too. The Valley of Flowers is an irresistible treat for naturalists, ecologists, environmentalists, zoologists, ornithologists, trekkers, tourists and pilgrims.
The Valley becomes accessible from late April when the snow starts melting and flowing down the buttresses and provide approprate moisure for flowers. The moist turf begins to pulsate with life and from the dead herbage of the previous summers, innumerable shoots of contless plants rise expectantly as though in anticipation of the warm life-giving breath of the approaching monsoon. Primulas cover up shelves and terraces in colour of the most heavenly French blue. Their soft petals covered with dew, like galaxies of pearls, emanate sweetest of scents. In the lush meadows drifts of snow - white Anemones drench the ground. Anaphalles and Potentillas start establishing their colonies.
With the arrival of rains in June, Balsam, Geranium, Pedicularis and and many other species, mostly in pink and red set the dominating colour pattern of the Valley without subduing other seasonal shades of yellow, purple and white.
From late July to the end of August, the Valley begins to take on celestial dimensions. The riot of colours is awe- inspiring. The Pedicularis, Grandiflora, Ligularia and many other yellow varieties dominate, with patterns of other colour blending in. The flowers sway to the rhythm and the atmosphere is filled with an indescribable scent of plant life.
By September, the plants start podding and the Valley dons tranquil shades of brown, But visitors during September and October get to witness the Valley in a crystal clean atmosphere - the mountain ranges shining like polished steel in the sunlight, rainwashed rocks with gurgling streams and sun - kissed meadows about to be covered soon with a spotless white sheet of snow. It is often said that the root stock of almost all high altitude alpine flowers lies in and around the Valley of Flowers. The oak trees, blue pine and other conifers between Ghanghria and the bridge on Pushpawati are sometimes laden with ferns and tendrils hanging from their branches. The forests on the higher formations are full of birch trees, popularly known as 'bhojpatra' whose bark was supposedly used to write scriptures in ancient times.
Although the main land of the Valley is about 4 kms. from Ghanghria, flowers and foliage in exotic varieties can be spotted throughout the route. Immediately after crossing the Laxman Ganga, Colonies of Blue Hackelia uncinata, commonly known as 'forget me not' can be seen in the midst of shrubs and foliage along the roadside. Primulas, Morinas, wild roses and many other species are quite abundant.
On reaching the banks of Pushpawati, a rich formation of blue poppies, sun flowers, Ligularia and pink Andsosace can be seen between the rocky stretches near the bridge abetment. After crossing the rivers, to its right bank you can see various flowers in small pockets dotting the entire distance. Pedicularis in pink and yellow, Phlomis in purple and Potentilla in all shades can be seen. Further on , towards the approach of the main Valley, are gorgeous varieties of wild roses, Rhododendron, Geranium and the Killer plant Polygonum, which is at present, off-setting the floral composition of the valley. A large variety of ferns like Epiphytic, maidenhair and oak fern can be seen.
The valley is rich in herbal plants, many of these being flowering plants - Bergenia, wood lily, Trillium govanianum and marsh orchid are the popular ones. At several places, the abundant growth of flowering and non - flowering plants gives the Valley the look of a thick carpet with splashes of colour.
A forbiddingly beautiful plant is the Arisaema costatum propularly known as Arum with its head resembling that of a cobra, the plant grows in shady recesses, often in isolated family groups. Anemones, white dwarf rhododendrons, Primulas and Anaphillis give a white background to the Valley which is accentuated with the varying colours of other flowers. The violet Iris kumaonesis, the superb Primula denticuleata in purple and Potentillas in red, yellow and pink can be seen in colonies.
Along the riverside there are small patches of land between scattered boulders, which have become the natural habitat for a majestic flower - the blue poppy. Known as Meconopsis aculeate to botanists, it is a solitary flower and has the colour of the sky at dawn. Like most poppies, it is open and wide, droops slightly, has a centre of golden stamens, and is so fragile that its petals are detached merely by brushing against them. It protects itself with sharp spines arranged on the stem and buds.
An unobtrusive flower with unsurpassable delicacy and grace is the Fritillaria Roylei. As the green bells on the springy stem nod and dip vivaciously in the monsoon wind, you may be tempted to strain your ears to hear their tinkling.
The Corydalis Cashemiriana, with narrow pipe like stems and flowers tipped in dark blue grow in colonies of thousands. A plant which is one of the rarest and the most beautiful of its family - the lily - like Nomocharis oxypetala revels in the sun on well - warmed, well drained meadows and slopes of the Valley.
The rose - coloured Cyprip edium himalaicum has earned the popular title of lady's slipper and there are so many of these flowers that they imbue the slopes with a rosy glow. The pinkish glow of the Valley can be attributed to the large colonies of Androsace, Marsh orchid, Geranium Pedicularis and the carpeting Thymus, all in near pink. Splashes of golden lily and creamy bell-shaped Codonopsis are also seen. The pink Pedicularis gives way to its yellow cousin, the mainstay of the August bloom.
Yellow flowers bedeck the Valley as July proceeds. Pedicularis Grandiflora, Ligularia, Saxifraga and Potentillas. The Potentillas are the first to appear and last to disappear in the Valley. The king of the Himalayan flowers is Saussurea obvallata, popularly known as Brahma Kamal. It is a graceful creamish flower with brown and red stamens in the centre. The petals are loosely open, like those of a lotus. A fully developed flower is six to eight inches tall. This flower is found on the higher slopes of the valley, which are not easily accessible. It can be found at heights above 3,800 mtrs. all over the Central Himalayas.
Air: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant,
Dehradun (315 km. approx).
Rail: The nearest railhead is at Rishikesh.
Road: Off the Rishikesh-Badrinath road, 16 km from Govindghat (24 km from Badrinath). Buses are available till Govindghat. From Govindghat the rest of the distance has to be trekked.
Deputy Conservator of Forests, Nanda Devi National Park, Joshimath, Distt. Chamoli.