Of the total species of plants found on the planet, Nepal contributes 2.8% of it. Among them, 6391 flowering plants (representing 1590 genera and 231 families), which is 2.36% of the flowering plants observed globally, are found in the country as per the record of 2006. However, recent records show that the number has risen to 2.76%. Similarly, the country has increased the number of Pteridophytes from 4.45% to 5.15%.
Some 2532 species of vascular plants (1,034 genera and 199 families) and 130 endemic species (out of 399 endemic flowering species) can be found in the protected sites of Nepal.
Well, interestingly, much of these species can be spotted in the upper Himalayan region of Nepal (particularly in central Nepal, which is up the Kathmandu valley). Still, the middle hilly and lower Terai hosts a considerable variety of Plant species.
Lower Terai hosts Sal, Simal, Asna etc while middle hilly is known for oak, pine, conifers, bamboo etc. Above all, upper Himalayas is saturated by the colorful Rhododendron woodland with randomly scattered pine, fir, birch, cypress, spruce, and sweet-smelling juniper. As you ascend higher, the vegetation grows sparse and, finally, nothing appears visible except rocks and snow.
Plants available in the upper Himalayas have great medicinal value; its significance is highlighted as Ayurveda in the thousand years old Hindu epics. Many of the traditional practices (Ayurvedic, Homeopathic, and Amchi etc) involve the use of Himalayan plants for healing purposes. These days, even the allopathic medicines are prepared from those species. Aloe Vera, Asparagus, Calamus, Yarsagumba, cinnamon, dry ginger, Neem, Tulsi, Zanthoxylum Alatum are some of the commonly known herbs. This is just a tiny part of the total medicinal herbs found in Nepal.
Some of the plant species found in Nepal are very rare in the world. Here are some of them:
Found at the extreme regions of Nepal (3000m to 5000m asl), Spikenard is a straight plant with intertwined hairs of the root. Its pink and white colored flower is what makes it stand out among the rest of the others. These roots are used to prepare fragrant oil, which is also utilized for the treatment of cholera, epilepsy and heart diseases. The government of Nepal has restricted the export of Spikenard.
Serpentina can be spotted at an altitude of around 1200m while it is also found in the lower Terai region. The flowers of Serpentina is of red and white color and like the Jatamasi, its root also has medicinal value: for the treatment of diarrhea, blood-pressure, pain, insomnia, dysentery, worm etc
Found at the altitude of 1700m-3400m, this plant has a comb-like leaf, which is used for the preparation of medicine for epilepsy, heart disease, headache, respiration, diarrhea etc. This plant is about 8 m long. It is also believed to do some good for the victims of cancer.
Cordyceps is very rare to find, however, its medicinal value makes it one of the most sought-after species around the world. It grows in the body of a caterpillar and falls under the group of fungi. It is about 5 to 8 cm in length and is used for the treatment of heart disease and brain disease. It is illegal to export this species and, perhaps, because of its high cost, it is illegally smuggled.
Fauna of Nepal is as diverse as is flora. With 3.96 percent mammals, 3.72 percent butterflies and 8.9 percent of birds, Nepal flaunts some of the rare species of the world. These rare species are protected in an isolated setting with intense care. As per the data publicized by www.welcomenepal.com, 26 mammals, 9 birds, and 3 reptiles are prioritized in the protection list. One-horned rhinoceros, red panda, snow leopard, Bengal tiger etc. are some of the animals that make Nepal proud in the world of wild.
Combining all the species from Lower-Terai to Upper-Himalayas, Nepal has 185 species of mammals. Asiatic Elephant, one-horned Rhinoceros, and Royal Bengal Tiger are the kings of Terai’s tropical jungles, while monkey, langurs, leopard, hyena, Jackal, wild boar, wolf, antelope, sloth bear, spotted deer and barking deer still hold a respectable position. In the eastern forest of Koshi-Tappu, wild buffalo (aka Arna) is praised; in the western Suklaphanta wildlife reserve, swamped deer entices the forest with charm. For the preservation of blackbucks, Government of Nepal has declared an area of 15.95 sq. km as the Blackbucks Conservation Area in Bardia of Nepal.
Also, Nepal hosts one of the unique varieties of Dolphins (Ganges) in the river of Karnali and Narayani. Before 2009, these dolphins could be seen at any time in these rivers. However, after a devastating flood hit in those rivers, dolphin glimpse has become very rare. Similarly, the elusive snow leopard of the Himalayan region and the shy red panda is a million dollars glimpse. Commonly meandering wildlife of Himalayas includes the Yak, Himalayan Tahr, Blue Sheep etc. Hunting of Himalayan Tahr and Blue Sheep is allowed in the forest of Dhorpatan (the only Hunting Reserve of the country).
Wide varieties of reptiles survive in the wilderness of Nepal. Among them, fish-eating Gharial and omnivorous marsh mugger are the endangered indigenous species of crocodile found wild in Nepal. While the Gharial has a long and pointed snout, Marsh muggers are broad-snouted. They play in the muddy water and look dirty. Snakes, on the other hand, are very much endearing with its colorful outlook. Some of them are Cobras, Kraits, Vipers and Indian Python. Well, lizards are no exception to what this country has to offer. Turtles and monitor Lizards are very much wild in the Chitwan National Park and Bardia National Park.
Birds have been loyal to this country for ages. Excluding the extinct ones and those hidden from the outside world, 850 recorded species of bird regard Nepal as their home. Many of these species can be spotted around in the skyline of Kathmandu valley. Nagarjuna, Godavari, and Phulchowki are the perfect vantage points for the bird-watchers. Spiny babbler was considered extinct before it was seen flying above the hills of Phulchowki. One of the rare species, red-headed trogan, was sighted in the sky of Nepal in 2000 as per the information from www.welcomenepal.com.
National Parks are the best vantage points to spot wide varieties of bird. With zillions of residents as well as migratory birds (over 400 species), Koshi-Tappu wildlife reserve boasts the title of ‘Bird-watcher’s paradise’. Watercock, Indian Nightjar, dusky eagle owl, black-headed cuckoo-shrike, white-tailed stonechat, striated grassbird, large adjutant stork, Pallas’s fish eagle, common golden-eye and gull-billed tern are some of the commonly found birds around the premises of Koshi Tappu. On the other hand, the Himalayan birds are truly exotic and vibrant. Impeyan Pheasant, which is also the national bird of Nepal, looks amazing as it soars parallel to the snow-clad pinnacles. Raptors, Cheer Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, Bengal Florican, Lesser Florican, Great Hornbill, Sarus Crane, Black Stork, and White Stork add another dimension to the exquisite mountains of Nepal.
To see the spectacular pictures of these birds, check https://mybirdsofnepal.com/.