Alpine Garden Society

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Meeting October 16, 2014 Flora of Bhutan

The North Lancashire Group welcomed Margaret Thorne to present the October lecture entitled  ‘Himalayan Highlight in Bhutan’  Margaret along with husband David are accomplished tour leaders for the A.G.S. and  have visited Bhutan on five occasions to see the flora and lead treks into the high mountains of the country. By profession Margaret is an ecologist with a passionate interest in alpine flora.

Bhutan is a small country with Tibet to the north and India to the south, about 340 Km west – east and 185 Km north – south , about the size of Switzerland in area. Tours commence in the capital Paro at 2,280 m altitude where images of the five kings of Bhutan in national costume are seen. Margaret commented on life in the country and illustrated the talk with images of children in national dress. After a few days acclimatisation treks can start.

From the base in Paro  the Taktsheng Monastery Trail was followed when many alpine plants were seen along the path verges. Next was a visit to the Chele Pass (3810m) between Paro and the Ha valley. Margaret illustrated her lecture with superb photography showing images of the mountain scenery, prayer flags, landscapes with rice paddy fields, the ploughing of fields with oxen and alpine flora including:-

The tour continued from Trashigang to Sandrup and Jungkhar and then staying in the excellent Hotel Wangchuk in Mongar  (1600m). However, to see some of the rarest and most beautiful flora entails trekking in the mountains and camping. Margaret and David have led several treks with visits from 2008 to 2014  including the following :-

•Demso La
•Ha valley
•Naga GG
Only day rucksacs are carried on high mountain trails, the guides are in charge of ponies or yaks carrying camping equipment and food over the rough and high terrain.  At the Jangothang campsite  (4098m.), Margaret was able to photograph  snow covered Chomolhari mountain in perfect weather conditions. A visit was also made to the Tsopho valley at 4500m where many of the Mecanopsis species can be seen, these included:-

•Mecanopsis sheriffii
•Mecanopsis bhutanica (3600m to 4100m)
•Mecanopsis horrida (3800m to 4400m)
•Mecanopsis bella (3700m to 4600m)
•Mecanopsis superba an endemic to Bhutan
•Mecanopsis grandis subsp orientalis
The vote of thanks was proposed by Frank Hoyle and endorsed by the audience for a wonderful evening of photography and information about life in Bhutan.

Next meeting November 20th at Greaves Methodist Church, Lancaster when Ann Kitchen will present her lecture on the Spanish Pyrenees.

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