Nepal, though modest in size, is a treasure trove of nature’s wonders, boasting a vast array of vegetation due to its diverse geological zones and climatic variations.
Whether embarking on a Himalayan trek or immersing yourself in Nepal’s national parks, you will encounter many plant species as you venture deeper into the Nepali jungles.
The Biodiversity of Nepal
Nepal, spanning 147,181 square kilometres, encompasses diverse habitats, from the Terai savannahs to the towering Himalayas that pierce the sky.
Ranging from as low as 70 meters above sea level to over eight thousand meters, Nepal is home to over 400 species of endemic vascular plants, while over 2,500 species of flora fall under a thousand genera and 199 families.
In this article, we have compiled a list of plants in Nepal that are endangered or rare and some that possess medicinal properties. This collection highlights the vital need for conservation efforts to protect these precious resources.
List of Rare and Endangered Plants of Nepal
- Spikenard (Jatamasi)
Botanical Name: Nardostachys jatamansi
Range: Himalayas of Nepal, India and China
Description: The Spikenard has a distinct appearance that stands out from other species, with pink and white coloured flowers and entangled hairs on the root.
Distribution and Habitat: Found in excessive areas of Nepal, from 3000 to 5000 meters.
Uses: The roots of Spikenard have been well known for centuries in preparing fragrant oil. This oil is used for the treatment of epilepsy, cholera, and heart sickness.
Conservation Status: The National Authority of Nepal has restricted the export of Spikenard.Z
- Himalayan Yew (Lauth Salla)
Botanical Name: Taxus Wallichiana
Range: Himalayas and parts of South-east Asia
Description: The Himalayan Yew has a leaf-like comb and grows up to about 8 meters in height.
Distribution and Habitat: Found majorly at elevations of 1700m to 3400m.
Uses: Known for its beneficial attributes for its anti-cancer properties; very beneficial for cancer survivors.
Conservation Status: Endangered by the IUCN.
- Cordyceps (Yarsagumba)
Botanical Name: Ophiocordyceps sinesis
Range: Nepal, India, Tibet, Bhutan
Description: A type of lichen that grows in a caterpillar’s body, about 5 to 8 cm long, and reproduces through spores. As the fibres spread in the caterpillar, it weakens and later dies, sprouting lichen with nutrition from its body. This transformation results in the upper part being lichen and the lower part the dead caterpillar.
Distribution and Habitat: Found in the Himalayan meadows above 3000 to 4200 meters in Nepal. They are found in Sagarmatha National Park and far northwest regions of Nepal.
Uses: Used as medicine for heart and mental disease. Also used for its Viagra-like properties. It is believed to provide energy, and people eat it with milk and honey.
Conservation Status: Vulnerable (IUCN). It is restricted for collection, distribution, and export in Nepal.
- Serpentina (Sarpagandha)
Botanical Name: Rauvolfia serpentine
Range: Nepal, India and East Asia (From India to Indonesia)
Description: Serpentina is a small, perennial, and glabrous herb. The leaves are lanceolate, and the flowers are white or pinkish, occurring in whorls. The fruit is a small, ovoid capsule containing numerous seeds.
Distribution and Habitat: Found in the sub-Himalayan regions up to 1,000 meters (3,300 ft).
Uses: For medicinal purposes, indigenous peoples use it for cough, fever, pain, and frost. These plants’ applications are also described in Ayurveda for medical purposes.
Conservation Status: Included in the IUCN’s endangered list, due to poor traditional propagation methods.
- Golden Himalayan Raspberry (Aiselu)
Botanical Name: Rubus ellopticus
Range: China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, and Indochina
Description: Asian species of thorny fruiting shrub in the rose family. Large shrub with stout stems growing up to 4.5 meters. Flowers are short white, have five petals, and grow in clusters.
Distribution and Habitat: Origin in the temperate Himalayan ranges, found at 1500 m to 2,100 m.
Uses: Sweet to taste and commonly harvested for domestic use. However, its bark carries medicinal reasons in Tibetan villages as a renal tonic and an antidiuretic. The juice can treat fevers, coughs, sore throat, and colic.
Conservation Status: Not extinct, as they grow as weeds in the temperate Himalayan region and can be found abundantly.
- Golden Michelia (Champaca)
Botanical Name: Magnolia Champaca
Range: South Asia, Southeast Asia-Indochina and Southern China
Description: Grows to 50 meters tall. The tree has a narrow umbelliform crown and fragrant solid flowers in shades of cream to yellow-orange, blooming from June to September.
Distribution and Habitat: Tropical and subtropical forest ecoregions at elevations of 200 to 1,600 meters. Native to Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Maldives, Malaysia, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Uses: Its fragrance and flowers are valued in worship ceremonies worn by ladies as a beauty ornament and natural perfume.
Jean Patou’s “Joy,” the second best-selling perfume in the world, is derived partly from the essential oils of Champa flowers.
Conservation Status: IUCN threat species, banned by the Nepal government for collection; however, very little concern has been given for its conservation.
- Panch Aunle
Botanical Name: Dactylorhiza hatagirea
Range: Himalayan belt of Pakistan to SE Tibet
Description: Looks like a palm with five fingers, producing flowers in blue.
Distribution and Habitat: Found at 2300 to 3600 meters in Nepal. One place where it is found is Langtang National Park.
Uses: A rare medicinal plant of Nepal, its roots are energetic and used for making medicines commerce.
Conservation Status: Endemic to Hindu-Kush Himalaya, endangered, categorized in CAMP Pokhara’s (2001) conservation list, and strictly banned for utilization, collection, and sale.
- Himalayan Blue Poppy
Botanical Name: Meconopsis
Range: alpine and subalpine habitats in China, Burma, Tibet, Nepal, India and neighbouring countries
Description: Part of the genus Meconopsis does not just come in blue but in diverse shades of violet, yellow, red, white, and orange. Most available are the big blue poppies. It has a height of approx. 120cm.
Distribution and Habitat: Grow in cooler temperatures, generally on cool, wet summers and cold, dry winters, on open, exposed to sun rocky hillsides, and forested regions of Nepal with partial shade and richer soil.
Uses: Anti-inflammatory and soothing actions. Potency helps to treat fever in the bones, ribs, and upper back pains, heal fractured bones, and strengthen.
Conservation Status: Not specified; however, due to its medicinal properties, it is at risk of over-collection.
Botanical Name: Gnetum montanum
Range: Globally found in subtropical region
Description: Found in Nepal, India, Southern China, Taiwan, Indochina, and Peninsular Malaysia.
Distribution and Habitat: Subtropical broadleaved forests, up to 2700 meters.
Uses: Fibers from its bark are used in making gunny bags, ropes, and fishing nets. Seeds yield edible oil, eaten fried, and used for making wine. The sap is used as a cold drink. Conservation Status: Endangered.
Many native plants like Golden Michelia are endangered in Nepal due to various factors such as habitat loss, illegal logging, and over-exploitation for commercial purposes.
Additionally, lack of awareness and inadequate conservation efforts contribute to the decline of these species.
Despite the ban on collection by the Nepal government, little concern has been given to the conservation of Golden Michelia in Nepal, exacerbating the problem.
|Government Initiatives||The government of Nepal has implemented various conservation programs and has declared certain areas as protected areas to conserve biodiversity.|
|Role of Local Communities||Local communities play a crucial role in conservation efforts. Community-based conservation programs have successfully conserved biodiversity while providing economic benefits to the local communities.|
|International Collaborations||Nepal has collaborated with various international organizations for biodiversity conservation. For example, the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust works towards preserving the architectural heritage of Kathmandu Valley.|
How to Contribute
- Promoting Sustainable Tourism: As a tourist, you can contribute by promoting sustainable tourism. Avoid buying products made from endangered plants and respect the local customs and traditions.
- Supporting Local Conservation Efforts: Support local conservation efforts by donating to local NGOs or participating in community-based conservation programs.
- Raising Awareness and Education: Raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity conservation and educate others about Nepal’s rare and endangered plants.
The beauty and biodiversity of Nepal are under threat, and it’s up to us to make a change. We cannot afford to lose them. Whether volunteering, donating, or simply sharing this blog to raise awareness, you can make a difference.
Join the movement to protect Nepal’s precious flora by supporting conservation efforts, spreading awareness, and practising responsible tourism and consumption. Every small effort counts.
Act now! Share this blog, support conservation organizations, and be a responsible traveller and consumer. Remember, the future is in our hands. Let’s make it a brighter one.
Frequently Asked Questions
Some rare plants of Nepal include Spikenard (Jatamasi), Himalayan Yew (Lauth Salla), Cordyceps (Yarsagumba), and Serpentina (Sarpagandha).
Many plants are endangered in Nepal due to habitat loss, illegal logging, over-exploitation for commercial purposes, and inadequate conservation efforts.
Golden Michelia is listed as a threatened species by the IUCN, and the Nepal government bans its collection. Cordyceps is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, and its collection, distribution, and export are restricted in Nepal.
Nepal has several rare medicinal plants, such as Spikenard, Yew, Cordyceps, Serpentine, and Golden Himalayan Raspberry.
Spikenard has been well known for centuries for its fragrant oil for treating epilepsy, cholera, and heart sickness. However, the National Authority of Nepal has restricted its exports due to overharvesting.
You can contribute by supporting local and international organizations working to protect Nepal’s biodiversity, spreading awareness about the importance of these plants, and practising responsible tourism and consumption.
Cordyceps is used in conventional medicine for treating heart and mental diseases. It is also used for its Viagra-like properties, providing energy, and is often consumed with milk and honey.
Yes, the Golden Himalayan Raspberry is edible and sweet to taste. It is commonly harvested for domestic use. Additionally, the seeds of Bhote Lahara yield edible oil, which is eaten fried and used for making wine.