Flora of Pakistan

Flora and natural landscape of any country or region largely hinges on its climate, geography, closeness to sea and mountains besides soil type and precipitation. from sea shore, the altitude in Pakistan rises to 8,611 m (height of K-2, the second highest peak of the world), and temperature varies from sub-zero in the glacier-clad mountains to

Chambeili ( Jasmine ) The National Flower of Pakistan
Chambeili ( Jasmine ) The National Flower of Pakistan

at Sibi (Balochistan province) and Mianwali (Punjab). The average annual precipitation ranges from as low as .50 mm at Nok Kundi in Balochistan to 2032 mm in the northern mountain ranges. This diversity in altitude, temperature and precipitation has resulted in a diversity of biotic communities, and a relatively rich flora of at least 5,700 species of various form of plants.

Generally, the forests are confined to the mountain ranges in the north, where coniferous alpine and sub-alpine trees such as spruce, pine, and deodar cedar grow. The southern ranges of the Himalayas, which are of lower elevation, receive heavy rainfall and have dense forests of deodar, pine, poplar, and willow trees. In the Bulashbar Valley, in the Northern Areas, heavy rainfall allows for a more diverse flora than in many other parts of Pakistan’s north. The mountain slope below the snowline provide favourable conditions for many species of kail, fir and spruce, juniper, birch and the important chilghoza pine to thrive. The arid Sulaiman and Salt mountain ranges are sparsely forested with mulberry trees, locally called shisham. Dry-temperate vegetation in the form of coarse grasses, scrub plants and dwarf palm abound in the valleys of the North-West Frontier Province and the Balochistan Plateau. The western hills are dotted with juniper, tamarisk (salt cedar), and pistachio trees. Ziarat (Balochistan) has juniper forests that are believed to be 5,000 years old, spread over an area of 0.3 million acres. Dry-tropical scrub and thorn trees are the predominant vegetation in the Indus River plain. Known as rakh, this vegetation is native to the region and can survive temperatures higher than 45蚓 (113蚌). Irrigated tree plantations are found in Punjab and Sind along roadsides, canals and artifical forests. Changa Manga and Lalsohanra Forests are some to mention. There are some 203 endemic species, or about 4% of the total flora, which mostly abound the mountain regions of northern Pakistan, particularly in the Chitral and Kashmir districts, and in northern Balochistan.

In addition, some 2000 medicinal plant species are found in Pakistan. Among these is Ephedra Procera, used in allopathic medicine to treat bronchial asthma, hay fever and as a heart stimulant. Once a major supply of Ephedra Procera to the world originated from Balochistan. But the exploitation of these herbal plants largely remains under explored or even neglected due to ignorance of even their presence and about 90% of herbal plants are imported for drug manufacturing. As per an estimate, 4000 tonnes of oil from juniper berries could be harvested.

Like the wild life, some plant species (about 12% of the total) have been estimated as threatened or endangered due to lack of adequate rains in recent years, habitat destruction, over-exploitation of economic plants, introduction of alien species besides environmental pollution. No one presently seems to be interested in conserving the flora which may prove to be disastrous in long run. A case in point is the old Juniper forests in Ziarat (Balochistan) which are dwindling due to illegal deforestation.

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