Plants of Kashmir
Cradled in the lap of the Himalayas the state of Jammu and Kashmir is particularly rich is flora. Due to the wide variations in topography, the region has a large variety of species. There is no wonder that its flora ranges from the thorn bush type of the arid plains to the temperate and alpine flora of the higher altitudes. Prominent among the trees are maple, horse chestnuts, silver fir, etc. At the higher altitudes there are birch, rhododendron, Berbers and a large number of herbal plants.
Undoubtedly the most important of the trees found in Kashmir is the Chinar which is grown throughout the length and breadth of the valley. Whether you visit the gardens of Shalimar or Naseem, Nagin or Nishat, or the parks of Bijbehara or Verinag, Char Chinar or Poshwari or anywhere in the state of Jammu and Kashmir- it is certain that you will find a magnificent, graceful and majestic Chinar called Booune in the local language. The size of this tree is gigantic and indeed mind-blowing. It is an enthralling sight to view the Chinar changing its colors differently corresponding to the changing season. During the autumn, the appearance of the tree becomes very spectacular. Mountainous region in the state are covered with dense deodar, fir and pine. Almond, walnut, willow and cider are some of the trees which are the part of the rich flora of Kashmir.
Called Booune in the Kashmiri language, the Chinar tree is an integral part of Kashmiri culture. Almost every village in the valley has a Chinar tree. You can experience a cool breeze under the shadow of this majestic tree which is very conducive to health.
It is unfortunate that in recent years the number of Chinar trees is decreasing. It is no wonder that if the present trend continues, the day is not far-off when the tree will see its extinction from the land of Kashmir. However, it is heartening to note the government is making its honest best to stop the illegal felling of this great tree of Kashmir.
Chinar is a gigantic sized tree, found growing throughout valley. Its scientific name is platanus orientalis. Its family is plataneae. A deciduous tree, Chinar traces its origin to
Greece. Its incredible beauty has to be seen to be believed. The tree is at its most elegance and exuberance during autumn. Though its majesty can be seen all through the year. Iqbal, the poet of the East, traces the warmth of the Kashmir soil to the "blaze of Chinars it nurses in its bosom".Chinar grows up to a height of 25 meters and a girth exceeding 50 feet in certain cases. This tree with the largest circumference of 60 feet is located at a village named Chattergam in central Kashmir.These days conscious efforts are being made to undertake plantation of this tree to other states. The tree has been successfully planted in New Delhi, Chandigarh, Dehradun and Meerut. But the size and girth attained in these places are no parallel to those of the tree in Kashmir valley.
The walnut belongs to the small order of trees and shrubs known as Juglandeae. Walnut trees are very large, ranging from 50 to 75 feet in height and width. Kashmir revels in reputation in that it is the only region in India where the walnut tree grows. The natural sheen, color and grains are indeed exceptional and unique. The carving and fret- work done on this wood is of a delight.
Generally two types of walnut trees are found in Jammu and Kashmir- one that bears fruit and is noted for its wood, and another which is not fruit-bearing. The latter is known as 'zangul' in local parlance and is less strong and possesses no grains.
The walnut wood is almost black, and the grain here is much more pronounced than the wood of the trunk which is
lighter in color.Black in color, the walnut wood is used for making furniture and carvings. The branches have the lightest color, being almost blonde, and have no noticeable grain. The inherent worth of the wood from each part of the tree differs. The root part is the most expensive and the branches having the lowest price.
The Almond tree has been referred to by Spenser in the Fairy Queen:
'Like to an Almond tree mounted hye,
On top of greene Selinis all alone,
With blossoms brave bedecked daintly;
Whose tender locks do tremble every one
At every little breath that under Heaven is blown.'
Although the almond tree is native to the Mediterranean region, this beautiful tree has adapted to the climate of Kashmir. Big and shady, these trees grow up to a height of 15m and have large oval leaves tinged with red and fleshy fruits. These fruits to turn bright red from green during the mature phase. The fruits of the almond tree are very aromatic and sweet. Almonds are considered the healthiest
nuts to eat because they have the highest protein content of any nut. Almonds are also a rich source of calcium and many minerals, such as potassium and phosphorous. Almonds help in lowering cholesterol levels and contain oleic acid, which helps maintain a healthy heart.There are two types of almond tree: bitter and sweet. Almonds grown in Kashmir tend to be slightly bitter but the sweet ones are imported into India from Afghanistan in great quantities.The almond in Kashmir is synonymous with romance in Kashmir. Ancient Indian literature depicts heroines as someone having dark almond shaped eyes which symbolize beauty and appeal. The heart suit in a pack of playing cards is often called badam or almond in many Indian languages. The Mughals were great patrons of art and lovers of cuisines. As a matter of fact the almond was introduced into Indian cookery by the Mughals. They also contributed a lot to the increase in the use of the almond motif in textiles, weaving and sculpture.
The scientific name of Pine tree is genus Pinus. The tree is generally sun-loving and relatively shade-intolerant.
Kashmir abounds with the pine trees. This evergreen conifer tree has dense branches and produces long dark needles. The pine tree is grown in both urban and rural areas. It also does well in a variety of soils and is very hardy. In a young tree, the spreading branches form a pyramidal structure. During the mature phase, the tree achieves a picturesque flat topped outline.
Pine trees are very popular. In recent years, this class of trees has becoming very popular with those who plant for ornament.
The soft dark green needles are 6-10 inches long. These are arranged in bundles of three. Cones are 3 to 5 inches long.
This evergreen conifer tree thrives in full sun and poor soil, and it is one of the tallest and most important timber pines in Kashmir.
There are only two or three places in the whole world where saffron grows. Kashmir has the proud privilege of being one of these places. There are two locations in Kashmir where saffron grows. One of these two places is Pampur. Pampur is a small town, which is 13 km from Srinagar. The saffron plant is very small and its flower is the only part which is seen above the ground. The blooming time of this flower is autumn. Saffron has a unique sweet smell and is used in dyeing and cooking.
The botanical name of Saffron is Crocus sativus. The purple colored flowers appear just above the ground and are a beautiful sight. The orange stigmas of the saffron plant are harvested as saffron and used as a flavoring and coloring agent in various recipes. Saffron is added to Kahwa - the
traditional Saffron Tea drunk by people in Kashmir.The orange-red stigmas of the saffron plant produce a pleasant aroma and a warm golden orange color. The yellow stamens are also harvested, however they do not have the same aromatic and color properties of the stigmas. Pure saffron consists of only the orange-red stigmas of the saffron plant. Saffron is also believed to have many medicinal properties. Called Kesar in the rest of India, saffron is used as a flavoring agent in many food preparations, from rice dishes, such as biryani, to various sweets.