TREES OF THE WESTERN HIMALAYAS

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1) The Himalayan Cedar:

Scientific name: Cedrus deodara Indian name: Deodar

The cedar grows in an altitude belt ranging from 6000 ft. to 9000 ft.. It prefers north-facing slopes and is the predominant tree-species in and around the Shimla area. The Indian name for the tree is ‘Deodar’. Deo means God and Dar means a tree, in other words; the celestial tree or the tree of the gods. Its resin has insect repellent properties and the branches as well as the roots of the tree grow horizontally. The needles are arranges in bunches.

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2) The Spruce:

Scientific name: Picea smithiana Indian name: Rai

The spruce is considered a fir and grows in an altitude belt ranging from 7,500 ft. to 9,500 ft., the needles droop downwards and are arranged individually on the branch, unlike the cedar. The higher branches of the spruce tend to point upwards

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3) The Silver Fir:

Scientific name: Picea pindrow Indian name: Rau

The silver fir resembles the spruce to a great extent; it grows in an altitude belt ranging from 8,000 ft. to 10,000 ft. and owes its name to the bright whitish streak on either side of the mid rib on the under-side of each needle.

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4) The Roxburghi Pine

Scintific name: Pinus roxburghi Indian name: Cheel

The roxburghi pine (earlier classified as Pinus longifolia) grows in an altitude belt ranging from 2,000 ft. to 7,000 ft. It is the most common conifer found in the lower Himalayas and is considered to have the longest pine needles found in any coniferous tree in the world. It has a heavy woody cone and a long tap root and regularly grows on the southern slopes of the lower Himalayas. Turpentine is derived from the resin extracted from this tree. The needles are arranged in tufts of three.

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5) The Blue Pine

Scientific name: Pinus wallichiana Indian name: Kail

Earlier classified as Pinus excelsa, the blue pine grows in an altitude strata extending from 5,500 ft. to 8,500 ft. The cone of this tree is slender with well-spread bracts. It derives its name from a thin blue stomata layer on each needle giving the tree a bluish hue, especially on a windy day, when the spines are upturned by the wind. The needles are arranged in tufts of five.

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6) The White Oak

Scientific name: Quercus incana Inidan name: Ban

Of the three Himalayan evergreen oaks, the one that grows at the lowest altitude is the white oak. The altitude belt it thrives in ranges from 6,000 ft. to 8,000 ft. It is characterised by leaves that have a shiny white underside. The bark, similiar to the other two oaks, is twisted and gnarled and the leaves have a serrated edge, a characteristic common to all oaks.

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7) The Green Oak

Scientific name: Quercus dilatata Indian name: Moru

This oak grows higher than the white oak (8,000 ft. to 9,000 ft.) and is also known as the Mashobra oak due to its extensive growth in and around the Mashobra region. The leaves of this tree are green on both sides and the overall appearance of the tree, other than the colouration of the underside of the leaves, is very similar to the other two oaks.

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8) The Brown Oak

Scientific name: Quercus semiscarpifolia Indian name: Kharsu

The brown oak is characterised by the russet-brown colouration of the underside of each leaf. It is found higher than the green oak and grows in an altitude belt ranging from 8,500 ft. to 10,000 ft. This oak is often found in the neighbourhood of the silver firs.

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9) The Rhododendron

Scientific name: Rhododendron arboreum Indian name: Brass

This tree underlines the glory of the Himalayan spring with its rich blaze of crimson and scarlet blossoms. It flourishes in an altitude belt ranging from 5,000 ft. to 8,000 ft. with a preference for the lower elevations on the northern side and avoids arid and dry positions.

Some of the other trees found in the Western Himalayas include the Yew (Taxus baccata), Cypress (Cupressus torulosa), the Himalayan Holly (Ilex dipyrena) and a variety of cornels, laurels and maples.