21.08.2009 60 °F
Bhutan has a huge and diverse flora of about 7,000 plant species that spans tropical forests in the south up through temperate broad-leaved forests to pine and fir forests and up past timberline to alpine meadows. It's especially known for its rhododenrons (48 species), orchids, and ferns. Many of our garden plants come from the Himalayas, such as azaleas, camellias, poppies, alliums, lillies, magnolias, potentilla, saxifrages, and dozens of species of primroses and rhododendrons, just to name a few.
Bhutan inaugurated its Royal Botanical Garden just a few years ago, in 2005, though work started in 2000. It is associated with the National Biodiversity Centre, the National Herbarium, and the Royal Bhutan Gene Bank (currently for domestic animals and crops) in Serbithang, about 15km from Thimphu and another 1,000m higher in the hills, at 2,500m in elevation (8,200 ft above sea level). It is still in its infancy in terms of plant collections, but has lovely views and a great rock garden.
I took a Saturday to drive up to the highest pass in Bhutan with a paved road, Chele La, about 4,000m in elevation (13,120 ft above sea level). The drive took me towards Paro and then up through forest of Himalayan blue pine and then alpine fir draped with lichen. The understory was dominated by rhododendrons, which are spectacular when they bloom in the spring. The fir gradually gave way to shrubby rhodendrons and willows, and finally to alpine meadow. Like all acessible high points in Bhutan, the surrounding knolls were covered with prayer flags.
On one side of the road was a picnic table, a prayer wheel, and a oven for burning incense.
It's still the rainy season, so the view was not as spectacular as it will be, but the flowers were amazing.
And what alpine adventure would be complete without edelweiss?
Finally, here's a couple more pictures of the surroundings at Chele La. Also, you can see more of my pictures at http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/rsherry/