Potraits of Himalayan Flowers

Bookworm Issue 66 Jul, 2010
Text by Toshio Yoshida

Potraits of Himalayan Flowers is the result of ten years of extensive travels, research and photography by Toshio Yoshida. This highly informative pictorial features 108 different Himalayan flowering plants in all their colorful glory. A brief history of the study of Himalayan plants by Professor of Botany, Hideaki Ohba mentions the first British mission that visited Nepal in 1802 and the subsequent visit of Nathaniel Wallich who made a vast contribution to Himalayan plant research after extensive surveys around Gosainkunda.

The book begins with an interesting account of Toshio’s trek through the alpine regions of Nepal and his view of Everest from Kalapatthar. Suddenly Apollo butterflies appear and descend on the alpine flowers. He sees a swarm of rove beetles on flowers of a blue poppy. It was on such trips that he discovered enchanting blossoms under inhospitable conditions. Toshio has chosen 108 flowers, each for the 108 beads of a Tibetan rosary. The book opens with a stunning picture of a Rheum nobile, a rhubarb relative that grows on rocky slopes at around 4,500m in eastern Nepal. The photographs were collected over ten years of travel and research in Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, northern India, Kashmir, Pakistan and southern Tibet. The flowers are arranged in taxonomic order, by family to help readers see similarities between the species and genera.

Yoshida often waited days or even weeks for better weather, but even when taken under poor light conditions, the photographs are striking. They are a treat to botanists and a revelation for those who have not traveled in the high Himalayas. Some flower pictures are stunningly beautiful like the Chionocharis hookeri (pg. 78) while others like the Primula concinna (pg 70) resemble a work of art. The spread (pg 68-69) that shows yaks grazing on a hilltop laden with yellow and white flowers of Primula strumosa and Primula oblique is enchanting. A few scenes may be familiar to those who have been trekking up in the ACAP region. The shot of rhododendrons in bloom during spring as seen around Poon Hill with Dhaulagiri and Thukuche peak in the background, is often seen in postcards.

This book bears the fruits of ten years of labor under adverse conditions in the remote Himalayan regions, as Yoshida writes: “Looking at these pictures, you might imagine that the Himalayan summer is a world filled with light blue skies and snowy peaks set against fluffy clouds. In truth, it is not rare to camp for long periods in a corner of a valley that is soaked with cold rain every day—blue sky, or even an outline of the sun, might not appear for up to two weeks.” Toshio Yoshida is a botanical photographer, amateur botanist, and associate researcher at the University Museum of the University of Tokyo, and a member of the Society of Himalayan Botany.

124 pp. Rs 1500/- Publisher: Timber Press
Book courtesy: Vajra books. Ph: 4220562