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An Adventurous Botany Field Trip to Khanaspur (Ayubia)

Kanwal traveled to the Himalayan mountains of Pakistan as a science student and gathered useful information about the valuable vegetation.

Ayubia National Park Track

Ayubia National Park Track

Introduction

Any Scientific field trip is actually a practical research work on wildlife in the wild natural environment that is carried out by students and teachers collectively or through a research team. Like every year, a plant field trip organized in 2010 by the MSc Botany Department of Islamia University Bahawalpur. Such field trip is an essential requirement of the curriculum so that science students can do the practical activities besides theoretical studies.

A group of 30 students was accompanied by prof. Sajeel Ismail Shah, prof. Farooq Inam, prof. Faisal and a chaperone Sohail of the botany department, on arrival in Islamabad, two more teachers, prof. Younis and Prof. Farrukh joined us. The purpose of this plant field trip was to study and collect the valuable plants found in moist temperate forests of the Himalayan Mountains of Pakistan thus to see which species of plants are becoming extinct in these forests. we are still unaware of the importance of green life, if we realize its value we will never destroy forests as badly as we are doing.

Such study trips help students or researchers to reduce the burden of daily tedious theoretical study and provide them the opportunity to explore new things and ideas in a fresh and healthy environment.

Himalayan Moist Temperate Forests of Pakistan

Himalayan Moist Temperate Forests of Pakistan

Field Trip Schedule 2010

The department of botany had decided a 10-day long study trip to Khanaspur (Ayubia) from May 26 to June 6. This trip was fully funded by Islamia University and students had to pay a little formal fee. The arrival time at the department was 5 pm in the evening and the departure time for Khanaspur was 8 pm at night.

Recommended Stuff

  • Leather Soled Shoes or Joggers that are not slippery
  • An Umbrella
  • Blanket or Comforter with Pillow
  • Warm Clothes (Sweaters, Woolen Socks)
  • Necessary Medicines in Case of any Infection
  • Water Bottle
  • Hand/ Face Wash
  • Toothpaste
  • Sunscreen
  • Eyeglasses
  • Backpack

Plant Preserving Material

  • Newspapers
  • Formalin Solution
  • Books or Iron for Pressing the Plants
  • Plant Preserving Book
  • Empty Plastic Bottles or Jars
  • Zip Lock Plastic Bags
  • A Scissor
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Cleaning Brush
  • Tissues Roll/ Wipes
  • Disposable Gloves

Important Instructions for Students

Students were given some important instructions by the department of botany before departure. In order to implement these precautionary instructions, each student was asked to sign the instructions separately.

These precautionary instructions are as follows:

  • Each student should check his/her belongings thoroughly before departure so that the essentials requested by the department are present in his/her luggage and if there is any lacking, it can be met on time
  • Each student will be punctual and report his/her attendance on time
  • Not all students will be separated from each other and will be under the guidance of teachers
  • All students will cooperate with each other and with teachers
  • All students will collect at least 100 Himalayan plants for the final year practical exam
  • In case of any emergency, the trip supervisor will be notified immediately

Khanaspur

The happiness of all students was evident on their faces because there were some of them who had never seen mountains before in their lives. Such trips provide students with the opportunity to explore as well as enjoy the healthy areas.

At nine o’clock in the morning, we reached Islamabad where two more teachers joined us; both these teachers have been former students of the botany department of Bahawalpur and were lecturers in Quaid-e- Azam University of Islamabad. We all stayed in Islamabad for a while had breakfast and left for Khanaspur (Ayubia) at 11:30 pm. At five o’clock, we finally reached Khanaspur and it was as if we were on a piece of paradise, not on earth. Khanaspur has an elevation of 7500 feet above sea level and it is located just below Ayubia and is one of the small townships of Ayubia.

The botany department of Bahawalpur has set up a small hostel for botanical students in Khanaspur where accommodation for botanical students is arranged every year, similarly, hostels of some colleges and universities of Pakistan are also found in Khanaspur (Ayubia).

Ayubia National Park

Ayubia National Park

Ayubia National Park

Another name for Ayubia is Ayubia National Park; Ayubia was named in 1984 in honor of the second president of Pakistan “Muhammad Ayub Khan” because Ayub khan sometimes used to stay in his rest house in Ayubia, which is now called Ayub Resthouse.

Ayubia attracts tourists due to its beauty, good hotel facilities, and its precious wildlife is desirable for study trips, doctors also recommend these refreshing areas for health reasons. Ayubia has an elevation of 8000 feet above sea level and is also known as Ayubia National park consisting of wild flora and fauna of the Himalayan Mountains. Ayubia covers 7-8 villages and 4 beautiful townships, Ayubia also has 104 of Himalayan plant species spreading from Ayubia to Abbottabad.

Ayubia chairlift adds to its popularity, which connects Ayubia to Mushkpuri, but nowadays the condition of the Ayubia chairlift is very dilapidated and the government has closed this chairlift because of its repairing purpose. You can walk from Khanaspur to Ayubia or use local transport, which will take you to Ayubia in ten minutes. Ayubia’s small market will impress you by its regional crafty stuff and warm clothes, especially winter shawls, attract us a lot, I and many other students bought warm Kashmiri shawls and some other presents for ourselves and our families from this market.

Common Vegetation of Khanaspur (Ayubia)

Khanaspur (Ayubia) is full of green treasure of wild and valuable plants. The noise of the fresh wind coming from the deep ravines hitting the leaves will amaze you for a moment. Khanaspur is covered with evergreen and broadleaved pine trees, which are more than 100 feet tall thus; overalls vegetation includes Angiosperms, Gymnosperms, Ferns, Algae, Fungi, Bryophytes, and Lichens.

The wild flora of the Ayubia National park can be divided into three vegetation zones: Moist Temperate Forest, Subtropical Pinus Forest, and Sub Pinus Shrubs with Dispersed Trees. Its common vegetation consists of Abies alba, Abies pindrow, Aesculus, Russelia equisetiformis, Cedrus deodara, Pinus wallichiana, Pinus roxburghii, Pinus gerardiana, Picea smithiana, Taxus baccata, Taxus wallichiana, Quercus, Acer, Juniperus, Juglans regia, Althea rosea, Amaranthus viridis, Valeriana jatamansi, Colchicum luteum, Adhatoda vasica, Hedera (Epiphyte), Galium aparine, Prunus padus, Berberis lycium, Pteris, Pteridium, Dryopteris, Adiantum, Thuja, Cycas, Mushrooms, Algae, and Mosses.

Hyoclonium splenden on the Right and Rhodobryum spp on the Left

Hyoclonium splenden on the Right and Rhodobryum spp on the Left

A Small Waterfall in the Dense Forest of Khanaspur

On the day we had to go to the small spring, we got up at seven o’clock in the morning. There was a small indigenous hotel namely “Chacha Chaska Hotel” where every morning all students were served breakfast on a long table in the open air, to be very honest, I and some other students became fans of this hotel’s food. The feeling of having breakfast in the cool and fresh air of Khanaspur is beyond description.

After breakfast, all students were divided into groups and before leaving, they asked to re-check their belongings, including newspapers, plastic bags, jars, drinking water, umbrellas, or long hard wooden stick. Umbrellas are much needed in Khanaspur due to intermittent rains, it also helps to get down the steep and difficult path otherwise there is a risk of slipping.

A small waterfall is found in the dense forest of Khanaspur and the way to get there is very difficult as we entered the forest, we began to feel suffocated and some students including me slipped in some places along the way. On the way to the waterfall, we also collected the Agaricus mushrooms, we finally reached the small waterfall as this waterfall was as enchanting as shown in movies. We were all having a lot of fun in the cold spring water, all students took off their shoes and walked barefoot in the cold water then they started sprinkling water on each other.

We found a rare species of ferns “Cyrtomium falcatum” on the waterfall, which was on the verge of extinction. Other ferns we gathered included Adiantum tenerum, Adiantum venustum, Pteris cretica, Pteris vittata, Marsilia quandrifolia, Hyoclonium splenden, Rhodobryum, and Dryopteris spp, etc. It was evening and we were still in the dangerous jungle therefore, we hurriedly gathered some other plants and left for the hostel.

Plant Collection at Rayala Waterfall

Plant Collection at Rayala Waterfall

Rayala Waterfall of Ayubia

The next day we had to go to the big waterfall of Ayubia, the Rayala waterfall. The first day’s forest adventure had created more excitement in us, students were anxious to go to Rayala waterfall. There were many small springs on the way to Rayala, we stopped at one spring to take pictures and there we found a fern “Adiantum aleuticum”. We collected the Adiantum and left for our destination. By noon, we reached the Rayala waterfall as it was a big waterfall, which surrounded a large local area, and it was a beautiful picnic spot.

Many tourists were enjoying the beauty of Rayala and its cold water will make you feel colder. Around the Rayala, we collected cones of Pinus roxburghii besides that there were different species of algae, including Chara, Volvox, Nostoc, Pandorina, and Eudorina, we also got another primitive fern “Equisetum” from there and it is also called a living fossil and medicinal plant. Everyone looked happy after such a good plant collection.

Dunga Gali Pipeline Track of Ayubia

Dunga Gali Pipeline Track of Ayubia is a very narrow track with 8,200 feet height and is unsafe for the family because this pipeline track is broken in some places and is seriously risky. It only allows tourists and adventurers to walk on this track, which takes them to quite a popular Dunga Gali Park, headquarters of Ayubia and Mukeshpuri. You need to be very careful to go through the broken places of this track otherwise you may fall into a ditch.

We all went this pipeline track very carefully and the whole route is loaded with precious vegetation. On the way, we found the Marchantia (Alga) in the cracks of old walls and another endangered plant” Cycas revoluta” which teachers forbade to collect. We obtained many Mushrooms, Lichens, Mosses, and Bract Fungi in the jars, the most valuable mushroom was the Morchella mushroom. Morchella mushroom is a costly edible and a nutritive mushroom in the market.

This Morchella mushroom caused a strange and funny incident as we got three or four Morchelle and the number of students was thirty and it was said about this mushroom that whoever gets this will get full marks in the practical exam. When we found the Morchella, the whispers will start among the students, seeing the danger of fighting among the students, teachers took the Morchelle and the students stared.

Other vegetation of Dunga Gali consists of Polystichum veneris, Rosa brunonii, Setaria verticillata, Senecio chrysanthemoides, Bellis perennis, Rumex dentatus, chrysanthemum indicum, Adiantum, and Hedera helix, which we stored in plastic bags we brought with us.

Mukeshpuri Track

Mukeshpuri Track

Argemone mexicana at Mukeshpuri

Argemone mexicana at Mukeshpuri

Mukespuri

Mukeshpuri is located at an altitude of 9,200 feet. It looks like a valley of beautiful and magical fairies where you will find small and big colored mushrooms everywhere. Climb to the top, you get lost in this enchanting valley and its natural scenery attracts you so much as if someone had cast a spell on your mind and you lost consciousness of yourself and those around you. Before coming to Mukeshpuri, all the teachers had arranged lunch from the Chaska Hotel so we ate parathas in the afternoon in the cool and fresh air of Mukeshpuri and drank tea which took away all of our fatigue.

We gathered the variety of plants from different places in Mukeshpuri, which included Morus alba, Ziziphus, Argemone Mexicana, Fragaria nubicola, Prunus armeniaca, Ficus glometara, Pteris vittata, Dryopteris ramose, Dryopteris xanthomelas, Dryopteris arguta, Asplenium adiantum, Berberis lycium, Quercus baloot, Skimmia laureola, Achellia millefolium, Ephedra gerardiana, etc.

Pearl Continental Hotel Bhurban

Bhurban is an hour and 15 minutes away from Ayubia at an altitude of 6000 feet from sea level. Pearl Continental Hotel is famous for its scenic beauty and is the largest countryside, but the VIP hotel of the Bhurban, which includes 2 to 3 more hotels with all the necessary and luxurious amenities for tourists and family.

Our lunch was arranged at the PC hotel, we were now given two days just for fun. Although we had gathered enough plants and all the way to Bhurban, we saw Juglans regia, Acer caesium, Acer indica, Amaranthus viridis, Althea rosea, urtica dioica, and Artemisia scoparia, besides Alpine tress. We were asked to re-assemble some of the plants and label them with our names and put them in the cars.

Night Shopping in Murree

Our plant study was almost over and now we were only told to have fun and enjoy the memorable time with classmates and for that, we were taken to Murree. We reached Murree in an hour at night via Abbottabad road, as Murree is located at an altitude of 7517 feet below Ayubia. Murree is densely populated most favorite hill station for tourists, most people like to visit and stay in Murree because of its splendor, coolness, numerous residential motels, delicious food, and natural views around it. People from the rest of the northern regions of Pakistan also come to Murree to buy their necessities of life.

At night, the whole city surrounded by clouds was shining with lights coming out of shops loaded with all sorts of things and its adornment was as flowing as always. All students were divided into groups, one teacher was added to each group, and they were instructed to stay in touch with each other and complete their shopping within an hour.

Therefore, students brought some stuff for themselves and their families and some enjoyed that memorable time and only did window-shopping and got vehicles on time. We hurriedly had dinner in Murree and left for Ayubia because the next morning we had to get up early and leave for Bahawalpur.

Conclusion

The accurate information about the Himalayan plants of Pakistan has been recorded from some students who were involved in a botany field trip of Khanaspur (Ayubia) at that time (Lect.Shagufta Jabeen, Lect.Rabia Farid, and Lect.Kanwal Yousafzai). According to what Botanists have observed so far that the Himalayan regions consist of beneficial flora, but some of the plants are vanishing by the relentless use and free visit of local people.

These endangered plants included Asparagus adscendens, Abies pindrow, Taxus wallichiana, Colchicum luteum, Quercus dilatata, Quercus incana, Atropa acuminate, Cycas revoluta, Cyrtomium falcatum, Valeriana jatamansi, Betula utilis, Salix denticulate, Dryopteris ramose, Lygodium japonicum, Veronica laxa, Arisaema flavum, Fragaria nubicola, Berberis lycium, podophyllum hexandrum, etc.

The way to conserve these endangered plants is to replace them with neglected underutilized species of Ayubia such as Urtica dioica, Adhatoda vasica, Golium aparine, Carum copticum, Hedera nepalensis, Artemisia scoparia, Nigella sativa, and Amaranthus viridis. Moreover, the ecosystem of the Himalayas is most favorable for the growth of plants like Sorghum bicolor, Pennisetum glaucum, Hordeum vulgare, Fagopyrum esculentum, uncultivated vegetables and fruits that have been consumed as customary food for centuries.

Ayubia National Park is full of valuable plants such as Jasminum officinalis, Ficus carica, Datura stramonium, Rubia cordifolia, Arisaema flavum, Murraya koeniji, Acorus calamus, Barleria cristata, Cannabis sativa, Carisa oppaca, Verbena officinale, Cynodon dactylon, Aesculus indica, Morus alba, Verbascum thapsus, Fumaria indica, Xanthoxylum armatum, and plantago major as these plants are used as medicinal plants, fuelwood, and food.

Most of the residents of Ayubia depend on these valuable plants for their livelihood, the population of these residents has grown, so has the use of these wild and beneficial plants. There is no restriction from the Government to come and go to the Ayubia Park due which these people voluntarily cut down as many plants as they want and that’s why Ayubia Natural’s Flora is so badly disturbed and many species of plants are becoming extinct.

Not only locals but also the pharmaceutical firms are using these plants extensively to make various medicines. However, no attention is being paid to their reproduction and it is feared that if they continue to be used in the same way, one day we will lose this precious plant treasure. Therefore, the Government’s Forest Department needs to immediately consider this issue so that it can ban the indiscriminate use of these plants and take conservatory and precautionary steps to breed these valuable plants.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 KANWAL YOUSAFZAI

Comments

KANWAL YOUSAFZAI (author) from Pakistan on September 20, 2020:

This is possible with the help of you dear.

Thank you Shagufta !

Shagufta on September 20, 2020:

You explained so nicely dear

KANWAL YOUSAFZAI (author) from Pakistan on September 18, 2020:

Thank you Mahrukh khan

Mahrukh khan on September 17, 2020:

Yet again. An amazing article. Very informative and profound. Felt like we were a part of this knowledge seeking journey too. Thankyou for this.