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An Adventurous Botany Field Trip to Khanaspur Ayubia

As a science student, Kanwal traveled to the Himalayan mountains of Pakistan and gathered helpful information about the valuable vegetation.

Ayubia National Park Track

Ayubia National Park Track

Introduction

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

Prof. Sajeel Ismail Shah, prof. Farooq Inam, prof. Faisal and a chaperone Sohail of the botany department Prof Sajeel Ismail Shah, prof. Farooq Inam, prof. Faisal and a chaperone Sohail of the botany department accompanied a group of 30 students. On arrival in Islamabad, two more teachers, prof. Younis and Prof. Farrukh joined us. This plant field trip aimed to study and collect the valuable plants found in the moist temperate forests of the Himalayan Mountains of Pakistan. This study also includes evaluating the plant species that are becoming extinct in these forests. We are still unaware of the importance of green life.

Such study trips help students or researchers reduce the burden of daily tedious theoretical study and allow them 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 botany department had decided on a 10-day study trip to Khanaspur (Ayubia) from May 26 to June 6. Although this trip was fully funded by Islamia university, students had to pay a nominal fee. The arrival time at the department was 5 pm and the departure time for Khanaspur was 8 pm.

  • 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 Materials

  • 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

The department of botany gave students some important instructions before departure. Each student was asked to sign the instructions separately so that they could implement these precautionary instructions.

These precautionary instructions are as follows:

  • Each student should check their belongings thoroughly before departure so that the essentials requested by the department are present in their luggage, and if there is any lacking, it can be arranged on time
  • Each student will be punctual and report their 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 the teachers
  • All students will collect at least 100 Himalayan plants for the final year practical exam
  • Follow the safety measures that your supervise will instruct you in case of any emergency

Khanaspur

More than half of the students had never seen mountains before and seemed quite excited. Such trips provide students with the opportunity to explore and enjoy healthy areas.

At nine o’clock in the morning, we reached Islamabad, where two more teachers joined the trip who were former students of the botany department of Bahawalpur and were lecturers at 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 in Pakistan are also found in Khanaspur (Ayubia).

Ayubia National Park

Ayubia National Park

Ayubia National Park

Ayubia has another name 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 precious wildlife being desirable for study trips; doctors also recommend these reviving areas for health reasons. Ayubia has an elevation of 8000 feet above sea level and is also known as Ayubia National park. It consists of the wild flora and fauna of the Himalayan Mountains. Ayubia covers 7-8 villages and four beautiful townships. Ayubia also has 104 Himalayan plant species spreading from Ayubia to Abbottabad.

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

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Common Vegetation of Khanaspur (Ayubia)

Khanaspur (Ayubia) is full of green treasures of wild and valuable plants. The noise of the fresh wind coming from the deep ravines hitting the leaves will amaze you. Khanaspur is covered with evergreen and broadleaved pine trees about 100 feet tall. Thus, primary 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 flora includes 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 are other familiar plants.

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, "Chacha Chaska Hotel," where all students were served breakfast at a long table in the open air every morning. Some other students and I 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. Before leaving, they were 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 challenging path; otherwise, there is a risk of slipping.

A small waterfall was in the dense forest of Khanaspur, and the way to get there was challenging. As we entered a 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, walked barefoot in the cold water, and started sprinkling water on each other.

We found a rare fern specie, "Cyrtomium falcatum," there that was near extinction. Other ferns we gathered included Adiantum tenerum, Adiantum venustum, Pteris cretica, Pteris vittata, Marsilia quandrifolia, Hyoclonium splenden, Rhodobryum, 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 forest adventure had created more excitement, and 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, a giant waterfall that surrounded a large local area, and it was a beautiful picnic spot.

Many tourists were enjoying the beauty of Rayala. Its cold water can freeze anything in seconds. 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 got another primitive fern, 'Equisetum,' 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 narrow track of 8,200 feet high. It 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 famous Dunga Gali Park, the headquarters of Ayubia and Mukeshpuri. Tourists are advised to be very careful to go through the broken places of this track; otherwise, you may fall into a ditch.

We carefully went through this pipeline track, and the route was full of valuable 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 nutritive mushroom on 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. It is said about this mushroom that whoever gets this will get full marks in the practical exam. When we found the Morchella, the whispers started 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, Hedera helix. We stored all plants 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. Going up to the top, you get lost in this enchanting valley. Its natural scenery attracts you as if someone had cast a spell on your mind and you lost consciousness of yourself. Before coming to Mukeshpuri, all the teachers had arranged lunch at the Chaska Hotel. So we ate parathas in the afternoon in the cool and fresh air of Mukeshpuri. We drank tea which took away all of our fatigue.

We gathered a variety of plants from different places in Mukeshpuri, including 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. Pearl Continental Hotel is famous for its scenic beauty. It is the most significant countryside, but the VIP hotel of Bhurban includes 2 to 3 more hotels with all the necessary and luxurious amenities for tourists and families.

Our lunch was at the PC hotel, and we were now given two days just for fun. However, we had gathered enough plants during the trip to Bhurban. We saw Juglans regia, Acer caesium, Acer indica, Amaranthus viridis, Althea rosea, urtica dioica, and Artemisia scoparia other than Alpine tress. We were asked to reassemble some plants, 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 asked to have fun and enjoy a memorable time with classmates, and for that, teachers took us 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 a densely populated and 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 with each group, and they were instructed to stay in touch 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 we had to get up early and go to Bahawalpur the following day.

Conclusion

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

Endangered plants are 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.

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 traditional 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. Therefore, these plants are subject to medication, fuelwood, and food.

Most of the residents of Ayubia depend on these valuable plants for their livelihood. There is no restriction from the government to come and go to Ayubia Park, due to which these people voluntarily cut down as many plants as they need. That is why Ayubia’s natural flora is so severely disturbed, and many plant species are near extinction.

Locals and 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 we will lose this precious plant treasure one day if they continue to be used in the same way. Therefore, the Government’s Forest Department needs to immediately consider this issue and ban the indiscriminate use of these plants. Forest management must 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 Khan Yousafzai

Comments

Kanwal Khan 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 Khan 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.

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