Pinus bhutanica - Bhutan White Pine

  • Posted on: 2 October 2018

It took us 6 years to be able to arrange a conifer-focused botanical exploration in Tibet. With financial help from I.D.R.I. this visit was organized through cooperation with colleagues at the National Herbarium, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, from where 4 colleagues accompanied us with local guidance from the Tibetan Plateau Ecological Institute, Lhasa.

During this memorable expedition we could document a total of 20 conifers. On a mostly clear day, August 9, 2001 we were on the Linzhi-Bomi road heading east to explore the Nychen Kangri area. As we passed the famous location outside Linzhi with giant trees of Cupressus gigantea (which we planned to see on the way back) we began to climb the Zhejila Mountain Range. Stop for Larix speciosadocumentation, later for Juniperus saltuaria and Abies fargesii.

After Lulan the Niyang river valley gets narrower and the endless mountain slopes clothed with thick coniferd-dominated forests could be more closely inspected. The elevation here is around 2500 m a.s.l. Let's have look at one of the pines that occupies the area (the other pine being Pinus densata)...

A handsome specimen tree stands on a cliff above the river – though it is similar to Pinus wallichiana, this one has very fine pendent foliage and thin, pubescent, pruinose branchlets! A few minutes and we conclude – it must be Pinus bhutanica! It comes as a special gift for this trip! – Taking a series of photos, and (10 years passed) the species is now featured in Conifers Around the World, page 398. Some additional photos are included here from the Yi'ong-valley – one of the grandest conifer habitats we ever visited.

The plant marked with an inscription in two photos below, has been observed at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh; interestingly, the foliage of this tree, an original introduction from Bhutan, has a somewhat silvery sheen while most specimens we have seen in Tibet were green.