J.D. Hooker, Indian plants and the unexplored Himalayas

30TH-SCIImpatiensjpgSir Joseph Dalton Hooker, one of the greatest explorers of the nineteenth century, and the closest friend of Charles Darwin, was 32 years old when, in 1849, he visited the then remote kingdom of Sikkim in the Eastern Himalaya. Over a two-year period, he travelled widely in the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya and described over 3,000 species of plants for the tiny state of Sikkim, 7,096 square kilometre in size.

After Hooker returned to England he went on to write, over a 25-year period, the seven-volume Flora of the British India—the first and still the only authoritative account of the plants of the vast sub-continent. June 30, this year, marked Hooker’s 200th birth anniversary.

While celebrating the bicentenary of Hooker’s birth and his enormous contribution to the documentation of biodiversity in one of the hottest global hotspots of biodiversity, we should pause and reflect on the current status of the documentation of India’s amazing plant wealth, the pace of global environmental change that is impacting this plant wealth, and the prospects for sustainability in the Himalaya, particularly the Eastern Himalaya, where Hooker conducted his most notable studies that led to the compilation of the flora of a vast region.

Read the full article in The Hindu

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