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Commonly known as mistletoe, this plant is a highly specialized aerial flowering parasite. All mistletoes are strictly aerial parasites, some of them are hemiparasites (leafy) whereas others are holoparasites (without leaves). They extract nutrients or their food from the host plants through a special organ called haustorium. There are nearly 1,400 mistletoe species in the world, exclusively distributed within four families of flowering plants in the order Santalales. These species grow in diverse forest types – from tropical to upper cold temperate forests at an elevation of 3,000 masl. Mistletoes provide essential ecosystem services such as food, shelter, and breeding sites to a variety of animals, birds, and insects. They are an indicator of good forest health. In Nepal, mistletoes have been misunderstood as invasive and pest species. Although a parasitic plant, they have their own ecological functions in nature and contribute to ecosystem functioning as a part of natural plant communities. Their physiology is fascinating; for example, their succulent leaves enhance water storage and allow them to rehydrate before their hosts do.
Bhutan takin, locally known as “Drong Gyemtse”, is Bhutan’s national animal. The species is endemic to Bhutan. Prior to 2011, it was considered a subspecies (Budorcas taxicolor whitei) and has since been recognised as a separate species (Budorcas whitei). The other takin species are the golden takin (B. bedfordi) and Sichuan takin (B. tibetana) from China, and the Mishmi takin (B. taxicolor) in India.
The Bhutan takin migrate in small herds to alpine meadows as high as 5,000 masl during summer and in large groups to subtropical forests as low as 1,500 masl during winter. They are primarily found in Jigme Dorji National Park in the north-western part of the country.
Phallus indusiatus is commonly known as stinkhorn fungus or the veiled lady mushroom. In Nepal, we call it a “Jaali Chyaau” (जाली च्याउ). “Jaali” refers to a net. This picture is taken in Manaslu Conservation Area, Chekampar, in Gorkha District of Nepal at the altitude of 3025m. The mushroom looks very attractive with its whitish veil technically called indusium. Although elegant, the mushroom has a very unpleasant odor. Both the ordor and physical appearance relates to its advancement for spore dispersal over other mushroom species. Instead of only depending on wind for spore dispersal, the stinkhorns – as their name suggests – produce a stinky, brown, spore filled mucous called gleba. The insects are attracted by its appearance, and when they come to feed on the gleba, the spores get attached to insects and are carried far and wide. The species has several medicinal and aphrodisiac properties, and is among a highly praised edible mushrooms especially in China and Europe.
Hoolock gibbons belong to the family Hylobatidae. They are arboreal – live on trees, and mostly frugivorous – feed on fruits, young leaves, and flower buds. Ecologically, they play an important role in seed dispersal and forest regeneration. They are territorial and live in groups of 2-6 individuals. Hoolock gibbons are distributed in the forested areas in northeastern India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and southern China. Their natural range extends from east of Brahmaputra river to west of the Salween river. Habitat loss and forest degradation is the major challenge around conservation of this species. Conservation and management of habitat of species such as Hoolock that is spread across several countries call for collective efforts by countries sharing their habitats.