Exquisite Pines of Jammu & Kashmir
The Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir is cocooned land-mass at the northernmost extremity of the plains of the Punjab which virtually touches the lower ridges of the hills and further spreads over a vast tract constituting thereby what is called as the region of outer hills. Varying in their heights something from 600 m to 1250 m above Mean Sea Level (MSL) are the rugged ones, which go parallel to one another, enveloping small narrow Valleys.
The Jammu region which begins from the boundaries adjoining Punjab and Himachal Pradesh across river ‘Ravi (Lakhanpur). The stretches over the last reach of Indo-Pak border (Poonch) in the east-West encompassing Kandi belt of herbs, shrub and other broad leaved trees of immensive importance and with the altitudinal gains the rich ‘chirpines’ ‘blue pines’ and their allied intermingle . From Jammu, uprising towards higher reaches of Udhampur, Kud, Patnitop on the one hand and Trikuta hills of Katra, Reasi to the north west are having the riches t varieties of pines which give Kaleidoscopic glimpse when viewed airily in their ambience . Not only¸ that these pines are of serene, scenic and splendour and these are as well of tremendous importance in a variety of ways. The ‘Pride Chenab valley, de facto, is a bountiful and predominantly the richest forest area in the entire state. The entire terrain is a rare combination of inner and outer hills of ‘Shiwaliks’ ranging from 1,200 m to 3600 m above mean sea level (M.S.L.) and further there is consistent rise in elevation to what is most conveniently called the middle Himalayas. The narrow valleys give way to the small rivulets which drain into ‘pride Chenab, the Tawi and to the deep gorges and other emerald waters. The landscape and valleys with ever-flourishing vibrant, salubrious and shimmering pines largely intermingling with fast flowing nectar-clear waters over the millennia past .However, the Chir pine part is briefed down as under .
‘Chir pine.’: All the pines’ are belong to ‘Gymnosperms ‘ part of plant Kingdom having the characteristics of cones-bearing and so is with chir pine. This falls under coniferae family and lakes its start from lower elevation to higher ones (4000 to 6000 feet) fromthe MSL. The Chir is long-leaved pine botanically spoken as ‘Pinus roxburghii is a large living -tree with clear straight bole and thick bark as a defence against forest fire. The leaves are in bundles of three needles obscurely triquetrous, light green, cones are solitary or 3-5 together and the seeds are long, obliquely obranceolate, compressed with a membranous wings which helps in their pollination as it is through wind.
Chir pines are spreaded over the outer hills of shiwaliks ranging from Basohli -Billawar, Udhampur, Reasi ,Kalidhar, Sudarbani , Rajouri, Nowshera and Poonch. The tree is of ample importance is so far as extraction of resin is concerned, apart from fulfilling the demands of locals in respect of timber, small wood and fuel. The resin extracted from the chirs finds its immensive value after the segregation of resin and turpentine oil which is useful in many pharmaceuticals for the manufacture of multihued important medicines.
Chir pines are mostly prone to forest fires during summer spells more due to the gathering of the needles which rather cover the forest ground. The locals have their urge, to good grass and so these forests are engulfed by fireand spell the doom and large chunks of chir forests are subjected to forest hazards.
An idea was mooted much earlier for collection of the dry needles which find its usefulness in the manufacture of card-boards as this practice is mostly prevalent in other chir bearing states of UP etc. This shall serve twin purposes; first the forest fires shall be minimized, improve local economy and boosting card-board manufacturing. This is unambiguously, a workable solution in averting forest fires, apart from opening new avenues for the industrial uses.
Chir pines, as thus has great promise in afforestation programmes and is widely planted in its natural habitat. Many sites of its natural habitations are, however deficient in organic matter, water holding capacity, nutriential availability, micro-fauna and are lacking in almost all over the chir bearing areas. So, it is pertinent to have necessary desirable physical, and biological characteristics necessary for the plants growth and survival of our planted seedlings on such sites thus well suited to site.
o Blue pines also called as ‘Pinus wallichiana’ in botanical parlance and ‘Kail is spoken locally is a large majestic tree having slate-coloured smooth bark with leathery young stems. Like chirpines. Its leaves are also in bundles each groove is having five needles which are slenderical , triquetrous, glaucous on the inner faces, cones are generally 2-3 togethr on penducles. Seeds of this species are blackish , ovoid, acute and compressed and the trees catches heights from 6000-10000 ft from (MSL) sometimes intermingling with deodar and at places with chir pines etc. The wood is as good as that of deodar, which is pinkish-brown, moderately hard, resin-dutes are smaller than those of chir pines. The sapwood yield resin far superior to chir pines and its leaves are used as a stuff for cushions and the bark of the tree is used as slate for roofing of temporary huts and its seeds are oftenly eaten by the local inhabitants.
o Giant Himalayan pine: This pine, unambiguously, occupy its unique placement in the Himalayan region-the most magnificent and majestic. Deodar botanically nomenclaturised as Cedrus deodar is a large tall gregarious tree, the largest and longest ever-lived tree in India renowned for its greatest beauty , whose branches are horizontal having pyramidal crown. The tree ranges a height from 7000-8500 ft from MSL and intermingles amongst blue pines, spruce, fire and Moru oak. The tree is of ample importance in so far as its timber value is concerned, which is prominently used in multitude construction. The cedar oil extracted from its stumps finds multitudinous uses in our pharmaceuticals for the remedial measures of various hues.
Chilghoza pines: This pine is spoken as Pinus gerardiana in botanical parlance and is mostly confined in Paddar valley of Kishtwar and thence in the higher reaches of Kashmir. A cluster of such pines were spotted by the author whilst being on tour to Padder Valley in august last year atop Atholi near Mata Jawalaji temple. However, of course, the most important articles of food are well known throughout Northern part of India as chilghoza which is basically the seed of this pine tree which is highly relished like other dry fruits viz Kazu etc. This pine is also confined in the most parts of Afghanistan. The seeds are around 0.8 inch in size and are long ablanecoloid and terete.
Pindrow pines: Pindrowor Morinda as is locally spoken is found in the higher reaches of coniferous and is botanically nomenclaturised as Abies pindrow, also named as silver oak, is a gigantic pines which homes in bears and most of the other fauna in the altitudinal variations amongst other vibrant and salubrious forest ranging from lower to highest strata in the ramified eco-system.
Conclusively, therefore, the pines in their varied ramification form a sort of green gold in the higher reaches of our mountaneous region and other uplands of our state which is also called as the paradise on the earth.
(The author is former Deputy Conservator, J&K Forests).