Wildflower app celebrates Nepal’s flora

Nepal is famous for its spectacular scenery of mountains and plains, rich cultural heritage. But no less wondrous is the beautiful flora that adorns it.

It is the flowering season, and some of us lucky to be up in the mountains during the lockdown will wonder what that gorgeous rhododendron is called.  Or what is the story behind that delicate carnivorous plant with leaves like the hands of the Buddha?  How about the medicinal uses of the lovely blue gentian?

Now, the answers are all within reach – literally in the palm of your hand- and it does not add a single ounce to your backpack.

The Flora of Nepal Project and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation have partnered with vegetation ecologist Elizabeth Byers and High Country Apps to produce Wildflowers of Mount Everest, the first-ever wildflower identification app for Nepal.

Nepal’s flora is unique in the world, being specially adapted to survive at high elevations, through cold winters and wet summer monsoons. In spring, luxuriant displays of rhododendrons and primroses cover whole mountainsides with colour.

Summer brings the beautiful and sometimes bizarre blossoms, such as Hippolytia gossypina with its white-haired pillars topped by clusters of golden flowers. The autumn trekking season is painted with the blue of gentians and the bright red and yellow autumn foliage of the shrubs and trees.

Wildflowers of Mount Everest offers easy-to-use graphical keys, botanical help, detailed descriptions, and plant lore to identify and explore Nepal’s remarkable flora. The app does not require a cellular or internet connection to run, so it can be used anywhere, whether on the trail or in your home. Users can create a list of the plants they see each day and email it to themselves or their friends.

“The app is suitable for students, educators, scientists, guides, and visitors interested in the beautiful wildflowers of Nepal’s Mount Everest region. It will be a useful tool for park rangers and scouts as they work to conserve the park’s floral diversity,” says Gopal Prakash Bhattarai, Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.

Designed for people who are complete beginners as well as experienced botanists, Wildflowers of Mount Everest will appeal to anyone who wants to identify or learn about plants in eastern Nepal.

Byers has spent much of the last 40 years identifying, photographing, and cataloging specimens of  subalpine and alpine flora of eastern Nepal. “Two things make this field guide special,” she says. “First, the Sherpa elders who have graciously shared plant lore and stories to give us a glimpse of the cultural importance of each species. Second, the botanical experts from all over the world who have volunteered their knowledge to help us understand the unique and specially-adapted plants of Mount Everest.”

The Wildflowers of Mount Everest app is available from the Apple App Store and Google PlayStore for $7.99. The authors will periodically update the app to include new species and other content, at no additional charge to users.

Elizabeth A Byers is a vegetation ecologist studying rare plant species and climate change vulnerability of plants. She has been studying and photographing the flora of Nepal for nearly 40 years.


Tourism down? Use the pause to learn about flowers

Tourists and trekkers will be flocking back to Nepal before long. For guides, now is the time to learn new skills and increase their confidence and knowledge so that when business picks up again, clients will rave about you and about their experience in Nepal.

A fun skill-building activity is offered by the Wildflowers of Mount Everest app, the first plant identification app written specifically for Nepal.  This is an enjoyable way to learn the flora of eastern Nepal’s upper elevations.  It is designed for beginners and experts alike, with easy picture-based keys, information about local lore, and plant facts.  The richly illustrated app includes 557 species of wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.

Flora of Nepal Project

The Flora of Nepal Project is an international partnership tackling a knowledge gap identified in Nepal’s National Biodiversity Action Plan. The project is coordinated by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in partnership with the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, the Government of Nepal’s Department of Plant Resources, Tribhuvan University’s Central Department of Botany and the University of Tokyo, and draws on the expertise of taxonomic experts throughout the world.

The Flora of Nepal Project is supported by High Country Apps which is dedicated to developing applications that deliver high quality natural history information with an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. It partners with expert botanists and photographers to provide information of the highest quality in its mobile field guides.

High Country Apps will donate a portion of the app proceeds of Flora of Nepal to support field costs of Nepali students or buy field equipment to allow them to conduct botanical studies.

Link to High Country Apps: http://www.highcountryapps.com/WildflowersOfMountEverest.aspx

Direct links to the app in stores($7.99):

Apple: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id1479336982 (live on April 2)

Google Play:  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.emountainworks.android.everestfieldguide

Visit the Flora of Nepal Project at http://www.floraofnepal.org/ 

Read also: 200 years of botanical art, Nepali Times

Special Offer for Nepali Times Readers:

Free test download instructions exclusively for Nepali Times readers currently living in Nepal:

To download the app for an iPhone or iPad (Apple Store) device, please go to this link: https://testflight.apple.com/join/mO9pvYhM

You will be asked to download the free 'Testflight' app.  Follow the instructions and click the link again to open a free 70-day trial version of 'Wildflowers of Mount Everest' app. The free trial ends on June 30, 2020.

To download the app for an Android (Google Play) device, please send a message confirming that you are a 'Nepali citizen living in Nepal' to Elizabeth Byers at [email protected]

Please confirm that your phone or tablet can access Google Play apps before requesting one of the limited number of download codes.

High Country Apps and Elizabeth Byers are pleased to support nature exploration in Nepal during the current crisis. The Android version of the app is a full version and will not expire.