Wildlife: Ding-dong bells
These days many gardeners are trying their skill on growing imported species of those gorgeous climbing flowers called ‘clematis’, but few are aware that we do have indigenous wild species right here in wonderful Pakistan.
It is against the law to dig up wild plants for garden or other use and our indigenous species of clematis are not suitable for cultivation in the plains. They are residents of the beautiful northern hills and mountains, where soil and climatic conditions are totally different than the hot lowlands have to offer. So these climbers will simply shrivel and die if moved there but, for those of you lucky enough to visit these cool locations, they offer much visual delight.
The three most common wild clematis to be seen here are clematis connata, clematis orientalis and clematis Montana — the latter being the species from which numerous commercially sold clematis varieties have been developed over the last 100 years or so.
Clematis connata is a glorious, summer flowering species that has delicate, pale yellow, nodding bell-shaped flowers from early July through until the end of September, depending on where it is growing. Mostly seen in Dir, Swat, Hazara, the Murree Hills and Azad Kashmir at altitudes of over 1,500 metres up to 2,700 metres, it loves damp and wet spots on the edge of forests where it clambers up any available tree, then hanging down to sway in any passing breeze.
Clematis orientalis is found in the northern areas, especially in Hunza and has yellow flowers with a purple tinge on the underside of the petals and when it bud. It flowers in August and September and, aside from Pakistan, is indigenous to the Eastern Mediterranean region, west and south-west Asia, China, Mongolia, Tibet and Siberia.
Clematis montana is a spring flowering variety and is extremely common in the Murree Hills and Hazara region, where it gaily festoons trees, shrubs and anything else it can clamber over. With its pale mauve to white, flat, open flowers, it is an absolute delight during April and May when in bloom and it runs rampant on forest verges, transforming sombre green trees into gaily decorated ornaments.
All clematis are important bee plants as these essential, honey-loving critters just adore them, as do many other species of useful insects but, sadly, clematis, like so many other wild flower species, are suffering and suffering badly from the predations of man and all that goes with our very materialistic and ‘disposable’ lifestyles.
As forest cover dwindles, this is due to both legal and illegal logging, plus, the expansion of human settlements, wild flowers are indiscriminately wiped out. Few people understand the irreplaceable significance of wild plants — be one of them please!