Since ancient times, the people of Nepal have depended upon agriculture, plants and other plant products for their livelihood in their everyday life. Today, almost 90% of Nepalese rely on agriculture as their subsistence, with plants playing a vital role as arable crops, fodder, fruit and vegetables, fuel, building materials and medicines. Nepal is a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual country, with more than 60 different ethnic groups speaking about 75 different languages. As one would expect, associated with this is a great bio-diversity in plants. However, with increasing urbanization and uptake of modern medicines and agricultural practices, much of this indigenous knowledge is now dwindling and only largely retained by our villagers. There is a real danger that this will be lost to future generations, and ethno botanists are busy documenting the wealth of indigenous knowledge for posterity. So far, over 1500 plants (1434 flowering plants, 65 ferns and their allies, and 8 conifers and their allies) have been recorded as having at least one use, including more than 650 used as food plants and over 1000 species of wild plants used for medicine.
Botanically, Nepal forms a transition zone between the plants of the western Himalaya (including western Asiatic and Mediterranean elements) and the eastern Himalaya (with many Sino-Japanese elements). Adding variety to the mix are Tibetan Plateau (Central Asiatic) plants from the north and humid tropical species of the lowland plains (Terai) from the Gangetic plains of India and further afield into Indo-China. Central to this is the Himalayan range itself, a unique series of mountain chains formed by geologically recent mountain building events. These young massifs contribute to the diversity of plants, and have provided barriers to and corridors through which plants migrated during the ice ages.
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