Bhutan is an exceptionally well forested country, with a strong national interest in conservation. Several areas of exceptional botanical richness have previously been identified through national conservation planning. They are widely distributed by altitude. Bhutan has a very high cover of protected areas (compared to the international norm) and there are current efforts to enhance the network even further through developing ecological corridors between them. A total of 4411 species of gymnosperms and angiosperms has been recorded in Bhutan, of which 222-322 are regarded as medicinal according to various estimates. The medicinal species include 4 national endemics, 4 near-endemics and 68 introduced species. The export of medicinal plants has been banned from Bhutan since 1988 as a measure to prevent uncontrolled exploitation of these resources. A number of medicinal species are threatened at the national scale. They include 7 species regarded as extremely rare and 26 species classified as rare. Most of these threatened species are high altitude plants, with some exceptions (e.g. Aquilaria malaccensis, a lowland forest tree).
The Orchids of Bhutan forms the concluding part of the Flora of Bhutan. Orchidaceae is the largest family in the area, with species being found from sub-tropical forests to alpine meadows. This range of habitats, together with the geographical position of Bhutan, accounts for the huge diversity of the family. No fewer than 132 genera and 579 species from the area are confirmed and described.
Our botanical expeditions will visit some of the prime botanical sites in Bhutan Himalayas, a source of many of the highly prized plants introduced to horticulture. It was the British who first brought the botanical richness of this vast mountainous region to the attention of the West. Mr. Frank Ludlow and his friend Major George Sherriff (two prominent British travelers in Himalayan Region) were to be credited for their intense explorations of Bhutan as well as the other Himalayan regions.
Their account and collections are the greatest source of information in Bhutanese botanical studies as well as in any natural studies. The early 1800s and 1900s brought a number of professional plant hunters searching for new ornamentals for European and American gardens.
The exploits of William Griffith (1838) and Roland Cooper (1914, 1915) and others are legendary and many of their collections have found the way to many European Gardens. Still, Bhutan remains unexplored largely. So far, about 4500 species of flowering plants have been documented.