Climate Change Signature – Out of Season Rhododendron Bloom in Uttrakhand

A Rhododendrum tree in bloom on 19.1.2011 - Photo by Ravinder Makhaik

It was a freak observation that two wild Rhododendron trees were in full bloom on 19th January, 2011 – much too early in the forested area of Gwaldam in the neighbouring state of Uttrakhand.

Out of season bloom in Gwaldam forests: Pic by Ravinder Makhaik

While climatologists debate about climate change but many naturalists have observed flowers blooming out of season and bird calls heard in a season when they were never heard before.

Normally wild Rhododendrum’s in the North Western Himalayas bloom around the second week of April.

Talking to the forest rest house incharge at Gwaldam, he said that snowfall at the beautiful ridge top and underdeveloped tourist spot used to be very heavy till recent years but it is a rare phenomenon now a days.

Majestic Pindar Peak

The hill station lies in the shadow of the majestic Pindar Peak.

While the facts about receding snowfall at Gwaldam can only be verified by the met office, the forester also revealed another interesting fact.

He said that the forest department used to own an apple orchard a Gwaldam and the crop used to be sold by auction to the highest bidder till the late 1980’s. It would fetch a bountiful price, well into several lakhs of Rupees annually.

But over time, the apple orchard has withered away and besides just a marker tree or two, there are no apple trees left in the orchard anymore, he said.

As the orchard was a little distance away from the spot I was staying at, it was not possible to physically verify the condition.
But there were others who corroborated the foresters’ word.

Pindar Valley from Gwaldam

Despite Gwaldam and its neighbouring hills being forested by cedars, blue pines and oaks that mark an altitude conducive to growing apple crops in Himachal Pradesh, there were no apple orchards in Pinder Valley.

Interacting with farmers it was found that attempts were made to grow apple trees in the region but after some initial success, they were not found suitable to the climate of the region and people have abandoned efforts to cultivate the plantation crop.

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