Ethnobotany of Juniperus polycarpos C. Koch (Cupressaceae) in the Himalayan cold desert of Union Territory of Ladakh, India
Union Territory of Ladakh is phytogeographically Trans-Himalayan region located in the northernmost part of India and known for unique biological, cultural diversity and rich traditional knowledge. The report presents first ethnobotanical survey on the traditional usage of a gymnosperm plant commonly known as ‘Himalayan Pencil Cedar’ or ‘Turkistan Juniper’ (Juniperus polycarpos C. Koch, syn. J. excelsa subsp. polycarpos (C. Koch) Takht). Many ethnobotanical trips were made to collect ethnobotanical information in the year 2015-16 in different villages where habitats of J. polycarpos were present. The survey revealed that J. polycarpos is deeply rooted in the cultural, religious practices of the locals and considered as one of the most sacred trees among the Buddhist. The study showed that J. polycarpos has been used as raw material for aromatic incenses preparation, timber in construction of Buddhist monasteries, medicinal plant by local healers, fuel wood and fodder, making of household articles and for decoration of Lha-thos in Ladakh region. The plant is classified under least concern (LC) category by IUCN but reported as declining in its natural habitat. The paper gives an account that such an extensive use is the key causal factor for its decline and therefore conservation required.
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