Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Website Search Box

Department ofBotany

Flora of Tibet


The mountains of southern Tibet (Xizang Autonomous Region) and its adjacent regions in China form the eastern extent of the Himalayan range. Across this rugged landscape, high ridges uplifted from the collision of India with Asia shift from an east-west orientation to run primarily north-south; to the northwest, they give way to the highest plateau on Earth. It is a region of extreme elevational ranges compressed in short distances, with a corresponding diversity of habitats ranging from nearly untouched lowland subtropical forests (with tree ferns) in the Yarlongtsangpo River Valley, to montane tree Rhododendron cloud forests, to areas of alpine and cold desert vegetation at the highest elevations. The flora of southern Tibet is rich and contains many endemic species. However, biodiversity in this region has in general been little studied and poorly documented, and historically this politically sensitive, geographically remote region has received few non-Chinese biologists. A paucity of botanical collections exist in western herbaria, and those tend to be over sixty years old, made primarily by Griffith, Rock, and Kingdon-Ward in the early part of last century.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supported the project on the floristics and conservation research of Himalayan part of western China, with the following principal investigators: Jun Wen (Smithsonian Institution), Rick Ree and Greg Mueller (the Field Museum), and Hang Sun (Kunming Institute of Botany).

The Flower Guide of Tibet website presents some of the photos of plants the expedition team took during the three main expeditions in 2006, 2007 and 2009. The treatments have been contributed primarily by participants of our project as well as our close associates.

All images are properties of the research team of the Plants of Tibet, a collaborative effort of the Field Museum, Smithsonian Institution, and Kunming Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.



[ TOP ]