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December, 02, 2016

The Red Book of Lake Baikal: What Grows in the Woods by the Lake

The extraordinary natural beauty of the lake attracts a huge number of tourists. The diversity of flora cannot be but admired - more than a thousand species exist at Baikal.

The extraordinary natural beauty of the lake attracts a huge number of tourists. The diversity of flora cannot be but admired - more than a thousand species exist at Baikal. 

Approximately 15% of known plant species can only be found here. Among them there are also ancient flora, which remain almost one-of-a-kind pieces.

For example, there is a relic spruce grove on the island of Olkhon preserved from the time of the Ice Age. This happened thanks to a rather mild climate and warm waters. This, the only large fir forest on the island, is located at its highest point.

There are about 280 known species of unique flora representatives which grow on the Ushkaniye islands. There are also plants that can be seen only in the archipelago. For example, there is black birch, dubbed "Ushkanya", a tree with black bark and sharp-toothed leaves. Dahurian larch - a bottle-thickening crust at the bottom of the barrel also grows on Lake Baikal. Some trees even grow to be 300 years old.

There are also ancient plants like Circaea lutetiana, adder's-tongue, February daphne and Anemone baicalensis.

Circaea lutetiana is also called the magical grass. Most likely, because the generic name is derived from the name of the sorceress Circaea. This is a perennial plant found in deciduous forests and alder, it blooms in June and July and bears fruit - in July and August.

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Ельник на о. Ольхон
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Ельник на о. Ольхон

Ophioglossum or Adder's-tongue was called "gap-grass" in the old days. This plant almost doesn't take root when transplanting, it needs special fungi for life.

February daphne , otherwise known as upland pepper, wolf bast, daphne, pepper wolf, or wolf berries. It received such terrible names for a reason: even the slightest contact with them is fraught with risk - the skin becomes inflamed and covered with blisters.

Arsenjevia baicalensis or Anemone baicalensis grows mainly in shady and humid forests. It is a perennial plant which during flowering reaches 60 cm.

You can also find a unique species called Oxytropis triphylla, it’s about 15 million years old.

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Generally, there are a huge number of medicinal plants on Lake Baikal - more than a thousand in all. These include rhodiola rosea, bearberry, liquorice, elephant-eared saxifrage, yevering Bells, anise, lingonberry, chamomile, wood fern, bracken and many others. One of them is thyme. Thyme grows on the rocky slopes and open sandy areas of the steppe meadows. It contains essential oils. Thyme infusions and elixirs are widely used in folk medicine to treat various diseases. Shamans also use thyme for some rites. 

Rodendron Adams or as the locals call it - Sagan-Daila, which translates as "life-prolonging" works as a stimulant with the leaves of this herb are infused. It was used by hunters who had to hunt down prey for several days. However, traditional healers still actively use this plant for treatment of various diseases and even for rejuvenation.

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Rhodiola rosea (golden root) grows on rocks and stony slopes in almost all areas of the lake. It also has a stimulant effect, it relieves fatigue. This herb is used as a liquid extract, infused with alcohol or water. Traditional healers often prescribed extracts from this herb during serious illnesses, after injuries, or for people suffering from anemia due to massive blood loss.
 

The most famous plant at Baikal is the Siberian cedar. It is also called the Siberian cedar pine. It is an evergreen tree with dense foliage which grows up to 45 meters tall, and reaches up to two meters in diameter. 

It is a centenarian among the plants which can live for 800 years. 

The locals often call it the Siberian bread tree. Before the revolution, when sunflower oil was scarce, people manufactured cedar oil from cedar nuts. This nuts and the tree itself have healing properties. Many people believe that even the air in a cedar forest can cure various ailments. No wonder that cedar was used for packaging food.

Pine forests stretch for hundreds of kilometers, mostly in the Baikal Mountains. But in many areas a cousin of the Siberian Cedar– the Siberian dwarf pine (creeping pine) replaces the Cedar. This bushy tree grows up to 4 meters in height. Its edible nuts and needles contain vitamin C, which is essential for the harsh elements.

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