Monasteries

Due to the altitude that varies from sea level to summits that touch the skies, the flora and fauna naturally covers a wide spectrum. Nowhere in the world in such a small area can one find flora and fauna of all varieties - Tropical to the Alpines. Sikkim's botanical and zoological richness is awe-inspiring, boasting of more than 4000 species of plants and 30% of all the birds found in the Indian sub-continent. No wonder Sikkim has been a dream of naturalists. Dr. J. Hooker during the middle of the last century surveyed in the detail the botanical wealth in Sikkim and his findings were embodied in the 'Himalayan Journal'. Flora in Sikkim

Sikkim can be basically divided into three zones. The tropical from almost sea level to about 5000 feet, the temperate from 5000 to 11000 feet and the alpine above 11000 feet. Till 10000 feet, there are terraced farmlands in which the rice, maize, barley and millet are grown. Cardamoms, oranges, apples, potatoes and ginger are grown in abundance in the state. The lower altitudes towards the south harbour jungle cats, Mongoose, House sparrows. The jungles in the south, are teeming with plantains, bamboos, tree ferns, walnut, sal and oak. Orchids also abound in areas with moderate altitudes. They are the pride of Sikkim and are about 600 species. They come in a wide variety of colours and sizes. The most popular orchids of Sikkim are Cymbidiums, Vanda, Cattaleya, Hookeriana, Farmeri, Dendrobium Amoenum. The Nobile Orchid has been declared as the State Flower of Sikkim.

In the temperate zone, the flora consist of oak, chestnut, maple, birch, alder, magnolia and silver fir. In the arid cold alpine regions of Sikkim, roam the snow leopard and wild ass. There are about 35 species of Rhododendrons in Sikkim and are found above the height of 10000 feet. The Rhododendron Nivale grows barely a few inches above the ground. When Rhododendron flower between the month of April and May, it is a sight to behold with hillsides becoming shrouded in colour. The Rhododendron niveum has been declared as the State Tree of Sikkim. At the treeless altitudes above 14000 feet curious types of flowers in colours of blue, red, violet blossom during summers just a few inches above the ground. The stones and rocks also get coloured by lichens and mosses in amorphous pattern.