Astragalus zanskarensis ?




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This Astragalus sp. was spotted en-route Changla Pass at an altitude of approx. 16000 ft.
Date/Time: 21-06-2016 / 11:30AM
Astragalus species so far in efloraofindia
Yes, this is Astragalus. Like Oxytropis, this is a large and difficult genus identification-wise.
The most up-to-date check-list for Ladakh (Dickore & Klimes) lists some 30 species.
Stewart listed 26 species.
Stewart did not list A.candolleanus from Ladakh (but there were records from bordering Baltistan) but Dickore & Klimes do.
Dickore & Klimes do not list A.zanskarensis but perhaps one of the species they list is the up-to-date name for it?
Anyhow,  I currently have two likely candidates for this plant.  According to 'Flowers of the Himalaya', A.candolleanus and A.zanskarensis are very much alike but do not meaningfully distinguish between the two - though they claim that the latter species is common in Ladakh, albeit only to 4300m (the photos were taken on Chang La at 4800m). This book says A.candolleanus is common in Chamba and some inner valleys of Nepal.
Can the botanist with special knowledge of the genus help us or anyone else?  Do the photos reveal sufficient detail?
It seems to be A. zanskarensis.
Please tell me how one distinguishes between A.zanskarensis and A.candolleanus?
May I draw attention to the fine high-resolution image of Astragalus rhizanthus which ... located (see below) on the Museum of Natural History, Paris site. This permits us to examine the specimen in much better detail than is possible with the low resolution images available from Kew (grateful though I am for these).
For anyone not fully aware of the advantages having a good quality pressed specimen of a plant to enable accurate and reliable identification compared with just one or two general photos and even a set of top quality close-up images, then take a look at the dissected flower of this Astragalus below the main specimen but above the label. The floral parts have been stuck to a piece of card & pinned on to the herbarium sheet.
One can zoom in to examine the different parts of the Fabaceae (previously Leguminosae) flower which consists (from left to right): the tubular calyx with 5 short teeth; a large standard petal; 2 lateral wing petals and two lower keel petals originally +/- connate by their lower margins with blunt tips; 9 fused stamens, 1 free; then one can see the style & stigma.
Sometimes it is necessary to examine floral parts in such detail and for certain genera parts of the plant may need to be viewed at X20 or greater magnification using a binocular microscope.
Naturally, in such cases, only a pressed specimen will do.  Few of us have cameras that can show such detail. This will help you understand why specialists in certain genera require good quality pressed specimens to identify the species, rather than general photos.  Yes, some species within these genera are distinctive enough to reliably name without a specimen but others, it can be virtually impossible, with highly speculative attempts at identification leading to numerous misidentifications and a lack of understanding of the range and rarity or not of many species.
By the way, it can sometimes be hard to decide in the Himalaya whether a plant belongs to the Astragalus genus or Oxytropis.
IF one is in the mountains and comes across any specimen in flower, they can examine with a x10 or x20 hand lens the apex of the keel of an individual flower.  In Oxytropis a beak is present but not in Astragalus. This is not something which can be ascertained from most photographs. 
For serious photographers of plants in the Himalaya whose cameras have suitable macro-facilities, then removing an individual bloom will not damage the plant itself.  Spreading these out/dissecting (or pressing them quickly) and photographing the standard, wings & keel petals plus calyx would be most useful. Nobody will object to a single flower being sacrificed to help ensure a correct identification - after all you are not uprooting the plant or doing any appreciable harm. This is not always necessary but certainly close-ups of the flowers showing the different petals as in nature, not forgetting detail of sepals/calyx, as a standard image for plant photographed is highly desirable. Clearly, if one is in a reserve or national park one must act responsibly and within the rules and regulations which apply.  Formal plant surveys may involve gathering of pressed voucher specimens for reference in herbaria and permission should be sought from the appropriate authorities, in advance.
I now typically take 10-20 images per plant I come across. If anyone wishes further advice about such photography, they are most welcome to contact me directly for further advise. I am particularly keen to view more images of plants photographed in Ladakh in particular but anywhere in the NW Himalaya/ Indian Trans-Himalaya are of particular interest. Anyone planning a trip to such places in 2017 or beyond may wish to ensure their efforts will enhance existing photographic records. 




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