Diversity and distribution patterns of climbing plants in the Himalayan region

HU Liang1

(1.Geography and Planning School, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510275)
【Knowledge Link】Pleistocene; vessel; tendrils; Cretaceous; Eocene

【Abstract】The Himalayas are a biodiversity hotspot. In this study, the taxonomic diversity of climbing plants in the Himalayan region and its connection with neighbouring regions were analyzed, the distribution patterns of climbers in the Himalayas and the Indo-Gangetic Plain were compared, and mechanisms were discussed. Results showed that: (1) The Himalayan region harbored a total of 1,083 climbing species in 309 genera and 72 families. Approximately 66.9% (725 species) of these species were woody or semi-woody climbers (lianas) and the remaining 33.1% (358 species) were herbaceous (vines). Twining climbers accounted for 51.3% of the climbing plants in this region. (2) The climbing plant flora in the Himalayas was significantly affected by neighboring floras. About 74.1% (802 species) of the climbers in the Himalayas were also found in Southeast Asia, 548 species (50.6%) were found in South Asia, and 530 species (48.9%) were found in Southwest China. Only 125 climbers (11.5%) were endemic to this region and no endemic genus was recorded. (3) Species diversity of climbing plants and their proportion in the flora gradually decreased from east to west in the Himalayas. Twining climbers and lianas became more dominant in the western regions. At the genus level, species diversity of most climber-rich genera decreased westward across the Himalayas and species diversity of only a few genera (e.g. Vicia and Cuscuta) showed an increase from east to west. (4) The distribution patterns of climbing plants in the Himalayas and the Indo-Gangetic Plain were consistent. However, species diversity was higher in the Himalayas and its decreasing trend westward was more significant. At the genus level, the average decreasing rate of CCGs from east to west is 8.4 genera per 100 km in the Himalayas and 6.3 genera per 100 km in the Indo-Gangetic Plain. A total of 272 CCGs in the Himalayas were shared with the Indo-Gangetic Plain, and 196 genera were not found in the west regions (Central Asia and Iranian plateau). In the 196 genera, 61 genera (31.1%) were distributed more to the west in the Himalayas than in the Indo-Gangetic Plain, while only 8 genera (4.1%) were distributed more to the west in the Indo-Gangetic Plain than in the Himalayas. In conclusion, species diversity and distributional characteristics of climbers in the Himalayas were attributed in part to the geographical location of this region, the altitudinal and longitudinal gradients of climate and habitats, and the diversification of adjacent floras. The similarities of the distribution patterns of climbing plants in the Himalayas and the Indo-Gangetic Plain may be primarily due to similar east-west water gradients.

【Keywords】 liana; vine; climbing method; Himalayan region; Indo-Gangetic Plain;


【Funds】 National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41101057)

Download this article


    Ahmedullah M (2000) Endemism in the Indian flora. In: Flora of India: Introductory Volume (Part II) (eds Singh NP, Singh DK, Hajra PK, Sharma BD), pp. 246–265. Botanical Survey of India, Calcutta.

    Airy-Shaw HK (1948) Studies in the Ericales, V. Further notes on Agapetes. Kew Bulletin, 3, 77–104.

    Barik SK, Adhikari D, Chettri A, Singh PP (2015) Diversity of lianas in Eastern Himalayas and North-Eastern India. In: Biodiversity of Lianas (ed. Parthasarathy N), pp. 99–122. Springer, Switzerland.

    Burnham RJ (2015) Climbing plants in the fossil record: Paleozoic to present. In: Ecology of Lianas (eds Schnitzer SA, Bongers F, Burnham RJ, Putz FE), pp. 205–220. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., West Sussex.

    Chang HT, Kong YC, But PH (1988) The origin and its affinity of the Nepalese flora. Acta Scientiarum Naturalium Universitatis Sunyatseni, 27 (2), 1–12 (in Chinese with English abstract).

    Chen XG (1979) K-Ar Dating and division of the Himalayan movement in southern Xizang. Scientia Geologica Sinica, 14 (1), 13–21 (in Chinese with English abstract).

    Clinebell RR, Phillips O, Gentry AH, Stark N, Zuuring H (1995) Prediction of neotropical tree and liana species richness from soil and climatic data. Biodiversity and Conservation, 4, 56–90.

    Fang RC, Hsu TZ, Huang SH, Gao BC (1991) Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae, Volume 57 (3). Science Press, Beijing (in Chinese).

    Gentry A (1991) The distribution and evolution of climbing plants. In: The Biology of Vines (eds Putz FE, Mooney HA), pp. 3–52. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

    Hajra PK, Sharma BD, Sanjappa M, Sastry ARK (1996) Flora of India: Introductory Volume (Part I). Botanical Survey of India, Calcutta.

    Hu L (2011) Distribution and diversity of climbing plants in temperate East Asia. Biodiversity Science, 19, 567–573 (in Chinese with English abstract).

    Hu L, Li MG (2015) Diversity and distribution of climbing plants in Eurasia and North Africa. In: Biodiversity of Lianas (ed. Parthasarathy N), pp. 57–79. Springer, Switzerland.

    Hu L, Li MG, Li Z (2010) The diversity of climbing plants in the spermatophyte flora of China. Biodiversity Science, 18, 198–207 (in Chinese with English abstract).

    Hu L, Li M, Li Z (2010) Geographical and environmental gradients of lianas and vines in China. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 19, 554–561.

    Jagtap AP, Singh NP (1999) Fascicles of Flora of India, Fascicle 24. Botanical Survey of India, Calcutta.

    Kumar S (2001) Flora of Haryana (Materials). Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh, Dehra Dun.

    Li H, Wu SK (1983) The regionalization of Xizang (Tibet) flora and the floristic structure of south Himalaya region. Acta Geographica Sinica, 38, 252–261 (in Chinese with English abstract).

    Manchester SR, Chen ZD, Lu AM, Uemura K (2009) Eastern Asian endemic seed plant genera and their paleogeographic history throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Journal of Systematics and Evolution, 47, 1–42.

    Mc Cain CM, Grytnes JA (2010) Elevational gradients in species richness. In: Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. John Wiley & Sons Ltd., Chichester.

    Mitra S, Mukherjee SKR (2007) Reassessment and diversity of endemic angiospermic genera of India. Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany, 31, 163–176.

    Miikeda O, Kita K, Handa T, Yukawa T (2006) Phylogenetic relationships of Clematis (Ranunculaceae) based on chloroplast and nuclear DNA sequences. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 152, 153–168.

    Molina-Freaner F, Gamez RC, Tinoco-Ojanguren C, Castellanos AE (2004) Vine species diversity across environmental gradients in northwestern Mexico. Biodiversity and Conservation, 13, 1853–1874.

    Myers N, Mittermeier RA, Mittermeier CG, Fonseca GAB, Kent J (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature, 403, 853–858.

    Pradheep K, Pandey A, Bhatt KC, Nayar ER (2014) Herpetospermum operculatum (Schizopeponeae, Cucurbitaceae), a new species from India, Myanmar and China. Blumea, 59, 1–5.

    Rawal RS, Pangtey PS (1991) Distribution and phenology of climbers of Kumaun in central Himalaya, India. Vegetatio, 97, 77–87.

    Schaefer H, Bartholomew B, Boufford DE (2012) Indofevillea jiroi (Cucurbitaceae), a new floral oil producing species from northeastern Myanmar. Harvard Papers in Botany, 17, 323–332.

    Schaefer H, Renner SS (2011) Phylogenetic relationships in the order Cucurbitales and a new classification of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae). Taxon, 60, 122–138.

    Schnitzer SA (2005) A mechanistic explanation for global patterns of liana abundance and distribution. The American Naturalist, 166, 262–276.

    Singh NP, Mudgal V, Khanna KK, Srivastava SC, Sahoo AK, Bandopadhyay S, Aziz N, Das M, Bhattacharya RP, Hajra PK (2001) Flora of Bihar: Analysis. Botanical Survey of India, Calcutta.

    Singh JS, Singh SP (1987) Forest vegetation of the Himalaya. Botanical Review, 53, 80–192.

    Spehn EM, Rudmann-Maurer K, Körner C, Maselli D (2010) Mountain Biodiversity and Global Change. Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment of Diversitas, Basel.

    Srinivasan U, Tamma K, Ramakrishnan U (2014) Past climate and species ecology drive nested species richness patterns along an east-west axis in the Himalaya. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 23, 52–60.

    Sun H (2002) Tethys retreat and Himalayas-Hengduanshan Mountains uplift and their significance on the origin and development of the Sino-Himalayan elements and alpine flora. Acta Botanica Yunnanica, 24, 273–288 (in Chinese with English abstract).

    Surveswaran S, Sun M, Grimm GW, Liede-Schumann S (2014) On the systematic position of some Asian enigmatic genera of Asclepiadoideae (Apocynaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 174, 601–619

    Tanaka N, Ohsawa M, Numata M (1983) Ecology of climbing plants in east Nepal. In: Ecological Studies in the Arun Valley, East Nepal and Mountaineering of Mt. Baruntse, 1981 (ed. Numata M), pp. 129–138. Chiba University, Chiba.

    Thakur ML, Negi V (2015) Status and phylogenetic analyses of endemic birds of the Himalayan region. Pakistan Journal of Zoology, 47, 417–426.

    The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009) An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 161, 105–121.

    Wu CY (1986) Flora Xizangica, Volume 3. Science Press, Beijing (in Chinese).

    Xie L, Wen J, Li LQ (2011) Phylogenetic analyses of Clematis (Ranunculaceae) based on sequences of nuclear ribosomal ITS and three plastid regions. Systematic Botany, 36, 907–921.

This Article


CN: 11-3247/Q

Vol 24, No. 10, Pages 1105-1116

October 2016


Article Outline



  • 1 Study method
  • 2 Results
  • 3 Discussion
  • References