Encompassing an area of 3,812.48 sq. kilometers at the northern tip of Myanmar, lying at approximately 28 05’ N and 97 44’ E, the park supports a combination of vegetation types from dense tropical lowland jungle, through subtropical hill forest and temperate rainforest to high altitude alpine meadows and glaciers.
Forest Types: – Hkakaborazi National Park not only has the distinction of being home to South East Asia’s highest peak, Mt. Hkakaborazi (5881 m), but more importantly of protecting one of the region’s most biodiverse tracts of forest. Because vegetation cover is so diverse, patterns are not clear-cut and many of these forest types are, in actuality, found mixed together or alternating in patches, depending upon prevailing local conditions. Vegetation type is highly dependent upon altitude, slope and aspect. From the tropical Putao valley to alpine pasture near the Indian border. Vegetation types fall into four basic zones, which are dependant on altitude, slope and aspect:
Zone 1 Tropical Forest (Putao to Pangnamdim),
Zone 2 Subtropical Forest (Pangnamdim to Mading),
Zone 3 Temperate forest (Mading to Sahti Htu),
Zone 4 Alpine vegetation, silver fir forest and scree (Zalahtu).
This zone is characterized by dense evergreen tropical vegetation grading into subtropical forest and is almost entirely Indo-Malayan in composition. Between Putao and Namhti, at less than 600 meters in hill jungle, the forest is predominantly tropical, with Mesua ferrea, Stereospermum personatum, Terminalia myriocarpa, Dipterocarpus alatus, Dipterocarpus turbinata, Ficus elastica, Ficus benjamina, Nephelium (rambutan), Garcinia (mangosteen), Sterculia, Saurauia, Wightia, Elaeocarpus, Xylopia, Fagraea, Mussaenda, Jasminum, Schima wallichii, Magnolia, Michelia, Musa (banana), Cyathea (tree fern), Pandanus furcatus (screw pine), Caryota urens (fishtail palm), Calamus (rattan). Lianas, climbers and epiphytic aroids, ferns and orchids are abundant. Chirita, Begonia and various ferns are common in damp, dark patches on the forest floor.
Above 600 meters, crossing the first ridge to Maza, vegetation begins to change becoming more subtropical with Cinnamomum, Litsaea, Castanopsis tribuloides, Lithocarpus pachyphylla, Quercus lanuginosum, Sarauia, Litsaea, Magnolia, Michelia, Ilex, Rhododendron, Illicium, Persea, Engelhardtia, Tetracentron and the occasional Tsuga. Agapetes, Aeschenanthus and other shrubby epiphytes shroud ridge-line trees. Species which are normally terrestrial such as Brassiopsis and Rhododendron are here occasionally epiphytic in the moist-laden moss forest. There is a marked decrease in tropical lianas, they still exist, but not in the same number as in lower areas due to a drop in temperature at the top of the ridge where clouds and mist gather. Temperate climbers such as Lonicera, Schisandra and Holboellia take their place. Trees with a more tropical affinity are Caryota urens, Terminalia myriocarpa, Callicarpa arborea, Ficus cunia, Ficus obscura, Albizia sherriffii, Goniothalamus and Dysoxylum.
The next ridge between Nomung and Golle also supports a predominantly subtropical flora, whereas the track following the Nam Tisang river valley harbors a more tropically-influenced flora. The final ascent in this zone, from Golle to Shinsankhu, crosses a third ridge and then drops down to the national park entrance at Pangnamdim. Here the flora subtly changes again towards temperate and the forest floor-dwelling Asarum as well as the distinctive fern, Dipteris first appear.
Despite the altitude and proximity to snow-clad mountains, this zone is a curious mix of subtropical forest in the valleys and temperate forest with pines appearing sporadically on higher ridges. Here the Sino-Himalayan and Indo-Malayan phytochoria dovetail into one another resulting in a mixture of floristic elements. Just above Wangsiwang (approx. 1200 m), there is a dramatic temperate shift in the flora. On the high ridges Pinus makes its first appearance, as do species of Acer, Aesculus, Carpinus, Alnus, Edgeworthia gardneri, Gaultheria, and Rubus ellipticus. At around 1,500 m, the appearance of Exbucklandia and Eriobotrya and the disappearance of Sarauia, Calamus, palms, larger figs and lianas marks a change from subtropical hill jungle to temperate forest. Some subtropical species including Albizia sherriffii, Ficus hirta and a Musa, have, however, colonized the warmer valley-basins. In this zone thick, impenetrable colonies of Arundinaria (bamboo) also occur. It is not apparent whether these are natural stands or whether their hold on the landscape is a result of slash and burn agriculture, but once in place, Arundinaria crowds out all other species.
This zone is characterized by mixed temperate forest, where trees are thickly padded with moss and temperate climbers including Clematis and Polygonum. Subtropical species no longer skirt the river-banks. Temperate genera include: Acer, Tilia, Juglans, Alnus, Betula, Taxus, Larix, Rhododendron, Decaisnea, Torricellia, Ilex, Salix, Litsea, Viburnum, Pieris, Pyrus, Prunus, Hydrangea, Photinia, Berberis, Daphne, Daphiniphyllum, Cotoneaster, Euonymous, Sorbus, Cornus, Gaultheria, Rosa and Rubus. The 6 ft. tall lily Cardiocrinum giganteum, grows in clumps on the mossy forest floor with more diminutive terrestrial orchids, ferns and Arisaema. Dense temperate forest opens up gradually giving way to Rhododendron, Juniperus, Enkianthus, and Vaccinium shrubbery and finally marshy alpine meadows scattered with Primula.
This zone is recognizable by its precipitous ridges with sporadic patches of silver fir (Abies fargesii)-Rhododendron forest and broad, steep alpine meadows, many still covered in snow during May. Higher ridges are covered with turf and scree. Smaller species of Rhododendron are found with Vaccinium and Corylopsis near stream banks, whilst meadows are carpeted with grasses and early spring-blooming alpine flowers including: Cassiope, Potentilla, Meconopsis, Paris, Primula, Bergenia, Omphalogramma, Daipensia, Iris, Cardamine, Gentianella, Anemone, Maianthemum, Selinum, Ranunculus, Picrorhizza, Fritillaria, Arisaema, Saxifraga, Gentiana, Androsace, Pedicularis and Mandragora.
Source: Pilot Study of Hkakaborazi National Park, Myanmar, 2003, the Wildlife Conservation Society Myanmar