Li Pei-Qiong, Ni Chi-Cheng
1982, 20 (2): 142–156
Xizang (Tibet) is rich in Leguminosae flora, comprising 41 genera and 254 species
so far known, exclusive of the commonly cultivated taxa (including 11 genera and 16
species). There are 4 endemic genera (with 8 species), 10 temperate genera (with 175
species) and 19 tropical genera (with 46 species) as well as the representatives of those
genera whose distribution centers are in East Asia-North America, Mediterranean
and Central Asia.
1. There are altogether 4 endemic genera of Leguminosae in this region. According to their morphological characters, systematic position and geographical distribution,
it would appear that Salweenia and Piptanthus are Tertiary paleo-endemics, while
Straceya and Cochlianths are neo-endemics. Salweenia and Piptanthus may be some
of more primitive members in the subfamily Papilionasae and their allies are largely
distributed in the southern Hemisphere. The other two genera might have been derived
from the northern temperate genus Hedysarum and the East Asian-North American
genus Apios respectively, because of their morphological resemblance. They probably
came into existanc during the uplifting of the Himalayas.
2. An analysis of temperate genera
There are twelve temperate genera of Leguminosae in the region, of which the
more important elements in composition of flora, is Astragalus, Oxytropis and Caragana.
Astragalus is a cosmopolitan genus comprising 2000 species, with its center
distribution in Central Asia. 250 species, are from China so far known, in alpine zone of
Southwest and Northwest, with 70 species extending farther to the Himalayas and
Among them, there are 7 species (10%) common to Central Asia, 12 species (15.7%)
to Southwest China and 40 species (60%) are endemic, it indicates that the differentiation of the species of the genus in the region is very active, especially in the subgenus
Pogonophace with beards in stigma. 27 species amounting to 78.5% of the total species of
the subgenus, are distributed in this region. The species in the region mainly occur in
alpine zone between altitude of 3500—300 m. above sea-level. They have developed into
a member of representative of arid and cold alpine regions.
The endemic species of Astragalus in Xizang might be formed by specialization of
the alien and native elements. It will be proved by a series of horizontal and vertical vicarism of endemic species. For example, Astragalus bomiensis and A. englerianus are
horizontal and vertical vicarism species, the former being distributed in southeast part
of Xizang and the latter in Yunnan; also A. arnoldii and A. chomutovii, the former
being an endemic on Xizang Plateau and latter in Central Asia.
The genus Oxytropis comprises 300 species which are mainly distributed in the
north temperate zone. About 100 species are from China so far known, with 40 species
extending to Himalayas and Xizang Plateau. The distribution, formation and differentiation of the genus in this region are resembled to Astragalus. These two genera are
usually growing together, composing the main accompanying elements of alpine meadow and steppe.
Caragana is an endemic genus in Eurasian temperate zone and one of constructive
elements of alpine bush-wood. About 100 species are from China, with 16 species in Xizang. According to the elements of composition, 4 species are common to Inner Mongolia and Kausu, 4 species to Southwest of China, the others are endemic. This not only
indicates that the species of Caragana in Xizang is closely related to those species of
above mentioned regions, but the differentiation of the genus in the region is obviously
effected by the uplifting of Himalayas, thus leading to the formations of endemic species
reaching up to 50%.
3. An Analysis of Tropical Genera
There are 19 tropical genera in the region. They concentrate in southeast of Xizang
and southern flank of the Himalayas. All of them but Indigofera and Desmodium are
represented by a few species, especially the endemic species. Thus, it can be seen that
they are less differentiated than the temperate genera.
However, the genus Desmodium which extends from tropical southeast and northeast
Asia to Mexio is more active in differentiation than the other genera. According to OhaShi,s system about the genus in 1973, the species of Desmodium distributed in Sino-Himalaya region mostly belong to the subgenus Dollinera and subgenus Podocarpium. The
subgenus Dollinera concentrates in both Sino-Himalaya region and Indo-China with 14
species, of which 7 species are endemic in Sino-Himalaya. They are closely related to
species of Indo-China, southern Yunnan and Assam and shows tha tthey have close connections in origin and that the former might be derived from the latter.
Another subgenus extending from subtropical to temperate zone is Podocarpium.
Five out of the total eight species belonging to the subgenus are distributed in Sino-Himalaya and three of them are endemic.
An investigation on interspecific evolutionary relationship and geographic distribution of the subgenus shows that the primary center of differentiation of Podocarpium
is in the Sino-Himalaya region.
Finally, our survey shows that owing to the uplifting of the Himalayas which has
brought about complicated geographic and climatic situations, the favorable conditions
have been provided not only for the formation of the species but also for the genus in cer-tain degree.