Tajikistan's diverse, mountainous landscape contributes to the wide variety of plant life found here. The dramatic differences in climate account for much of the variation: in less than 1-1,5 hours, you can fly from the tropical heat of Vakhsh valley to the arctic chill of perpetual snows in the Pamirs.
In Tajikistan there are about 5,000 species of flowering plants, 1,000 species of algae, more than 1,500 species of mushrooms, about 500 species of lichens and 500 species of bryophytes. At least 10 genus and more than 1,000 species are almost unique to the country.
About 400 different herbs are widely used by the population. More than 100 species of nourishing and vitamin-containing plants grow in the country, as well as about 60 species of volatile-oil-bearing plants. There are about 100 species of tanning plants, more than 80 dye-producing plants, more than 100 nectar-producing plants and more than 120 species of ornamental plants.
There is also a wide variety of oil-bearing crops, fibrous and cellulose plants. Fodder crops compose about 30% of the natural flora.
In early spring the valleys and foothills are covered with a bright carpet of flowers: poppies, buttercups, and bluebells. Saksaul (haloxylon), wormwood, artemisia, camelsthorn (alhagi camelorum), and numerous types of saltwort (salsola) add their green to the picture.
River flood-plains are filled with dense bushes - a :kind of Central Asian jungle composed of tamarisk, reed, thorny of Central Asian oleaster, Asian poplar, and clematis twisting with liana and giant erianthus, left over from pre-historic times.
Delights to the eye include the deep-green crowns of pistachio trees hawthorn, wild almond, maple, walnut, and juniper. Such valuable trees as wild pomegranate and fig can also be found occasionally.
It some valleys in Hissar-Alai it is possible to see the native and ancient ostrovskia magnifica flower, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. This is one surviving of the long-lost ancient forests. The tulip, the ancestor of its world-famous derivatives, is considered the true pride of Tajikistan's flora.
In the upper limit of the alpine zone, at 4,000 -5000m above sea level, temperature-insensitive plants such as teresken (Ceratoides Krascheninnikovia) and a variety of cushion flowers predominate in the steppes meadows. At present, forests account for 3% of the country's land.
The total area of Tajikistan's State Forest Reserves is 1.7 million hectares. Ninety-eight percent of forests are state-owned property. Forests in Tajikistan have been significantly affected by man-made changes. About 170 years ago, forests covered a large portion of the present-day land area. At the beginning of the last century areas densely covered with bushes occupied up to 4.9% of the total area, while now they cover barely 0.6%.
Deforestation has exceeded the natural growth of these forests by 1.5 to 3 times.
Tajikistan's plant life is suffering considerable deforestation. This can be explained not only by human influence but also by biological features of the flora. Most significant is the unusual development of surface root systems that do not allow the plants to take root.
Tajikistan is a well-known centre of biodiversity and considered the place of origin for many crops, such as peas and wheat. Since ancient times the Tajik land has also been famous for its production of rye, legumes, flax, alfalfa, fruits, vegetables, and melons.
During recent decades cotton has been the predominant crop, and up to 70% of irrigated land was allotted for it. Most of its harvest was used to satisfy the needs of the centrally-planned economy of the former Soviet Union.
The country is rich in medicinal herbs with about 400 different species. This is approximately half of all the medicinal herbs known in the world.