Juniper tree © Michel Gunther / WWf – Canon

Juniper Forests, Ziarat

Ziarat District is located at 30° 22' 51 N, 67° 43' 37 E with an altitude of 2453 meters and is a famous holiday resort of Balochistan.

A living fossils of Ziarat, Junipers forests, which are also found in Zarghoon mount and some other mounted areas of Balochistan and famous for being the second largest Juniper forest in the world, which covers an area of about 999.60 hectares.

Juniper trees (Juniperus macropoda) have a slow growth rate and estimates put the age of mature trees at 5,000 to 7,000 years earning them the title “living fossils”. United Nations (UN) included this forest in the world heritage list.

This is the second biosphere reserve in Pakistan with the first one being the Lal Sohanara National Park in Bhawalpur, recognized internationally under UNESCO's MAB. Ziarat is also famous for Ziarat residency where Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah lived his last days of life. Quaid-e-Azam Residency was completely burnt during militant attack in 2013.

There are many important species found in this ecosystem including animal and birds, The Suleiman markhor, urial, black bear, and wolf, as well as more common species such as Afghan pica, foxes, jackals, and several species of birds like chakor partridge are found.

The forest also contains a rich diversity of plant species of medicinal significance with over 50 per cent of the 54 cataloged species known to have medicinal or ethno-botanic value, which local people use as indigenous treatments for a variety of diseases. Previously people of Ziarat relied on herbal remedies as a principal means of preventing and curing illnesses.

However, these resources, and local knowledge of them, are being threatened by unsustainable uses, eroded by cultural change, and a lack of institutional support. The junipers are considered to be the real treasure of Ziarat. There are trees in the valley which are more than 5000 to 7000 years old. In Ziarat a herb called Ephedrasinica is found in abundance from which a chemical called ephedrine is extracted. Ephedrinean is an important constituent of various medicines, especially cough syrups. When the snow falls in Ziarat during winter, the juniper valley is at its most beautiful.

Did you know?

Juniper trees are amongst the oldest living trees of the world, and are called ‘living fossils’.