Afghanistan’s climate of cold winters and extremely warm summers influences the type and distribution of the plant life found within its borders. While the southwestern region of the country is characterized by dry, sandy deserts with little vegetation, the monsoon-swept mountainous elevations around Jalalabad in the northeast is filled with luxuriant growth. To the north, plants are more abundant due to the higher precipitation levels and the country’s tall mountains, pine and fir trees form forests. Trees such as cedar, oak, walnut, and juniper can be found at lower elevations. In addition, bushes and shrubs sprout growths of roses, hawthorn, and honeysuckle.
Authorities have identified more than 4,000 species of flowering plants in the country, with perhaps one-third of those found nowhere else on earth. Several species of iris are native to Afghanistan, as are the violet or pale purple corollas of Dionysia freitagii and Dionysia afghanica. Even in desert regions of the country, winter snow and spring rainfall can bring on stunning – if short-lived – blooms of plant life.
Over the millennia, Afghanistan’s rugged, deep valleys have served as shelter for numerous plant species, in contrast to other regions of the world that have experienced large plant extinctions with each new cycle of glaciation. While deforestation and overuse have diminished the density of some of Afghanistan’s rich northern forests, alpine valleys and heavy vegetation still cover the area.