How to visit Horton Plains National Park Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Vacation Tours > Attractions > How to visit Horton Plains National Park Sri Lanka

Horton Plains “You Must Protection the Plains”

Horton Plains is one of the most heavily visited parks in Sri Lanka. It’s highly advice you to protect the unique ecosystem in Horton plains, which is now declared as part of the Central Highlands World Heritage Site. So, stay on the trails, Do not pick flowers, though stones and other objects in to the water or set fire to the grasslands.

Horton Plains Trout & Shrimp

Look in to the waters of the stream and you may well see rainbow trout. They are the only fish in the stream and were introduced by the British for the purpose of angling. However, their introduction affected stream ecology because not only are they eaten, they also eat. One species they like to eat is an endemic shrimp species Caridana Singhalensis which is found only in Sri Lanka. The trout have greatly reduced the number of shrimp. As the main purpose of national park is to protect native biodiversity, park managers no longer introduce species such as rainbow trout to park ecosystems.

Invasive Species of Horton Plains

From here you can see two species that are spreading across the plains. The first is the tall, horny, yellow flowered shrub, European Grose (Ulex europaeus). The second is the bight green fern: Warella (Pteridium aquilinum). Neither of these plants are native to Sri Lanka, but they threaten to cover the plains and eliminate native species. The park now has programmes to manage these invasive species.

Horton Plains Native Species

Horton Plains provides an unusual habitat for plants and animals. One of the most distinctive species in the Rhododendron arboreum, known as ‘Ashoka’ or ‘Maha Rathmal’ in sinhala.

This plant has beautiful crimson flowers in April – July. The Rhododendron is pollinated by birds and it is not unusual to see the endemic Sri Lanka White-eye (Zosterops ceylonensis) visiting the Rhododendron. Also clearly seen from here is Dwarf Bamboo Arundinaria densifolia ‘Karu Una’ in Sinhala, the smallest bamboo in Sri Lanka. It grows in the marshy bottom lands next to the streams. It’s young leaves provide good forage for Sambur.

Horton Plains Soil: Root of Life

Soil is a mixture of inorganic materials such as sand, clay and pebbles, decaying organic matter such as leaves, and water and air. The mixture is home to billions of micro-organisms that are in a constant process of modification and development of the soil. In the absence of these organisms, the earth would be a sterile rock pile, rather than the rich life-supporting environment it is now. Most organism are in the surface layer of the oil, and one teaspoon may contain hundreds of millions of bacteria, algae, and fungi.

In addition, there are many larger species – roundworms, mites, millipedes and insects – that play vital roles in soil formation. Without them there would be no soil, and no humans! Soil development is slow. Unwise use of land can destroy centuries of soil formation overnight in one big storm through the soil erosion.

Fire in Horton Plains

The trees you see in the far hillside in front of you were killed in the big fire of 1989. The spread of grose and Pteridium is accellerated by fire. Fire also burns the surrounding forest and kills trees. Fire can be a management tool, but only of used by experts.

Please take care not to start any fire. Do not smoke.

Baker’s Falls in Horton Plains

The moisture from Baker’s Falls plays a deciding role in the local plant ad animal communities. O the banks, a profusion of mosses and algae grow in the misty spray. The alert visitor may spot the dragon-like chameleon ‘cophotis’, which dwells in the moist, luxuriant tree ferns.

The falls also devide the water syster of the Belihul Oya stream, with different aquatic fauna adapted for life upstream and below.

Horton Plains Nelu

The appearance of the forest can change dramatically from year to year when Nelu (Strobilanthes sp.) is present. The shrub has a peculiar life circle. If takes from 8-11 years for the species to grow from a seeding to the mature flowering stage. The flowers are a beautiful blue-mauve colour, and as nelu is so widespread the whole forest appears blue-mauve when the plan is in bloom. Then the nelu dies ad forest understory becomes chocked with dead stems. Because there is more light getting to the forest floor other species such as balsum and coleus grow before the seedings of the nelu germinate to from a green carpet and the an impenetrable thicket as the cycle repeats itself.

Nelu seeds are a favourite food for the endemic jungle fowl (Gallus lafayettii). The seeds, however, contain an intoxicant, and if the birds eat too many they may become drunk. Like humans, intoxicated birds are very noisy, and their intoxicated calls make them easy victims for the black eagle (Ictinaetus malaiensis), one of their main predators, Beware! Drunks make easy prey!

Nelu was also a favourite food of elephants who no longer roam these forests What impact might this have had on Nelu and the forests?

World’s End

Welcome to “World’s End”. From “World’s End” you can look down a cliff some 870m in height and on a clear day one can see all the way to the sea. Immediately below are tea estates and the Kiriteti Oya, a small stream that runs into the Walawe Ganga. The river runs across the plains of the dry zone and in the distance you can see two reservoirs, the closer one being the Walawe reservoir in the Uda Walawe National Park. Uda Walawe and Horton Plains national parks are linked by this lifeline of water. Without the life giving water from cloud forests, Uda walawe would not be able to narture its many species, particularly the elephants. It is such connectivity that national parks help to protect. In about another 0.5 km you will arrive at Little World’s End.

Endemic Birds in Horton Plains

Sri Lanka has 27endemic bird species of which 20 are found in Horton Plains. Here you can see and hear endemic species such as the Sri Lanka White-eye (Zosterops ceylonesis), Sri Lanka Yellow – eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus penicillatus), Sri Lanka Dull Blue Fly Catcher (Eumyias sordidus) and the Sri Lanka Bush Warbler (Bradypterus palliseri).

Little World’s End

Welcome to little World’s End. Here you can lookout for the first time and the distant view to the south east of Sri Lanka. The cliff is about 270m in height.

Horton Plain’s, The Cloud Forest

World’s End is a good place to understand the nature of the cloud forest. Clouds form when hot air from the lowlands created by daily heating rises and condenses by cooling at high altitudes. Where there are high hills the clouds cloak the hills and often result in afternoon rain. However, much of the water of the clouds is stripped from them just by contact with the trees. In may areas the amout of water derived from this stripping far exceeds that from rainfall.

At World’s End you can see this action. As the clouds build up and swirl over the cliff they come into contact with these trees, condensation occurs ad the water runs down, and drips from the trees. Can you feel it? This abundant water supply creates the right conditions for the growth of other plants in the trees. These plants in turn help strip the water from the clouds, store it and return it to the soil and ultimately to the rivers that nourish our communities.

Purple Faced Leaf Monkey

There are four sub-species of the endemic purple faced leaf monkey (Semnopithecus vetulus) in Sri Lanka. The one found (and often heard) in the forest here is the so called “bear monkey” (Semnopithecu vetulus monticola). It has a thicker coat than the other sub-species to survive the cool temperatures up here. It does not have a distinctive white rump patch characteristic to the other wet zone sub-species. These monkeys live in groups of about 15 led by a dominant male. They spend most of their time in the tree tops looking for their main food which comprises of leaves, flowers and fruits.

Fighting for the Light

Inside these forests it is very dark. Plants have to complete hard to obtain sunlight. One way to do this is to grow on top of other plants, rather than on the ground. These plants are called “epiphytes” or “air plants”. Many orchids are epiphytes. However, growing on trees presents problems. One of them is getting water supply brought by the clouds. Another way to get light is to maintain roots in the ground and use other plants to climb to the forest canopy. This is the strategy followed by lianas and vines. The wild pepper you see in front of you is a good example.

Inside the Forest in Horton Plains

When you enter the forest from the grassland you can feel the change almost immediately. The air here is cooler and more humid. The trees provide shade from the heat of the sun, and also trap moisture. The daily temperature changes drastically in the grassland and many be as high as 28Cin December when night temperature may fall to 0C. In the forest the change is much less 12C as the trees trap heat at night and provide shade during the day. When we cut down forest we change the world from a cool, moist place to a hotter and dryer one. National Parks can thus play a major role in reducing the impacts of climate change.

Horton Plains Forest and Grassland

Here you can see the boundary between the two main vegetation types of Horton Plains: the montane forest and the grassland patana. They are very different from each other but both grow well in the cool, dump environment. Grassland gives way to forest and conditions become better drained further up the slopes. Forests are very complex ecosystems with many different layers and species.

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