This diversity of Kyrgyzstan's habitat underlies its variety of plant and animal life. The botanical diversity of the country is particularly astounding-including about 400 species found only in this country-often with highly restricted distributions in high mountain areas. Kyrgyzstan has at least 4,500 species of plant in total, of which 125 species are endemic and 300 are considered to be endangered. The country's extensive forests are particularly noteworthy, with large tracts of spruce, juniper (archa), pine, maple, poplar-willow, rowan and birch.
Jalal-Abad Oblast has the greatest percentage of forest cover (9.0%), which includes a large expanse of walnut forest in the region of Arslanbob; this is followed by Osh (5.1%), Talas (3.6%), Issyk-Kul (2.7%), Naryn (2.2%) and Chui (2.1%). Overall, 4.2% of the country (about 843,000ha) is estimated to be covered by woodland.
Kyrgyzstan's natural forests contain a total of 120 woody species. On the northern mountain ranges the most significant species are spruce (Picea scltrenkiana), Tien Shan fir (Pinus schrenkiana), several junipers (funiperus spp), rowan (Sorbus tianschanica) and birch (Betula spp), along with bushy scrub of barberry (Berberis spp), wild rose (Rosa spp) and buckthorn (Hippopkae rhamnoides) among others. In the western Tien Shan range, in the more protected, drier areas, pistachio (Pistacia vera) is present in significant quantity, as is wild almond (Primus amugdalus communis). In the wetter mountain areas, particularly on the southern slopes north of the Fergana Valley in Jalal-Abad Oblast, stand some of the world's most significant relic forests of walnut (Juglatis regia), along with stands of wild fruit trees such as apple (Mains spp), cherry and plum (Primus spp) and hardwoods such as maple (Acer turkestanica).
Unfortunately, some of Kyrgyzstan's forests, particularly its relic walnut forests in the south, are aging faster than they are regenerating and the over-mature forests are susceptible to damage from pests and diseases.
As well as its forests, Kyrgyzstan is also well known throughout central Asia for the variety of valuable medicinal herbs that are found in its meadows and valleys, a total of around 200 in all. These include plants such as plantain (Piantago spp), Jerusalem sage (Phlomis spp), wormwood (Artemesia spp) and Ephedra species. Some of the most spectacular flora is found at altitudes of 3,000m or higher, where, in high alpine meadows, edelweiss (Leontpodium alpinum) is common, as are crocuses, anemones, asters, wild onions (Allium spp), tulips that include Greig's tulip (Tulipa greigii) and Kaufmann's tulip (Tulipa kaufmanniana), and poppies (Papaver spp).