Natural resources of Papua play a key role in economic and social development in this area. The resources are found in the forest, coast, sea, and land which is rich of minerals. The ecosystem in Papua is the richest in Indonesia where a half of variety of Indonesian flora and fauna live. Some of endemic flora and fauna are only found here. Papua is the habitat of 15.000-20.000 kinds of plants (55% is endemic), 602 kinds of birds (52% is endemic), 125 kinds of mammals (58% is endemic), and 223 kinds of reptiles (35% is endemic). In February 2006, a group of researcher carried out a study in Foja Mountain. They found various types of bird, amphibian, and plant, including a new variant of rhododendron which flower is the biggest in its genus. This natural potency is getting more significant along with the agreement of Nagoya Protocol which protects the biodiversity in Papua in order to give advantages for Indonesia in general and local people in Particular. Nagoya Protocol is very important to accommodate traditional knowledge of local people living in customary laws.
Rhododendron is a stand out type of flora in Carstensz with its bright color flower. It grows at the altitude of 500-meter in mountain forest. It is a kind of epiphyte living in branches of trees. Rhododendron is usually found with some different species. In this condition many hybrids occur. There are species of Rhododendron Rarum which blossom in April to July. Their habitat is near small lakes and wet stones along the trekking route to Carstensz.
There are many species of Rhododendron along the trekking route. One of them is Rhododendron Verstegii. It has yellow petal but reddish at the bottom. It is different from Rhododendron Macgregorii which has yellow petal and pedicel and smaller flower.
It is not only Rhododendron found along the trekking route. Other plants like Orchidaceae or orchid also commonly grow in this wet tropical area. Most of orchid species here are epiphyte which is different from other species grow in tropical area which usually grow on soil. Epiphyte orchid can live from dew and moist air with fiber radix. The epiphytes develop their roots and cling on the branches where they live. However, other species grow in land with their roots in the soil. Other species are saprophyte which grows on humus formed from leaves and decayed woods. On the surface of the root it is usually found fungus which develop symbiosis with orchid.
Epiphyte can grow its stem well, often thicken it and has wax on the stem to avoid over evaporation. The stem can grow long (monopodial) or wide (simpodial), depending on its genus. The leaf of orchid is usually oval and long, typical of monocotyledon leaf. It can widen itself and function as water supplier. Orchid has typical flower which distinguish it from other families.
Dendrobium is a genus of epiphyte orchid. It grows in simpodial manner, which means the growth of the tip of its stem is limited. It will stop growing when it reaches maximum limit. This growth is continued by its saplings. There is rhizome (stem under the soil) in simpodial orchid. Saplings of the orchid emerge from its rhizome. Dendrobium needs sun light with mid to high intensity, depending on the type of Dendrobium.
Dendrobium Subclausum is a kind of epiphyte orchid which blossom its yellow flower in rainy season. Its flower ranges from 3 to 5 cm length. This species is commonly found in Maluku and trekking route to Carstensz.
Dendrobium Wentianum is a kind of epiphyte orchid genus with dark green leaf and flower comprises a group 1 to 4 flowers. Its flower is usually purple, orange, red, or combination of orange and red. It grows on branches at the altitude of 1850 to 3300 meter. It is commonly found in the trekking route to Carstensz and Papua New Guinea. It is believed that there are still a lot of kinds of orchid species along the trekking route which have not been found and labeled with scientific name.
It is not only orchid that grow well along the trekking route to Carstensz. ‘Sarang semut’ (literally means ‘ant nest’) a term to refer to Myrmecodia Pendans also can grow well in this area. It is a genus of micromechophyta epiphyte from Southeast Asia and big islands to Queensland, Australia. The term ‘myrmecodia’ derived from Greek word ‘myrmekodes’ meaning “(look) like ant” or “surrounded by ants”. It grows on the branches or stalks of trees and commonly found in the forests in Papua. Although living in the branches or stalks of trees, it does not belong to parasite.
It has been used by people in Wamena, Papua as a medicine to cure kinds of illnesses, such as diarrhea, malaria, rheumatic, and hepatitis. Even today, it has been use to cure serious illness like cancer and hypertension.
It is ironic that stern gains less attention when scientists carry out survey in Papuan forests. Collectors will be astonished at the inventory of stern in Papua (it is estimated that there are over 2.000 species, which only 1.200 species have been given scientific name). Wet forest in the mountain along the trekking route to Carstensz is the widest habitat of stern in Papua. Some groups of sterns living under the altitude of 3.400 m never face frozen condition. Subalpine stern, on the other hand, grow at the altitude of 3.700 m where the temperature is extremely cold. The following pictures of sterns were taken during Carstensz expedition with climbers from Russia in October 2011.
Fern forest in Carstensz area is dominated a big sized species which is believed to have been existed since Jurassic era. Stern is a part of vascular plant which reproduces with spore and does not have flower and seed. The family of stern covers 10.560 species in the world.
Stern appeared in fossil account around 360 million years ago in the last period of Devon. However, many of current families and species just 145 million years ago, in the beginning of Cretaceous era, since flowering plants started to dominate the environment.