Vascular Plant Diversity of Mt. Kumgang in DPR Korea


The great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il said:

"Animals and plants on Mt Kumgang should be protected well."

Mt. Kumgang, associating with the immortal revolutionary relics of President Kim Il Sung, Chairman Kim Jong Il and the respected Comrade Kim Jong Un, is a famous mountain of Korea and the world, and it has a growing interest.

Mt. Kumgang lies in an important location in Udvardy system and was registered as International Biosphere Reserve in 2018 for its remarkable role played in the study and protection of biodiversity. It is also a nominated property on the tentative list of the world heritagy.

The ecosystem of Mt. Kumgang is mostly intact and pristine except for tour and climbing paths and is a source of wonderful habitats for wildlife and a unique example in the study of ecological and biological evolution after glaciation.

So far, many researchers at home and abroad have investigated the landscape diversity and biodiversity of Mt. Kumgang.

Mt. Kumgang has predominantly temperate organisms including polar, boreal, and subtropical species. It also has a wide variety of habitats from high mountain to marine with coasts and islands, lakes and ponds, rivers, etc. so that not a few glacial living fossils and endemic species are distributed here.

We studied on the distributional features and states of the relict species such as Lycopodium obscurum, Taxus cuspidata and Rhododendron brachycarpum, and the endemic plants such as Pentactina rupicola and Keumkangsania asiatica. Pentactina rupicola, a single-genus, single-species plant peculiar to Korea, is distributed in Kumgang, Kosong, Hoeyang and Changdo counties in the central part of Korea. It grows a lot in rocky, shadowy and humid places of Mt. Kumgang including Pisa Gate area such as Sejon Peak, Chaeha Peak, Piro Peak area such as Sumi Tower, Paegun Temple area such as Thaesang area and the vicinity of Myogil Statue, Ilchul Peak, Wolchul Peak and Naemujae Pass area, most of which grows with the roots in between rocks, and with a vertical distribution range of 400 to 1 200 meters. After the exposure of the areas of over 800 meters above the sea level in Mt. Kumgang area to mountain glaciers due to the effect of the last Würm glacier, Pentactina rupicola, which had been distributed in the lower part, expanded its habitat to 1 200 meters above the sea level to reach Sumi Tower, which is 1 120 meters above the sea level. Also some of its zoons were discovered in general soil, contrary to the general understanding that they grow with their roots put in between rocks. All these play an important role in giving light to flora distribution and its variation process, atmospheric and ecological progress in this area.

We also investigated and listed vascular plants in Mt. Kumgang, as well as newly finding Spiraea trilobata in Kuryongyon area, Inner Kumgang (Fig. 1~4).

As a result, 1 654 species, 186 varieties and 36 forma belonging in 156 families and 642 genera are distributed in Mt. Kumgang.

Our data about the biodiversity and landscape diversity in Mt. Kumgang were published in "On Vascular Plants in Mt. Kumgang" (JOURNAL OF KIM IL SUNG UNIVERSITY (NATURAL SCIENCE) 63, 10, JUCHE106(2017), "Natural Heritage Value of Mt. Kumgang and Global Comparative Analysis"( and so on.

Such plant diversity, as one element of natural landscape of Mt. Kumgang with a high scientific and touristic value, should be actively conserved.

Lycopodium obscurum, a relict species of the Ice Age in Thaesang area, Inner Kumgang
Figure 1. Lycopodium obscurum, a relict species of the Ice Age in Thaesang area, Inner Kumgang (July, 2016)
Pentactina rupicola in Mt. Kumgang
Figure 2. Pentactina rupicola in Mt. Kumgang

A) Inflorescence. B) P. rupicola growing with their roots put in between rocks in Sumi Tower, Inner Kumgang. C) P. rupicola discovered in general soil in Sejon Peak, Outer Kumgang. D) Phyllotaxis and leaves

Spiraea trilobata in Kuryongyon Sangphaltam areas (June, 2016)
Figure 3. Spiraea trilobata in Kuryongyon Sangphaltam areas (June, 2016)