Getting Ready – China 2012

Collecting supplies

Who needs clothes? A suitcase full of collecting gear is much more important.

Whew.  It’s been a long couple of weeks of work culminating with the dedication of the new Lath House over the weekend – and what a great event that was – followed by an early Monday morning meeting with the NC State Chancellor’s wife and a talk in Durham to the board of the Garden Club of NC.  I mostly haven’t been able to think about my collecting trip to Emeishan (Mount Omei) until now, 10:00 PM, a mere nine hours before my flight.

For me, this last bit of time when the bags are packed is one of the most nerve-wracking periods of the entire trip.  Hopefully I’ve packed everything I need but you really never know.  I’m sure I’ll be waking up several times tonight wanting to rummage through my bags to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.  Baggies – check, paper towels – check, passport – check, import permits – check.

Emeishan tops 10,000 feet making it the tallest of the four sacred Chinese mountains and is located south of Chengdu in Sichuan province.  I’m told Emeishan is the home to what is perhaps the oldest Buddhist temple in China and has an enormous number of monasteries clinging to its sides.  The views of and from the mountain are said to be spectacular providing the clouds allow a view.

Although the temples are surely spectacular, I’ve seen plenty of Buddhist and Daoist temples before.  The plants are what is drawing me to Emeishan.  The reverence the Chinese have for their sacred mountains means that the flora is largely intact, no small feat in a country with a billion people.  Although it has been collected on extensively, many of the collectors have concentrated on the upper reaches in the deciduous and coniferous belts.  I’m keen to check out the broadleaf evergreen forests slightly lower on the slopes.  High on my list is Magnolia (Parakmeria) omeiensis, one of the many species of plants endemic to this single mountain.  Others on my “omeiensis” wish list are Aucuba omeiensis, Aspidistra omeiensis, Osmanthus omeiensis, Carpinus omeiensis, Epimedium xomeiense, Bergenia omeiensis, Salvia omeiensis…  The list goes on and on.  There’s even an endemic kudzu, Pueraria omeiensis, but I’ll probably skip that one.

Hopefully we’ll also be able to pay a visit to some nurseries.  I’ve been told by my host Liu Gang that there is a nursery near Chengdu that specializes in Osmanthus and I am salivating at the idea.  Liu Gang is a Chinese nurseryman who frequently visits the JCRA to take cuttings and has been needling me to come out his way.  I made a brief visit to his nursery in Shanghai a few years back on my way home from Taiwan but this will be my first time collecting with him.  I anticipate that he will prove to be extremely helpful since he used to do the seed collecting for the Shanghai Botanic Garden.  Imagine my surprise when I saw his photo in the excellent New Trees, Recent Introductions to Cultivation by Arboretum friend John Grimshaw and Ross Bayton.

Also accompanying us will be nurseryman Brian Upchurch who is always game for a trip to the Far East.  No worries about traveling with Brian, I’ve made a couple of treks with him and you couldn’t find a better travel companion.  This will be our first trip to Sichuan although both of us have visited other areas of China.

Assuming I can find internet access, I’ll send updates as often as possible.  Until then it is probably best to try to get a bit of sleep, tomorrow will be here way too soon.  Besides, I think I need to check my luggage one last time…

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