First Day Collecting

After a fitful sleep probably brought on by the rock hard bed, slightly slanted toward the headboard, I awoke not quite refreshed. It never ceases to amaze how a bed could be made less comfortable than a board. The unheated room with an electric bed pad that had two temperatures – off and blazing – didn’t help either. When I awoke every hour or so, I could hear the rain drumming outside which didn’t add to my peace of mind.

The morning rain and heavy fog made for a somewhat dismal start to the day, although the troops of macaques helped lighten the mood. Unfortunately the piles of trash from where they either raid trash cans or are fed packaged foods made what could have been an incredible sight somewhat less beautiful than it should have been. We rode a cable car from our hotel at 8,800 ft to the top of Emei Shan at 10,000 ft. We quickly found a couple of white fruited Sorbus, one each of a pinnate shrubby form and a entire-leaved tree form. Both were quite showy, but the smaller one was especially nice. Doubtfully either will do well in the Southeast, though. We visited the Golden Summit of the mountain where a gilded Buddha atop four elephants shone brightly even through the heavy fog. I can only imagine it in sunlight.

We trecked down the mountain to our hotel area collecting along the way. As usual, some of the best looking plants were bare of seed. One particular Viburnum with simply enormous leaves to 8” or more long and 6” across had already dropped its fruit. Another large leafed plant was an Arisaema with its trifoliate single leaf growing to a yard across. A couple of woodland lilies, both a brilliantly red-fruited Smilacina and a much branched and perfoliate Disporum and a very rugose foliaged Oxalis also caught my attention from the herbaceous layer. Quite surprising to me were the number of different Impatiens we saw and I could not decide if they were perennial or not.

The diversity of woody plants was quite great even that high on the mountain with several Rhododendron, a beautiful Lindera (of course with no fruit) and several maples which we had a difficult time identifying. One spectacular plant was a large-leaf Cornus (dogwood) probably C. macrophylla with bright red pedicels holding blue-black fruit. It was a beautiful sight and will hopefully perform better than the plants currently at the JCRA. Other viburnums, and a very striking Euonymus, also garnered attention.

After a late lunch, we trooped down below our hotel lamenting the fact that it was so difficult to get far off the beaten track due to slippery, muddy conditions and sheer cliffs dropping thousands of feet. Below the hotel we came across perhaps five different Acer (maple) species and perhaps even more Rhododendron. Two particular species (I think they were different based on the differences in seed capsules – one covered in ferruginous (rust colored) hairs and the other mostly smooth) which had the darkest of dark black-green leaves. I was surprised to find a Sinojackia growing in the area and gathered a meager handful of seed as well as a bit of Enkianthus. The overstory was almost exclusively maples topped by Abies faberi (fir) and a few large Tsuga (hemlock).

On the herbaceous front, besides the impatiens in shades of white, pink, and yellow was the exquisite Aconitum that had caught my eye yesterday as well as an Asparagus with leaves resembling a hemlock. Altogether despite the rain it was a very fruitful day and will be a late night cleaning seed. The views from the top of the mountain and through the narrow gorges were beautiful despite the weather and would certainly be sublime on a clearer day. Tomorrow we head further down the mountain, I hope reaching the broadleaf overstory layer of the mountain where the subtropical and temperate floras meet.

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