Beau­ti­fy­ing Bei­jing with its Lo­cal Species

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Wang Wei Edited by Justin Davis Pho­tos by Chang Xu and cour­tesy of the Huairou Dis­trict Gar­den­ing and Green­ing Bureau

To pro­tect veg­e­ta­tion na­tive to the dis­trict, the Huairou Dis­trict Gar­den­ing and Green­ing Bureau has been car­ry­ing out ar­ti­fi­cial re­pro­duc­tion since 2007.

Cheng­nan Park lies at a tri­an­gu­lar area be­tween the ex­ten­sion line of Ying­bin South Road and Jingmi Ex­press­way in cen­tral Huairou Dis­trict. Huairou was de­clared a Na­tional Eco­log­i­cal De­vel­op­ment Demon­stra­tion Zone by China's Min­istry of Ecol­ogy and En­vi­ron­ment a few years ago. The dis­trict plays a role in im­prov­ing Bei­jing's en­vi­ron­ment.

Cheng­nan Park also serves as a sci­en­tific ed­u­ca­tion cen­tre for Huairou's na­tive plants. The park is cov­ered with a va­ri­ety of veg­e­ta­tion and is cool and quiet. One can prac­tise tai chi, take a walk or en­joy some time with one's fam­ily. It is a good place to es­cape the scorch­ing heat in the sum­mer. The park fea­tures both ever­green and de­cid­u­ous trees, as well as flow­er­ing plants. There are changes in colour through­out the year. The park im­proves the land­scape along Huairou's main roads, pro­vides a place for leisure ac­tiv­i­ties and plays a role in botany ed­u­ca­tion.

Li Guiyou, a se­nior hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist at the Huairou Dis­trict Gar­den­ing and Green­ing Bureau pointed to some of the veg­e­ta­tion and ex­plained: “This is castor ar­alia, which is un­der first class pro­tec­tion in Bei­jing. It's also called laoyezishu (“el­derly man” tree) by lo­cal farm­ers. That's a Chi­nese lac­quer tree, which is also called lao­mazishu (“old horse” tree).”

The nearly 50,000-square me­tre (sq. m) park is home to many plants, in­clud­ing Siberian gin­seng, blad­der­nut, pearl bush and liri­ope. There is also a green­house in the park. It con­tains more species na­tive to Huairou.

Na­tive Wild Plants from Moun­tain­ous Ar­eas

Xie Qian (1449–1531), who served as a grand sec­re­tary dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Hongzhi (1488–1505) of the Ming Dy­nasty (1368–1644) once said, “Huairou is an an­cient area sur­rounded by moun­tains stretch­ing more than 1,000 li (500 kilo­me­tres).” Its moun­tains ac­count for 89 per­cent of its to­tal area. They are a nat­u­ral bar­rier for Bei­jing. Huairou also has a lot of wa­ter area, con­tribut­ing to its lush veg­e­ta­tion. The area is known as “the pearl of Bei­jing's sub­urbs” and “the gar­den of the cap­i­tal” due to its favourable en­vi­ron­ment.

The Huairou Dis­trict Gar­den­ing and Green­ing Bureau has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing an­cient trees and im­por­tant species of plants ev­ery year since 2000. The bureau has dis­cov­ered com­mu­ni­ties of rare species of na­tive plants, in­clud­ing trees that are more than 100 years old, which have been pro­tected ac­cord­ing to cor­re­spond­ing mea­sures. Chi­nese fringe trees are one of the types of old trees in the area. They are class II plants un­der the pro­tec­tion of Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal­ity at An­ling Vil­lage in Tanghekou Town, at Bai­he­bei Vil­lage in Li­ulim­iao Town and at Liangzi Vil­lage in Baoshan Town. There were only two reg­is­tered Chi­nese fringe trees in Bei­jing be­fore. Some old and pre­cious species of na­tive plants scat­tered in the moun­tains have been ne­glected. Ex­perts have been frus­trated when they find the stumps of im­por­tant trees that have been cut down and re­mains of other im­por­tant veg­e­ta­tion. Siberian gin­sengs are edi­ble class II plants un­der the pro­tec­tion of Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and are hard to find. Ferns have al­most dis­ap­peared in the moun­tains. When lo­cal farm­ers found that some of these plants are edi­ble, they har­vested them in large quan­ti­ties and used them to make farm dishes, as a tourist at­trac­tion. Some farm­ers even trans­planted Siberian gin­seng plants from the moun­tains to their land. Some of these died, due to un­favourable con­di­tions. Ex­ces­sive pick­ing and trans­plant­ing is a dis­as­ter for these edi­ble species.

To pro­tect veg­e­ta­tion na­tive to the dis­trict, the Huairou Dis­trict Gar­den­ing and Green­ing Bureau has car­ried out ar­ti­fi­cial re­pro­duc­tion since 2007. The bureau has es­tab­lished a spe­cial area that is five mu (one mu is equal to about 0.067 hectares), where Siberian gin­seng, blad­der­nut pearl bush and liri­ope are trans­planted and ar­ti­fi­cially re­pro­duced. “The best pro­tec­tion for these rare species is to ar­ti­fi­cially re­pro­duce them,” Li Guiyou men­tioned, who searched nearly ev­ery nook and cranny of Huairou's moun­tain­ous ar­eas look­ing for its na­tive plants.

Devel­op­ing Na­tive Plants via Ar­ti­fi­cial Re­pro­duc­tion

The area around Xiao­liangqian Vil­lage in Tanghekou Town is moun­tain­ous and cov­ered with lush veg­e­ta­tion. Vis­i­tors know the area is cov­ered with a wide va­ri­ety of plants but do not nec­es­sar­ily known their names. The area fea­tures strik­ing white flow­ers amid dense green veg­e­ta­tion.

The white flow­ers cover a tall tree with dense leaves as if it were cov­ered

with a thick snow. Un­der the tree, one can care­fully ob­serve the flow­ers. Each of them is um­brella-shaped and has a light fra­grance. Li ex­plained: “This is a Chi­nese fringe tree, a rare na­tive species. Its ten­der leaves and flow­ers can be made into a tea af­ter they are steamed and dried. Lo­cal farm­ers call this ‘white flower tea' be­cause of its par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful colour, which isn't in­fe­rior to Dragon Well tea. Its woods is hard and can be used to make uten­sils. The tree's flow­ers are also called ‘gluti­nous rice flow­ers' and ‘gluti­nous rice tea' due to the shape of the buds.”

There are more than 1,500 Chi­nese fringe trees around the vil­lage. Peo­ple may won­der where they came from and how so many got there. Li Guiyou stated that the area is a demon­stra­tion base for this species. All the trees are ar­ti­fi­cially re­pro­duced.

More than 10 years ago, the bureau be­gan to use ar­ti­fi­cial re­pro­duc­tion for rare plants. Li led his team mem­bers to in­ves­ti­gate Huairou's moun­tain­ous ar­eas. Li ex­plained: “Some­times we need some luck to lo­cate rare species. It's not un­com­mon to find noth­ing. Some­times what we were look­ing for wasn't dis­cov­ered, but we dis­cov­ered some other plants in­stead. The Chi­nese fringe tree is a rel­a­tively rare species and dioe­cious. To col­lect its seeds, we must find a cer­tain num­ber of them in the wild. It took us two or three years to find some of them.” Hard work pays off. Li and his team mem­bers found some fruit­ing wild Chi­nese fringe trees on a moun­tain at Shang­taizi Vil­lage in Labagoumen Town­ship. Li elab­o­rated: “The tree can live for a long time due to its strong adapt­abil­ity to the en­vi­ron­ment. It is re­sis­tant to cold and drought. It grows very slowly though and needs at least eight years to bloom. If we use graft­ing, the tree needs four or five years to bloom.”

Li and his team mem­bers have en­coun­tered dif­fi­cul­ties when im­ple­ment­ing ar­ti­fi­cial re­pro­duc­tion tech­niques. He men­tioned, “We had some seeds that were large and in­tact, so they should have sprouted eas­ily. How­ever, that was not the case.” The wild plant's seeds did not adapt to Li's lab. The seeds did not sprout, though the nor­mal tem­per­a­ture, hu­mid­ity level and light­ing con­di­tions were used. Af­ter look­ing for in­for­ma­tion and con­sult­ing gar­den ex­perts for so­lu­tions, Li be­gan to ad­just the pa­ram­e­ters. He found the seeds have dual dor­mancy char­ac­ter­is­tics on their up­per and lower em­bryo axes; from Au­gust to Oc­to­ber, the lab's tem­per­a­ture should be main­tained around 20 de­grees Cel­sius to en­able the seeds to fin­ish the dor­mancy cy­cle on their lower em­bryo axes so that their roots can grow more than 10 cen­time­tres into the ground. The seeds need 70 or 80 days to com­plete the dor­mancy of their up­per em­bryo axes at around five or six de­grees Cel­sius and the seedlings emerge by the be­gin­ning of the fol­low­ing March. In the wild, the seeds will need about two years to go through this cy­cle. The tree takes at least eight years to go from sprout­ing to bloom­ing. Af­ter years of ar­ti­fi­cial re­pro­duc­tion car­ried out by Li and his team mem­bers, the Chi­nese fringe trees be­gan to bloom.

Li ex­plained, “The ar­ti­fi­cially re­pro­duced Chi­nese fringe trees should even­tu­ally be trans­planted to a nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, which will help in­crease the pop­u­la­tion of the species.” Three years ago, 1,500 ar­ti­fi­cially re­pro­duced seedlings were trans­planted to a three- mu plot at Xiao­liangqian Vil­lage. Li still had some doubts, how­ever. He con­tin­ued, “It was hard to say whether or not they could sur­vive the cold win­ters and dry sea­sons in the moun­tain­ous area.” The trees adapted to the en­vi­ron­ment dur­ing their three years of growth though. “This year they blos­somed for the first time,” Li said ex­cit­edly. Huairou's lo­cal species, in­clud­ing Chi­nese fringe trees, have a strong abil­ity to adapt to the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment af­ter they're ar­ti­fi­cially re­pro­duced and trans­planted into the wild. Li stated with a smile, while touch­ing a ten­der branch of a Chi­nese fringe tree: “Af­ter all, they are na­tive to the area and orig­i­nally grew in this en­vi­ron­ment. They need some time to adapt though, and we need to see if they can re­pro­duce in­de­pen­dently. If we suc­ceed, we will con­tinue to trans­plant them to the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.”

Green­ing the City

The Cheng­nan Park green­house fea­tures Chi­nese fringe tree seedlings in pots that are be­ing ar­ti­fi­cially re­pro­duced. Ar­ti­fi­cially re­pro­duced seedlings that have grown steadily have been trans­planted to Cheng­nan and Binhu parks, play­ing a role in im­prov­ing Huairou's ur­ban green­ing.

Un­der the lead­er­ship of the Huairou

Dis­trict Gar­den­ing and Green­ing Bureau, the Ser­vice Cen­tre for Gar­den­ing and Green­ing is re­spon­si­ble for Huairou's gar­den­ing and green­ing. Ac­cord­ing to Jia Ming­cai, direc­tor of the ser­vice cen­tre, “The bureau fo­cuses on the Ar­ti­fi­cial Re­pro­duc­tion Project for Rare Species of Plants and gives us great sup­port. We have been sup­port­ing Li and his team mem­bers.” The ar­ti­fi­cially re­pro­duced Chi­nese fringe trees now beau­tify Huairou's ur­ban ar­eas with their flow­ers and mild fra­grances.

“We have ar­ti­fi­cially re­pro­duced more than 1,000 pots of castor ar­alias,” Li stated proudly. The plants have pen­ta­gon-shaped leaves and are a pleas­ant sight at the green­house. He added, “This species is un­der first class pro­tec­tion in Bei­jing and its dis­tri­bu­tion is very lim­ited. I'm glad to see the steady growth of castor ar­alia seedlings.”

To pro­tect the rare na­tive plants, the bureau be­gan to ar­ti­fi­cially re­pro­duce Siberian gin­seng and blad­der­nut, which orig­i­nally grew in Huairou's moun­tain­ous ar­eas. It was also not easy for them to go from seedlings to devel­oped, fruit­ing plants. The bureau sends ar­ti­fi­cially re­pro­duced seedlings to lo­cal farm­ers free of charge and teaches them how to cul­ti­vate and re­pro­duce them.

Li and his team mem­bers en­cour­age lo­cal farm­ers to grow Siberian gin­seng by giv­ing them tech­no­log­i­cal sup­port. He ex­plained: “If you say Siberian gin­seng, lo­cal farm­ers do not know be­cause they call it gun­r­cai (‘stick veg­etable'). In or­der to bet­ter pro­tect the edi­ble plant, we be­gan to carry out pre­lim­i­nary co­op­er­a­tion with lo­cal farm­ers who are en­gaged in eco-tourism. We tell them how to grow the plants and they grow them around their houses. They ben­e­fit from this and be­lieve in us, which in­di­rectly plays a role in pro­tect­ing the plants. Later, when they met me, they talked about the good things that we brought them.”

“Old and rare trees are im­por­tant to the his­tory of the re­gion. We need to pro­tect them as much as pos­si­ble and en­able them to grow in a bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment,” an of­fi­cial from the bureau said.

The of­fi­cial added: “The green­ing process around Ying­bin­huan­dao, which is a ma­jor in­ter­sec­tion in Huairou, in­cludes rein­tro­duc­ing more Siberian gin­seng plants, which are eas­ier to grow and main­tain than other trees. We've planted a lot of blad­der­nuts as part of the green­ing of Huairou's ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas. This in­cludes im­prov­ing the Yan­qihu area, which is not only a world-class venue for hold­ing large, in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences and high-end busi­ness ex­hi­bi­tions, but also is an eco­log­i­cal demon­stra­tion zone with Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics. Huairou's na­tive plants have beau­ti­fied Yan­qihu, which is an area that has drawn world­wide at­ten­tion many times.”

Trans­plant­ing Ar­ti­fi­cially Re­pro­duced Na­tive Plants to Moun­tain­ous Ar­eas

“With­out the strong sup­port of the bureau, my team and I wouldn't have ob­tained these good re­sults,” Li stated. His

plain re­marks ex­pressed his ap­pre­ci­a­tion, but he talked lit­tle about his hard work over the years. One of his col­leagues men­tioned: “Li often car­ries a large bag on his back and takes a tape mea­sure with him when ex­plor­ing moun­tain­ous ar­eas. He's clean when he de­parts, but dust and mud cover his face and feet when he re­turns to the of­fice and grass and leaves are in his hair.” Li waved his hand mod­estly, ac­knowl­edg­ing this state­ment.

Li has devel­oped good skills and sharp eyes dur­ing his years of work in this area. He has also es­tab­lished sta­ble re­la­tion­ships with lo­cal farm­ers. Some­times, he stays the night at their houses. “At first, when I talked about na­tive species, they didn't be­lieve me. Later they found the meth­ods I taught them were use­ful and grad­u­ally trusted me,” Li re­counted. The farm­ers would some­times en­counter species they were not fa­mil­iar with and in­form Li. They ex­plained that a very large and colour­ful tree was found at the foot of a moun­tain. Li went through a corn field and fol­lowed the ter­rain to the area. The tree was a painted maple. The lo­cal farm­ers told him there was an­other one on the moun­tain also. Li climbed it and found a painted maple in the shade near the top, which was do­ing bet­ter than the one at the bot­tom. He ex­plained: “Painted maples grow very slowly. The di­am­e­ter of a 40-year-old painted maple at breast height is about 10 cen­time­tres. This one has a very thick trunk and could be more than 500 years old or even much older.” Li has found many old trees over the years in Huairou's moun­tains.

Li has ex­plored the moun­tain­ous ar­eas count­less times, rain or shine, sum­mer or win­ter, look­ing for and analysing na­tive veg­e­ta­tion. He has in­jured his hands and feet, met ag­gres­sive wild an­i­mals like wild boars and met other prob­lems but al­ways con­tin­ued with his work. Un­suc­cess­ful ex­per­i­ments have not dis­cour­aged him ei­ther. Li loves study­ing Huairou's na­tive flora and his ca­reer. He stated, “I'm re­ally in­ter­ested in the work and I think it's a joy. My con­stant en­thu­si­asm keeps me com­ing back.”

Li grad­u­ated from the Bei­jing Vo­ca­tional Col­lege of Agri­cul­ture in 1981 and worked eight years at a tim­ber base for Bei­jing's pa­per­mak­ing in­dus­try in Labagoumen. As the only tech­ni­cian at the base, he in­ves­ti­gated each wood­land area to guide and su­per­vise the seed se­lec­tion of larches and po­plars and their growth. He worked on the front lines be­gin­ning in 1989. Whether in nurs­eries or parks, he care­fully ob­serves trees and flow­ers. He will no­tice when tree leaves change colours at the wrong time or have other prob­lems and when grass and flow­ers are grow­ing im­prop­erly. He finds so­lu­tions to these prob­lems af­ter anal­y­sis and ex­per­i­ments. Li ex­plained: “I think fail­ure isn't a bad thing. You need to try and try again. One needs to do a lot of re­search, keep track of a lot of in­for­ma­tion and con­duct count­less ex­per­i­ments so that suc­cess­ful so­lu­tions can be found.” Li has stud­ied a lot of pro­fes­sional ma­te­ri­als and con­ducted bold tests to solve dif­fi­cult is­sues. Li and his team have many years of prac­tice and ex­pe­ri­ence. They have helped rein­tro­duce a va­ri­ety of species into Huairou's ru­ral and ur­ban ar­eas.

There is a large patch of light pur­ple flow­ers in Cheng­nan Park, which are unique and beau­ti­ful. “They're ever­green dwarf lily­turfs,” Li clar­i­fied. Be­fore, he had to con­sider the is­sue of veg­e­ta­tion that be­comes with­ered in North China dur­ing the win­ter. He found this ever­green plant in Huairou's shal­low moun­tains. Li and his team mem­bers have solved is­sues re­gard­ing its ar­ti­fi­cial re­pro­duc­tion, en­abling them to in­crease its pop­u­la­tion. The cold-re­sis­tant and drought-re­sis­tant ever­green plant has met the qual­i­fi­ca­tions of the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral Af­fairs re­gard­ing a plant that could be used to beau­tify North China's cities and be able to sur­vive ex­treme con­di­tions. It be­came known as the “Huairou Heye Moun­tain dwarf lily­turf” and was is­sued a cer­tifi­cate by the min­istry. Huairou's na­tive ever­green va­ri­eties will be used to make and ex­pand more green spa­ces. There are no na­tive ever­green grasses in Bei­jing so it is a good so­lu­tion. “The ar­ti­fi­cial re­pro­duc­tion of na­tive plants is a short­cut re­gard­ing Huairou's ur­ban green­ing. Var­i­ous at­tempts and ex­plo­rations are needed, as well as di­ver­sity of species,” Jia Ming­cai said. When ar­ti­fi­cially re­pro­duced na­tive species at Cheng­nan Park's green­house be­gin to grow steadily, they are trans­planted to an ex­per­i­men­tal field in Nan­fang Park for the next stage of ar­ti­fi­cial re­pro­duc­tion. Af­ter that, they are trans­planted to the ar­eas that the species orig­i­nally grew at.

Cre­at­ing a Beau­ti­ful China

In the spring of 2018, Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal­ity launched a new round of af­foresta­tion, cov­er­ing an area of one mil­lion mu. The project is part of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the guid­ing prin­ci­ples of the 19th Na­tional Congress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China and a re­sponse to Xi Jin­ping's Thoughts on So­cial­ism with Chi­nese Char­ac­ter­is­tics for a New Era. The af­foresta­tion im­proves Bei­jing's ecol­ogy and en­vi­ron­ment. The project to in­crease green spa­ces in Bei­jing has gone well in re­cent years and show­cases its new eco­log­i­cal lay­out: el­e­gant parks in the ur­ban ar­eas, lush forests in the sub­urbs and green moun­tains in the outer sub­urbs.

Deputy Direc­tor of the Bei­jing Gar­den­ing and Green­ing Bureau Deng Naip­ing ex­plained a large, cur­rent pro­gramme, stat­ing: “2018 is the first year of the new round of one-mil­lionmu af­foresta­tion. Bei­jing will add 230,000 mu of for­est, im­prove 67,000 mu of for­est and add 9,000 mu worth of green space in its ur­ban ar­eas. The gov­ern­ments at the mu­nic­i­pal and dis­trict lev­els are con­tin­u­ing to im­ple­ment af­foresta­tion.” Ac­cord­ing to the plan, from 2018 to 2022, Bei­jing will add one mil­lion mu of for­est, wet­lands and green spa­ces, en­abling the city's for­est cov­er­age rate and green spa­ces in parks to reach more than 45 per­cent and 87 per­cent, re­spec­tively; pub­lic green space will in­crease to 16.6 sq.m per capita; the cap­i­tal's en­vi­ron­ment will greatly im­prove.

New projects re­gard­ing the cur­rent one-mil­lion- mu af­foresta­tion pro­gramme will fo­cus on the city's plains, cen­tral dis­tricts, sub- cen­tre, new air­port, green belts, and ur­ban and ru­ral fringe zones, the Bei­jing 2022 Olympic Win­ter Games and the In­ter­na­tional Hor­ti­cul­tural Ex­hi­bi­tion 2019 Bei­jing. The Huairou Dis­trict Gar­den­ing and Green­ing Bureau has stated that this dis­trict has be­gan to im­ple­ment its por­tion of these projects. In 2018, Huairou will en­gage in 22,600 mu of af­foresta­tion.

Large-scale eco­log­i­cal im­prove­ment pro­grammes have made new op­por­tu­ni­ties for Bei­jing's gar­den­ing and green­ing in­dus­try. The one mil­lion mu af­foresta­tion mostly in­volves good qual­ity, na­tive plants. Na­tive plants will form a sta­ble, nat­u­ral com­mu­nity, sim­i­lar to a for­est ecosys­tem. In ad­di­tion to im­prov­ing land­scapes and the en­vi­ron­ment, the needs of an­i­mals will be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion, such as their habits and needs for their for­ag­ing. Huairou's ar­ti­fi­cially re­pro­duced woody eco­nomic veg­e­ta­tion will also be em­pha­sised, in­clud­ing Siberian gin­sengs, Chi­nese fringe trees and blad­der­nuts.

An of­fi­cial from the Huairou Gar­den­ing and Green­ing Bureau stated: “We are devel­op­ing a demon­stra­tion area for Huairou's na­tive plants, which in­cludes trees, shrubs and herbs, and has ben­e­fited from the govern­ment's sup­port. The ar­ti­fi­cial re­pro­duc­tion of na­tive plants plays a ma­jor role in ur­ban green­ing and the pro­tec­tion of rare species.”

Along with so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, the govern­ment and the pub­lic are pay­ing more at­ten­tion to gar­den­ing and green­ing. The ev­er­chang­ing tech­nolo­gies in this area will open a new chap­ter in the beau­ti­fi­ca­tion of China and pro­mote blue skies, clear wa­ter and lush forests.

Li Guiyou, a se­nior hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist, in­tro­duces some plants na­tive to Huairou that he cul­ti­vated.

A Chi­nese fringe tree with white flow­ers

Seedlings of pearl­bushes

Blad­der­nuts In­flo­res­cences

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