BY ANTHONY AIELLO, GAYLE E. MALONEY DIRECTOR OF HORTICULTURE & CURATOR

Tuesday 20 September

We are wrapping up the fieldwork for our plant collecting expedition to northern Sichuan province in China, where have been visited the Huanglong Nature Preserve.  I have been here as part of the North America China Plant Exploration Consortium (NACPEC), a collaboration between Chinese and American botanic gardens.  On this expedition I have been accompanied by Michael Dosmann (Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University), Kang Wang (Beijing Botanic Garden), and Yundong Gao (Chengdu Institute of Biology, Sichuan).  

 

Huanglong is famous for its beautiful pools and geologic formations, and has rich biodiversity.  In the early 1900s famed plant explorer Ernest H. Wilson visited and collected in the area, but it has not been thoroughly investigated by Western botanists since that time.  For the past week, we have been exploring a number of valleys that make up the Nature Preserve, and have made several interesting plant collections.    

 

There have been several collecting highlights, and among these are Magnolia officinalis, a magnolia that is widely planted for its medicinal purposes.  Although this plant is widely cultivated in this part of China, it is not widely grown in the U.S., despite being an interesting garden plant with its large leaves and flowers.   

 (Pictured above: Magnolia officinalis)

Another of my favorite collections on this trip is the unusual Farges' holly (Ilex fargesii), a holly with very narrow leaves and attractive clusters of berries.  Although we already have this species at Morris Arboretum, it is always good to add new plants and perhaps get an improved display of fruit.

 

 (Pictured above left: Ilex fargesii, above right: Anthony Aiello &  Ilex fargesii)

Yesterday (Monday) we drove to much lower elevations than those in the park, with the hope that we might begin to see greater plant diversity and a different palette of plants than we had been encountering.  After 1 1/2 hours of driving, we reached the next county and sure enough, came to a much different elevation and plant community.  Here we saw several different broad-leaved evergreens, and Fang's hornbeam (Carpinus fangiana), a small tree renowned among horticulturists for its beautiful leaves and long pendulous flower clusters.  I have only seen photos and one of these plants previously so it was an exciting moment to come across this plant in the wild. 

 (Pictured above: Carpinus fangiana)

On Wednesday we begin our return to the U.S., stopping first in the town of Songpan before spending a few days in Beijing, packing up our seed and preparing to come home.  This will have been a short trip but still a fascinating and worthwhile one.