JARS v42n2 - Lu Shan Botanical Garden
Lu Shan Botanical Garden
Rhododendron Species Foundation
Federal Way, Washington
Reprinted with permission from the Rhododendron Species Foundation newsletter, October 1987.
Located 350 miles southwest of Shanghai, China, in the Hanpokou Valley is Lu Shan (mountain) and the Lu Shan Botanical garden. Here the high elevations provide relief from the sweltering summer heat of the eastern lowlands. Here also is an area where some native rhododendrons thrive, including R. simsii , R. fortunei , and R. ovatum . At the Lu Shan botanical Garden these species and others can be seen growing to perfection.
The Lu Shan Botanical garden was founded in 1934 in an area colonized by the Europeans at the turn of the century. Lu Shan still retains the flavor of its European settlers through its architecture and has often been called a little bit of Switzerland grafted on to a Chinese mountain top.
The Botanical Garden lies in the valley of Mt. Lu Shan, spread over 724 acres and situated in an area where the temperate zone merges with the subtropical. This merging of zones results in a wide variety of microclimates from subtropical in the valleys to subalpine near the peaks.
Photo by Richard Piacentini
Ten different ecological zones allows the garden to specialize in many plant groups including sub-alpines, conifers, Rhododendron , Iris, rock garden, medicinal garden, tea plantation and a nature reserve. Rhododendrons are represented by mature specimens of R. simsii , R. ovatum , and R. fortunei . Rhododendron simsii can also be seen growing profusely all along the roadsides on the way up the mountain. The garden's location favors the study of the adaptation of northern alpines in the south and the exchange of east and west alpines from China's subtropical areas.
Walkway at Lu Shan Botanical Garden
Photo by Richard Piacentini
Research at Lu Shan focuses on the taxonomy of the regional flora, Actinidia germplasm collection, breeding of cold resistant tea and the introduction of medicinal plants and coniferous trees. Recently, the garden staff has started to grow many of the rhododendrons found in western China, the area where most Chinese rhododendrons are found. Because of the intense summer heat throughout most of eastern China this is also one of the few areas where these efforts might succeed. One might expect in several years time that the Lu Shan Botanical Garden be on every rhododendron visitor's list of places to see in China.
The Rhododendron Species Foundation is continuing to make contacts with this and other gardens in China that have the potential for growing and collecting rhododendrons and with which we may set up formal exchange programs in the future.
Mr. Piacentini is the Director of the RSF.