How“beautiful red flowers” in the mountains of Sichuan became the favorite of western botanical gardens? Date:2020-07-07 10:14:32Editor:Liutingting

With the temperature rising, the Alpine Rhododendrons in Ganzi Prefecture of Sichuan Province, China, are slowly blooming, giving the quiet Tibetan villages a colourful makeover.

In Ya'an, Sichuan Province, wild rhododendrons are blooming one after another to decorate the green mountains in clusters of bright red.(Photo/ Huang Gang of Vision Sichuan)

At present, there are about 960 species of Rhododendron in the world, 570 of which are in China, and 80% of these are Chinese "specialty" varieties. According to botanists, the origin of Rhododendron plants can be traced down to southwest to central China, where an ancient geological history and superior natural conditions helped the crimson flowers bloom.

Sichuan is one of the “hometowns" of Rhododendron. There are 238 species of Rhododendron and about 40 species of model Rhododendron, accounting for more than 35% of all species in China and more than 20% of the world species. Due to the special geographical environment and climate characteristics, most Rhododendron species distributed in Sichuan are narrow and rare and more than 90% of them are endemic to China. Over the past 100 years, many Western collectors have come to Sichuan to gather Rhododendron and their species are now found in botanical gardens across the world.

Rhododendron in full bloom

Many species of Rhododendron are found in Sichuan because it is located in the transitional zone between the Qinghai Tibet Plateau and the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River Plain. It straddles the Qinghai Tibet Plateau, Hengduan Mountains, Yunnan Guizhou Plateau, Qinba Mountain and Sichuan Basin. The terrain is inclined from northwest to Southeast, with great disparity between high and low and the landform types are complex. 

Rhododendrons across the mountains

Rhododendron is mainly distributed in the middle and high mountain areas in Sichuan Province. It is commonly found in evergreen broad-leaved forests, coniferous and broad-leaved mixed forests, coniferous forests and dark coniferous forests in Subtropical Mountainous area between 1,500 m and 3,800 m above sea level, forming unique community landscape, such as Alpine Rhododendron shrub, dwarf Rhododendron shrub, shrub formed by Rhododendron and other family and genus species, and Rhododendron hypoglaucum shrub. According to the communique on the status of Ecological Environment of Sichuan Province in 2019, the forest coverage rate will reach 39.6%, the forest volume will reach 1.897 billion cubic meters, and the comprehensive vegetation coverage of grassland will reach 85.6%. The special geographical location and good ecological environment provide superior growth and variation environment for Rhododendron plants.

From April to June every year, the rhododendrons in the mountains of Sichuan Province blossom according to their elevation, providing a spectacular scenery. From a distance, it appears as if crimson clouds have overtaken the mighty peaks.(By Edina Liang)