Today we had a wonderful visit with the staff and tour of the grounds at the Shanghai Botanical Garden. Located just west of the heart of the sprawling city, the garden serves as a green oasis for the 18.6 million people who call Shanghai home. Constructed in 1976 and covering an area of 80 hectares, the garden’s core mission is to support and promote the development of green spaces to improve the quality of urban life through urban plant research, education, and plant development. These efforts are paying off with the area of green space in Shanghai increasing from 1 square meter to 12 square meters per person in the last ten years.
The garden maintains extensive collections of orchids, roses, magnolias, peonies, medicinal plants, and an award winning penjing (bonsai) collection with over 2,000 specimens representing more than 40 species. The collection, covering 4 hectares, features all 5 penjing styles recognized in China, each unique for the technique used and the form of the specimen. Of the 5 styles, the collection highlights the “Shanghai Style” which is the newest style recognized, combining aspects from the other 4 styles. The garden also maintains a large conservatory known as the Tropicarium covering 0.6 ha with over 3000 specimens. On our tour, we got a bird’s eye view of the collections including bromeliads, orchids, aroids, and palms from the closed-to-the-public catwalk, in the rafters of the conservatory.
After a delightful lunch we enjoyed a behind the scenes look at the propagation facilities holding the largest collection of succulents in China, a spectacular collection of bromeliads, and grafted cactus that even blew Jon Pixler’s mind (a Texas native). We also viewed the woody plant breeding nursery and were introduced to staff working on crops including roses, camellias, flowering quince, and peonies. Camellias, for example, were being bred for fragrance and small, but copious blooms. We continued on to view an impressive composting facility – actually the first we have encountered in any of the institutions we’ve visited.
We would like to once again extend a warm thanks to the staff at Shanghai Botanical Garden and especially to the garden Director, Dr. Hu Yonghong for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with us.
The final note of this post is a fun fact regarding chicken feet in China! The Chinese consume 8 million chicken feet a month and unless we are talking one-footed chickens that means 4 million chickens. So where are all these feet coming from…yep you guessed it – the Chinese import 60% of chicken feet from other countries, including the U.S., that would otherwise waste those cute little toes.
Stay tuned for our next post as we explore the 24-hour city of Shanghai.