Today we visited the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG), located in the tropical rainforest of southern Yunnan Province, only a few dozen kilometers from the border with Laos and along the winding banks of the upper Mekong River. Like some of the other gardens we’ve already visited, XTBG is affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a governmental body that supports a broad range of educational and research initiatives.
The drive to XTBG took us through expanses of hilly countryside, where the native rainforest has been replaced by extensive rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) plantations. While rubber production provides a source of income for many local farmers, we learned from the researchers at XTBG that such plantations have dramatically changed the region’s ecology and environment.
As we learned from Dr. Chen Jin, Director of Xishuangbanna, the botanical garden was established in 1959 with a three-part mission: to conduct scientific research, support environmental preservation, and provide public education. Over the past 50 years, XTBG has excelled in each of these areas, becoming one of the most prominent botanic gardens in all of China.
When we arrived at Xishuangbanna, we were first taken on a tour of the garden’s extensive grounds – in terms of acreage, XTBG is the largest botanical garden in the country! We visited several of the garden’s taxonomic collections, including the heliconia collection, the ornamental ginger garden, and the palm collection. In addition, we visited a remnant rainforest parcel the botanical garden maintains as a germplasm repository for native plants of the Mekong River region.
Following a lunch with some of XTBG’s public education and research staff, we attended a meeting with over thirty of the garden’s students and employees. After offering introductory presentations on Longwood Gardens and the Longwood Graduate Program, we engaged in an informative discussion with the XTBG staff.
All in all, it was yet another excellent day for our group – the colleagues we met at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden were warm, generous, and engaging, and we hope they’ll consider making a trip to Longwood Gardens soon!