I am a big fan of tea. The most famous variety from this region in Pu’er tea, a fermented dark tea which, when prepared well, is very nice but I’ve not mastered this yet. There are also numerous types of green tea which I am enjoying in my daily cup. It was a great pleasure to join a field trip to a very old tea plantation a few weeks ago.
The aim of the field trip was to test a new method of cultivating valuable orchids. Epiphytic orchids grown on the tea could potentially provide additional sources of income for the plantation owners. After success in the lab, Prof Gao from XTBG is now running trials to calculate germination and survival rates in plantations. If successful, plantation owners will have to wait 3 years until they can harvest. But the orchids can fetch a high price on in the medicinal plants market so will be worth waiting for.
Prof Gao with the inoculated orchid seeds for reintroduction trials
The tea trees in this plantation are around 500 years old and are organically farmed. The owner said that he has seen demand steady increase for organic tea over the last few years.
Most of the tea I have seen in the past was pruned into short bushes, making it easier for picking the leaves. Here they were impressive trees. This proved to be no problem for the agile pickers climbing up and down, to quickly pluck the youngest leaves.
The peaks in the distance dominant the skyline when walking out of the botanic garden and across the Lousou river. After looking at them for weeks, I asked a group of friends to join me on a hike to the top. Panbo, a taxonomist in my research group, would be our guide. What a pleasure to hike with someone with so much knowledge about the local biodiversity and if that fails him, he has the complete Flora of China on his phone, all 31,000 species!
The riverside town of Menglun.
Daniele, Panbo and Shen scramble up the limestone through the orchids. Daniele is a proper field botanist but still wasn’t impressed by my choice of route
The town of Menglun is just visible in the background. Laos is off into the distance.
The remaining forest only persists in the areas which are not suitable for banana and rubber cultivation.
Typhoon Ramassun has now past over China after causing major destruction in the south. Here in Xishuangbanna we experienced the side effects rather than the eye of the storm. We had heavy, continuous rain for the last four days and the river rose around three metres in 24 hours! But now we get a very positive side effect of these rains…..mushrooms! Going down to the Menglun market once the rains had subsided I was astonished at the variety of species available. Here are a few photos.
Dai women selling their mornings collection from the forest.
I arrived at the market quite late but managed to get the last of the chanterelles.
Such variety! Can anyone identify any of these?
Back home and ready to make garlic mushrooms