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Public Education in Shenzen Fairy Lake Botanic Garden

Contributed by Feng Huiling, Li Gang, Pan Xinliang, Fairy Lake Botanic Garden, Liantang, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China

The Development of the Shenzhen Fairy Lake Botanic Garden

Shenzhen Fairy Lake Botanic Garden is situated in the eastern suburbs of Shenzhen City, in the Guangdong Province of China. The Garden is inlaid like a splendid green pearl on the western hillside of Mt. Wutong, the highest peak in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. The Garden was established in 1982, when 15 special plant sections were envisaged in the overall plan. Up to now (1996), the palm-grove and other eight planned collections have been completed, and more than 3000 species of plants have been conserved in the Garden, of which 2500 species have been introduced from China and abroad. As a new member of the family of botanic gardens, the Fairy Lake Botanic Garden is developing as one of the centres of public education on botanic gardens, conservation and research into plant resources in South China.

A Variety of Public Education Activities Attracts Thousands of People

Since the Garden was opened to the public in 1988 botanic garden education and environmental education has been one of the main tasks of the Garden.

In over ten special plant sections, galleries for science exhibitions have been established. In the Shade Plant section, a display gallery called ‘Plant Evolution Show’ has been set up in order to give citizens a knowledge of the history of plant evolution. More than 1000 species of shade-loving plants, including ferns and some ornamental plants in the Crassulaceae, Begoniaceae, Marantaceae, Liliaceae, Araceae and Orchidaceae families are arranged naturally in the area according to their ecological characteristics and their classification. Ferns and aroids are the two main groups: the former includes some ancient, relict and endangered plants such as Psilotus nudum, Alsophila spinulosa and Platyoerium wallichii, while the latter consists of some aroids from tropical America and tropical Asia, such as Philodendron and Dieffenbachia. This area attracts thousands of visitors every day, and it is also an important window for citizens to observe biodiversity.

In the Palm Collection, there is a gallery of popular science. While enjoying the tropical landscape of south China, visitors can learn more about plants. This section has become one of the important places for the visitors to have a rest after they have had a tour around the Garden.

The Ex-situ Conservation Center of Cycads’ was set up in 1994. During the past three years, not only all the species in China been collected, but also more than 130 species of cycads from Asia, Africa, America and Australia. This means that the Centre will be the largest conservation base of cycads in China. It will be something worth acquainting, cherishing, cultivating, and protecting.

The Gymnosperms Section is situated around the Fairy Lake. About 100 species of conifers in 10 families have been planted and arranged according to the classification system of Prof. Cheng Wan-chun. This section is just like a living textbook, providing students with a knowledge of the evolution of gymnosperms.

The Cacti and Succulents Section is formed by three greenhouses in different architectural styles. More than 1000 species (or cultivars) of cacti and succulents from Asia, Africa and America are collected in the three greenhouses and arranged according to ecological type. This section is expected to be the largest cacti house in China. Although it was only opened to the public last year, thousands of visitors have already come here to have a look. While visitors enjoy the special beauty of the cacti and succulents, they learn more about their evolution.

Since 1986,when the Garden began to introduce plants, research on the ex situ conservation of rare and endangered plants has been reckoned to be one of the most important tasks in the Garden, and a special section for such plants, covering an area of seven hectares, was set up in 1989. According to recent statistics, nearly 200 species of rare and endangered plants are being conserved in the Garden. Among them are: Cathaya argyrophylla, Davidia involucrata, Manglietiastrum sinicum and Tsoongiodendron odorum; they are mostly growing well in the Garden.

Educational Development

Besides the popular scientific activities and tours inside the Garden, the potential of the Garden's resources for educational development for the public is being explored. This is being done as follows:

  • a relationship has been established with the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily, Shenzhen Economic Daily and Shenzhen Evening News, and with the help of these newspapers staff often write articles about plants and then hold botany competitions. Photographs of the scenery of the Garden taken by the tourists are often selected and published in the newspapers
  • each year a Spring Festival Flower Show is held during the period of the Chinese New Year. Different themes and varieties of flowers and posters are selected from year to year. From these shows and posters, citizens have learned a lot about such topics as the history of plant evolution and the plant kingdom
  • the Garden has cooperated with the local television station to produce some education videos about plants and the environment, and has invited some famous botanists to explain the programmes. They were welcomed by the public after being broadcast by the Shenzhen Television Station
  • there are 160 holidays for primary and middle-school students each year in Shenzhen. The Garden has therefore set up a "160 Education and Popular Scientific Projects" programme during these holidays. Plans have been made to play games related to plants with students of secondary and elementary schools
  • Science population education courses are regularly organised for primary and middle-school teachers, to help them to develop environmental education programmes in school. This in turn encourages teachers to conduct activities with their students in the garden.

Future Aims and Objectives of Garden Education

The Garden is famous for its abundant and colourful plants, graceful landscape and beautiful natural scenery. It is becoming one of the important scenic spots and a place for people to relax after work. The population of Shenzhen City is about 4,000,000 now; if everyone were to visit the Garden once a year, not only would it be a good chance to develop our education programmes, but it would also provide a wonderful income for the Garden to support itself. Nevertheless, there have only been 700,000 visitors here so far; we still have a long way to go. ln order to attract more tourists to the Garden, more and more interesting and colourful educational programmes need to be developed to attract more people to join in it. Not only to let them have a ‘look’ or ‘visit’, but also help them to understand the importance of the environment and the conservation of the flora in order to involve them in protecting activities. Furthermore, the Garden intends to improve its efforts in the follow ways:

  • maintaining a good environment and developing more new layouts in the garden, and continuing to disseminate plant knowledge using different media, including newspapers, television, radio, poster and computer-based multimedia
  • organizing citizens to take part in activities such as planting trees to commemorate marriages, friendships, and the founding of companies, holding special lectures on topics such as horticulture, the environment and biodiversity, and holding summer or winter camps for plant exploration
  • opening the garden to students for practical gardening classes, or for use in biological experiments
  • developing cooperatative activities and exchanges with other botanic gardens at home and abroad on education, in order to gain the experience and information with which to improve our education programmes.