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Shenzhen Fairy Lake Botanical Garden - Past, Present and Future

Volume 2 Number 6 - June 1996
Chen Tan-qing, Li Pei-qiong and Wang Yong-jin

The Fairy Lake Botanical Garden in the eastern suburbs of Shenzhen City is situated at 22º34' N, 114º10' E and covers an area of 590 hectares. The western hillside of Mt Wutong, the highest peak in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone is inlaid with the garden as a splendid green pearl.

The garden was established in 1982 with 15 plant sections planned. At present, the palm grove and eight other plant collections have been planted, and more than 3,000 species are in cultivation. The Fairy Lake Botanical Garden is developing into a centre for conservation and research of plant resources in South China.

The palm collection consists of about 70 species of palm, introduced from tropical areas of the world, including Hyophorbe lagenicaulis. H. verschaffelti, Chuniophoenix hainanensis, C. humilis. Located in the south subtropic of China, the garden has excellent conditions for the cultivation and propagation of cycads. They are of great importance for scientific research, conservation and ornament. During the past five years, not only all species in China, but also more than 130 species of cycad distributed in Asia, Africa, America and Australia have been collected in the garden, which means that the garden is becoming the largest conservation base of cycads in China. In the Gymnosperm Section, about 100 species of conifer in 10 families have been planted and arranged according to the classification system of Prof. Cheng Wan-chun. Some of them are endemic to China, such as Metasequoia glyptostroboides, Taiwania cryptomeriodes and Pseudolarix kaempferi. This section is like a living textbook providing students with knowledge of the evolution of gymnosperms. In the Bamboo Garden, over 60 species of ornamental bamboo from tropical and subtropical regions have been planted, including some beautiful kinds, such as Phyllostachys bambusoides var. aurea, Chimonobambusa quadrangularis and Thyrsostachys siamensis.

A special section for rare and endangered plants, covering an area of seven hectares, was founded in 1989. According to the recent statistics, nearly 200 species of rare and endangered plants are being conserved in the garden. Among them are Cathaya argyrophylla, Davidia involucrata, Magnolia sinica and Tsoongiodendron odorum and they are mostly growing well in our garden.

The Shade Plant section is always praised by visitors for its beautiful scents and various exotic shapes. More than 1,000 species of shade plant, including ferns and some ornamental plants in the Crassulaceae, Begoniaceae, Marantaceae, Liliaceae, Araceae and Orchidaceae are arranged naturally in the area according to their ecological characters and classification system. Ferns and aroids are the two main groups: the former includes some ancient, relic and endangered plants, such as Psilotus nudum, Alsophila spinulosa and Platycerium wallichii, while the latter consists of aroids from tropical America and Asia, such as Philodendron and Dieffenbachia. This area attracts thousands of visitors everyday, and it is also an important window for citizens to observe biodiversity. The Aquatic Plant Garden, which was built in Chinese classical style, consists of an exhibition section and germplasm nursery. In the former, over 20 taxa, including Nymphaea, Victoria and lotus are cultivated in an ecological series from deep water plants to hydrophytes. In the latter, 170 cultivars of lotus have been preserved. The Cacti and Succulent Section is formed by a group of greenhouses in different architectural styles. More than 1,000 cacti and other succulent taxa, including cultivars from Asia, Africa and America are grown in three greenhouses and arranged according to ecological types. This section is expected to be the largest cactus house in China, and will soon be opened to visitors. In the Fruit Collection, nearly 100 species and cultivars of fruit tree have been cultivated, the majority of which are famous tropical and subtropical fruits, such as the mango (Mangifera indica), jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllum), longan (Dimocarpus longan) and especially 30 cultivars of litchi (Litchi chinensis), a very delicious and favourite fruit in Guangdong.

The research work in the garden has focussed on the conservation of biodiversity. This includes a survey of plant resources and vegetation of Shenzhen, the compilation of a Flora of Shenzhen, and the establishment of a herbarium with more than 10,000 sheets of specimens. Two research projects: "A study on ex situ conservation of rare and endangered plants in the south subtropics of China", and "The founding of an international conservation centre for cycads" have been carried out in our garden since 1993. The garden is also involved in the project Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae (vol. 12) and the project Flora of China (Betulaceae) which is a joint work of China and the United States.

Popularization of science and raising environmental awareness is one of the important tasks of the garden. We have taken some measures to strengthen this work, for example, with a poster competition about plant knowledge and a flower show. We also publicise biodiversity and the relationship between humans and plants through newspapers, radio and television. An exhibition called The Plant Evolution Show has been set up to display the history of plant evolution and is much appreciated by visitors.

The garden is famous for its abundant and colourful plants, graceful landscape and beautiful scents and is becoming one of the important scenic spots in Shenzhen. Apart from the important plant collections, there are four scenic areas, the Gate, the Fairyland, the Lake and the Temple areas that have also been built. Since it opened on May 1, 1988, the garden has received 5,000,000 domestic and foreign visitors.