Logan Botanic Garden, in Dumfries & Galloway, has a fantastic new exhibition which showcases the flora and landscapes of Yunnan, through breath taking photographs by Carole and Ian Bainbridge.
The tale begins back in 1994, when the Alpine Garden Society organised an extensive plant recording expedition. Their mission was to investigate the areas rich in plant diversity. Botanists and horticulturists travelled to Yunnan in two separate groups: one in June and July for reconnaissance purposes to scout the region and study the plants, and the other in September and October to gather seed.
Fast forward to June 2009, fifteen years later, where an adventurous group of professional and amateur botanists and horticulturists including Carole and Ian, decided to retrace the steps of the 1994 pioneers. They embarked on a thrilling three week expedition, mostly following the initial reconnaissance team’s route. The team were keen to find out if modernisation and the changes in tourism and development were having an impact on the diversity of the rich floristic area.
During their trip, they explored four main areas: Lijiang and the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Zhongdian area including Napa Hai, Tianchi Hai and Shika Shan, the Wengshui area and the Big Snow Mountain, and finally the Dechen area concluding at the Beima Shan from June.
Astonishingly, an impressive total of 1,090 species were recorded on the 2009 trip. This highlights how the Sino-Himalayan region is one of the world’s true plant biodiversity hotspots as it accounts for one-third of the flora in Britain and Ireland yet just 16% of the flora in North West Yunnan.
The flora on the 2009 trip appears to have seen little change when compared to the initial report from 1994. However, some things had seen change. New and improved road infrastructure made access into many remote rural areas easier and quicker, resulting in a large rise of domestic Chinese tourism. The rise in tourism resulted in cable cars which allowed the team to access the high meadows on the Shika Shan much easier. Accommodation throughout the areas has also massively improved. A massive rock fall in the Gang Ho Ba made the upper valley look extremely different from 1994.
When asked about the exhibition, Carole said “The 2009 expedition to Yunnan gave us the opportunity to learn more about the plants of this botanically rich area and the conditions in which they grow. This exhibition allows us to share the wonderful experience of finding such plants growing in the wild.”
Curator of Logan, Richard Baines concluded by explaining the significance of hosting the exhibition at Logan “As a part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, we have strong long-held links with Yunnan, to the extent we share a field station with Kunming Institute of Botany on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. This region of mega biodiversity has a great deal to teach us”.