Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Forum of Royal Gardens and City Development (and the Dancing Plant)


This week I'll be in Beijing, briefly, as a guest of the Beijing Botanical Garden. It will be my first visit to Beijing but my third time in China.

Each of my previous visits has been to a Chinese Academy of Science run botanic garden - Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in the south-west corner of China; Wuhan Botanical Garden in central China; and the South China Botanical Garden in Guangzhou, near Hong Kong.

The Beijing Botanical Garden is outside the network of 14 Academy Gardens, but one of the 200 or so botanic gardens dotted across China. In 1970 there were only 20 botanic gardens in the whole of China, so like much else in the country this is a growth industry.

I've been invited, presumably along with others from around the world, to attend and participate in The Forum of Royal Gardens and City Development, co-hosted by Beijing Municipal Administration Centre of Parks and Beijing Association of Parks.

In the letter of invitation, the Director of Beijing Botanical Garden said that following the successful hosting of the Olympic Games, Beijing Municipality has committed to developing the city at a quicker speed, including parks and botanic gardens.

I'm curious as to what a 'Royal' garden is in the Chinese context and what shared philosophies or approaches those of us with this monika might have. The stated aims for the Forum are to ‘improve business exchanges among famous royal gardens throughout the world, build an international platform for royal garden culture, expand the overall influence of the royal gardens, further explore the positive function and unique value of royal garden protection and management to city development as well as the experience and model of the sustainable development of royal gardens, and provide suggestions to protect, develop and utilize royal gardens’.

The Beijing Botanical Garden is also keen to establish a working relationship with the Botanic Gardens Trust and to that end a Letter of Intent was to be signed at the Forum. Beijing has two botanic gardens, one run by the Chinese Academy of Science, the other (the one I've visiting) by the municipality. I gather they are almost adjacent to each other in Beijing, separated by a road. I think Beijing Botanical Garden is the more intensively landscaped garden and more of a visitor attraction, whereas the Academy Garden has a stronger focus on science.

So, it will be an interesting, if too short, trip for lots of reasons. I'll get to see another of the always fascinating and beautiful Chinese botanic gardens, forge a stronger bond with our botanical near-neighbours, and hopefully 'discover' a few new plants and plant stories.

Over the last few years Sydney’s Botanic Gardens Trust has begun a capacity building program in Asia, funded through external sources such as the ongoing HSBC sponsorship. Through that program the Trust is committed to sharing expertise and advice in the local region. So this vent offers a good opportunity for relationship building and further raising of the profile of Sydney and its botanic gardens in China.

Image: The Dancing Plant (Codariocalyx motorius), in Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden with the then Director of Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Peter Crane, and the new Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis, Peter Wise-Jackson, among others, watching as we tried to get the little 'leaflets' at the base of each leaf bopping along to the mobile phone rings. As it happens, we didn't...

2 comments:

Jim said...

I am pretty sure the 'dancing plant', Codariocalyx [note spelling], moves in response to light, not sound. In this respect, the motility mechanism is probably similar to the 'prayer plants', Maranta and Calathea. Agile plants such as these and the sensitive plant and the Venus flytrap would make a good topic for a future Talking Plants.
My favourite moving noisy plant is the Hawai'ian 'lapalapa', the araliad Cheirodendron platyphyllum. Its leaflets are broader than wide and on such long flexible petiolules that even in an imperceptible breeze they flap backwards and forwards going 'lapalapalapalapa'. Hawai'ians know a funny plant when they hear one. :)

Tim Entwisle said...

Thanks Jim. The locals were convinced that the stipules moved in response to noise, saying that traditionally someone singing near it would get these bits 'jiving'. I had presumed it was the air movement caused by a robust voice and hence why the mobile phone didn't work but your explanations sounds sensible. Will certainly cite your Hawai'ian story when I get round to a thorough 'investigation' of moving/noisy plants.