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MBG Flora of China - Plant Tour

Last updated over 4 years ago

Throughout 2012, Missouri Botanical Garden will be celebrating "The Year of China," recognizing the near-completion of the Flora of China, an international collaborative project to publish a comprehensive catalog of all Chinese wild plants, with full descriptions of 31,500 species and illustrations of about two-thirds of them. Today, China has the richest flora of any country in the northern temperate zone. This EOL Collection, the "MBG Flora of China - Plant Tour," highlights 20+ Chinese plants of significance that MBG visitors can experience first-hand on Garden grounds. The Missouri Botanical Garden is the oldest botanical garden in continuous operation in the nation and a global center for science, conservation, education and horticultural display.

  • 81689_88_88 Plantae > Sapindaceae

    Acer pentaphyllum

    Extremely rare and endangered in the wild in China. A botanically distinct and beautiful maple. During an expedition sponsored by the National Geographic Society in 1929, Joseph Rock discovered Acer pentaphyllum in southwestern Sichuan near the small Tibetan town of Muli.

  • 77505_88_88 cellular organisms > Actinidiaceae

    Actinidia deliciosa


    The wild ancestor of the kiwi fruit. Of ca. 55 species of Actinidia, nearly all are in China, and 44 are endemic, found nowhere outside of China.

  • 84937_88_88 Plantae > Asparagaceae

    Aspidistra elatior

    Cast-iron Plant

    The "cast iron plant" was fashionable in England in Victorian times, primarily because it could survive in gloomy Victorian parlors, where the light levels were presumably as low as in the dense evergreen forests where it grows wild.

  • 28819_88_88 Plantae > Theaceae

    Camellia sinensis

    Chinese Tea

    Most tea is made from Camellia sinensis. For black tea, the leaves are first crushed or rolled, then allowed to partially ferment, and then dry. Green tea comes from the same plant, but the leaves are not fermented. When tea was introduced in Europe in the early 17th century, it was strictly for the wealthy—a pound of tea cost the equivalent of a year’s salary. Today, tea is the world’s most popular beverage.

  • 37589_88_88 Plantae > Fagaceae

    Castanea mollissima

    Chinese Chestnut

    In cultivation in the U.S., the Chinese chestnut is replacing the American chestnut (C. dentata), which was wiped out by chestnut blight. Invasive diseases and pests are among the significant threats to a diversity of species.

  • 39918_88_88 Plantae > Cupressaceae

    Cunninghamia lanceolata


    This could be lined to James Cunningham, after whom the genus is named. He was one of the first European plant collectors in China, employed by the East India Company. He collected in China, Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, South Africa and the Atlantic islands between 1698 and 1704, and died in 1709.

  • 79362_88_88 Plantae > Nyssaceae

    Davidia involucrata

    Dove Tree

    Also known as the hankerchief tree. This is a prized ornamental tree and a rare endemic of China. It survives in the old-growth evergreen, broad-leaved forests of the Gaoligong Shan range that separates Yunnan province from Myanmar (Burma).

  • 90672_88_88 Plantae > Poaceae

    Dendrocalamus giganteus

    Giant Bamboo

    Dendrocalamus giganteus is the tallest of all bamboos with gigantic large culms. This bamboo species grows in tropical and subtropical moist areas and produces a large amount of biomass.

  • 30781_88_88 Plantae > Thymelaeaceae

    Edgeworthia chrysantha

    Oriental Paperbush

    Actually, the correct name is Edgeworthia chrysanta. E. papyrifera is a synonym of it. The pith of the branches is used to make a type of paper, hence the epithet "papyrifera," meaning paper-bearing. In the spring, this plant boasts intensely fragrant yellow flowers on bare branches.

  • 71253_88_88 Plantae > Eucommiaceae

    Eucommia ulmoides

    Gutta-percha Tree

    This is the sole member of the family Eucommiaceae, which is one of the few endemic families in China. From the Flora of China: Eucommia ulmoides is a rare species in the wild in China, although it is much cultivated. The timber is used for furniture and fuel. The bark, which contains aucubin, is used medicinally as an invigorator, a tonic for arthritis, and for reducing blood pressure. The plant's solidified latex is used for lining pipes, insulating electric cables, and for filling teeth.

  • 52498_88_88 Plantae > Ginkgoaceae

    Ginkgo biloba


    It seems the ginkgo is known nowhere as a wild plant, having been known as a temple tree before its introduction into Western horticulture. Allegedly, it does grow wild in the Tianmu Shan range on the border between Anhui and Zhejiang provinces in E. China. While botanists still speculate that any truly wild plants exist, it is generally thought that the species originated in China.

  • 06098_88_88 Plantae > Magnoliaceae

    Liriodendron chinense

    Chinese Tulip Tree

    Chinese tulip tree is a fast-growing, columnar tree that typically grows to 50-70’ tall. It is named for its cup-shaped, tulip-like flowers (same family as magnolias) that bloom in late spring to early summer. This tree is very similar to Liriodendron tulipifera (native to eastern North America), except it is denser, slightly smaller, has smaller flowers without orange banding, has more deeply lobed leaves and is not as cold hardy.

  • 59261_88_88 Plantae > Magnoliaceae

    Magnolia denudata


    Native to eastern and southern China, Yulan magnolia is a small deciduous tree, also sometimes grown as a large shrub. The genus name honors Pierre Magnol, a French botanist (1638-1715). However, this species has been grown in Chinese gardens for at least 1,000 years.

  • 69398_88_88 Plantae > Cupressaceae

    Metasequoia glyptostroboides Hu & W. C. Cheng

    Dawn Redwood

    From fossil records, dawn redwood is known to have existed as many as 50,000,000 years ago. However, it was not until 1941 that dawn redwood was first discovered growing in the wild near the town of Modaoqi China by Chinese forester, T. Kan. Seeds collected from the original site were made available to the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1947. Seedlings grown therefrom were planted in front of the Lehmann Building at MBG in 1952 where they have now developed into large mature trees (70’+ tall). Dawn redwood is a deciduous, coniferous tree that grows in a conical shape to 100’ tall. It is related to and closely resembles bald cypress (Taxodium) and redwood (Sequoia). It features linear, feathery, fern-like foliage that is soft to the touch. The dawn redwoods living at Missouri Botanical Garden today are some of the oldest and largest specimens outside of China.

  • 78512_88_88 Plantae > Moraceae

    Morus alba

    White Mulberry

    Morus alba is the primary food source of silkworm larvae, therefore crucial to China's production of silk. Silkworms will also eat the leaves of a distant relative, North America's native Osage orange. In 28 days, a single silkworm produces 1 kilometer of silk. This tree's roots, leaves, and fruits are used medicinally.

  • 90311_88_88 Plantae > Nelumbonaceae

    Nelumbo nucifera

    Sacred Lotus

    The flowers, seeds, roots and young leaves of N. nucifera are used in many Asian dishes and medicines. No other plant or flower is as revered as the sacred lotus, which occupies a unique role in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Most Asian deities are either placed upon or connected with the lotus. Zhou Dunyi, a Confucian scholar, wrote: "I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained. It represents purity as it floats above the muddy waters of attachment and desire."

  • 30552_88_88 Plantae > Poaceae

    Oryza sativa


    Oryza sativa is the single most important grain for human nutrition, providing 1/5 of the calories of all humanity. First domesticated along the shores of the Yangtze River approximately 10,000 years BP, Asian rice is a labor-intensive crop that requires ample water. It is often planted in flooded fields, reducing weed growth and deterring vermin.

  • 43459_88_88 Plantae > Paeoniaceae

    Paeonia suffruticosa

    Moutan Peony

    Tree peonies are all endemic to China, and have been cultivated there for centuries. Wild plants of P. suffruticosa, however, are nowadays extremely rare. Perhaps China's most admired flower, P. suffruticosa is considered "the flower of riches, honor, royalty, spring, and feminine beauty."

  • 78967_88_88 Plantae > Urticaceae

    Pilea peperomioides

    Chinese Missionary Plant

    This species is very rare and possibly endangered in the wild, but is widely cultivated as an ornamental pot plant in China and other countries. As a wild plant in China, it has a narrow native distribution, endemic to W Yunnan and SW Sichuan provinces, where it grows on shaded, moist rocks in forests.

  • 60055_88_88 Plantae > Cupressaceae

    Taiwania cryptomerioides


    In the wild, this single species of the conifer genus Taiwania grows in SW China, N Myanmar (Burma), and Taiwan. It is a threatened species, preferring undisturbed, old-growth forests, which are nowadays rare. Nick Turland, Missouri Botanical Garden researcher, was fortunate to see this species growing wild in the Gaoligong Shan range that separates SW China and Myanmar. The trees he saw were huge, up to 50 m (160 ft.) tall, rising majestically above the canopy of an old-growth evergreen, broad-leaved forest.

  • 71229_88_88 Plantae > Arecaceae

    Trachycarpus fortunei

    Chusan Palm

    The Chinese windmill palm, or Chusan palm, grows in China south of the Yangtze River and the Qin Ling mountains. The thick, matted fibers on the trunk are harvested by local people and made into rain-capes, rather like carrying your personal thatched roof around when you work in the outdoors.