A Naturalist in Western China, with vasculum, camera, and gun (1913) vol. 1.
E. H. "Chinese" Wilson


17 The Flora of Ichang

However, it is not to these low hills that we look for the floral wealth of Ichang, but to the limestone cliffs of the glens and gorges. Here the variety is astonishing, a striking feature being the quantity of well-known flowering shrubs.

18 The Flora of Ichang

Rose bushes abound everywhere, and in April perhaps afford the greatest show of any one kind of flower. Rosa laevigata and R. microcarpa are more common in fully exposed places. Rosa multiflora, R. moschata, and R. Banksiae are particularly abundant on the cliffs and crags of the glens and gorges, though by no means confined thereto. The Musk and Banksian Roses often scale tall trees, and a tree thus festooned with their branches laden with flowers is a sight to be remembered. To walk through a glen in the early morning or after a slight shower, when the air is laden with the soft delicious perfume from myriads of Rose flowers, is truly a walk through an earthly paradise.

28 A Journey in North-Western Hupeh

The journey up the San-yu-tung glen was very interesting, [29] much of the scenery being rugged and grand. The cliffs of hard limestone are usually 500 feet or more sheer, and are the home of Goral and other animals, and also of many cliff-loving plants. In the crevices and niches the Chinese Primrose (Primula sinensis) finds its home, but the flowers were past and the flower-stems all bent towards the cliffs to ensure the seeds being deposited in the rock crevices. This plant is the parent of our greenhouse Primulas, and in February and early March the cliffs present a wonderful picture, being covered with colonies of plants, one mass of warm mauve-pink flowers. Wherever the cliffs are not absolutely sheer, vegetation is rampant. Pine trees (Pinus Massoniana) fringe the summits and Rosa microcarpa was in full flower, otherwise there was very little blossom to be seen. Most of the shrubs being spring-flowering were in young fruit.

30 A Journey in North-Western Hupeh

The mountain sides are very steep, with razor-like ridges. Terraced cultivation is everywhere carried out, rice is cultivated in the bottom-lands and maize on the slopes, with occasional patches of Irish potato. Where it is too steep, or for other reasons unsuitable for cultivation, the mountain-sides are covered with shrubs and trees, chiefly scrub Oak and the [31] common pine. ... But the display of the day was made by the wild Roses. By the side of streams the Rambler Rose (Rosa multiflora), with both white and pink flowers, was abundant. In the woods higher up the Musk Rose (R. moschata) filled the air with its soft fragrance.

33 A Journey in North-Western Hupeh

Descending through a cultivated area we entered a glen which we followed for 20 li: the scenery in the lower end is magnificent. Cliffs of hard limestone rear themselves almost perpendicularly some 2000 feet and more. In the upper part of the glen Pterocarya hufehensis is common alongside the burn. An odd tree or two of the rare Pteroceltis Tatarinowii also occurs here. Throughout the glen Lady Banks's rose (Rosa Banksiae) is especially abundant. Bushes 10 to 20 feet high and more through them were one mass of fragrant white flowers. It occurs in thousands and is particularly happy, growing on rocks and over boulders by the side of streams.

35 A Journey in North-Western Hupeh

In the gorge I gathered Rehmannia Henryi, a herb less than I foot tall, with large, white, foxglove-like flowers. Hereabouts the root-bark of Lady Banks's rose is collected, and after being dried is pressed into bales for export to Shasi. This bark is used for dyeing and strengthening fish-nets, and it is claimed that it renders the net invisible to fish. In the valley Koelreuteria bipinnata occurs, but is rare; the flora of the ravine generally is similar to that of the San-yu-tung glen.

The mountains are clad with Oak (largely scrub), Pinus Massoniana, and Cypress. A few Keteleeria trees occur and also Liquidamhar formosana. Populus Silvestrii, with its light grey bark, is a very common tree hereabouts. Wood Oil trees were a wonderful sight and most abundant. In the ravine they were in full leaf, and the fruits were swelling, but from 1500 feet to 3000 feet they were leafless and covered with flowers. [36] By the side of streams at low altitudes the Rambler Rose (Rosa multiflora) was a pretty sight with its white and pink blossoms, but the Musk Rose (R. moschata) was the flower of the day — bushes 6 to 20 feet tall and more in diameter, nothing but clusters of white fragrant flowers. Growing on some old graves I found a sulphur-yellow flowered form of Rosa Banksiae; this, I think, must have been planted. Rose bushes are a special feature in this region and numerically are the commonest of shrubs.

37 A Journey in North-Western Hupeh

The forest, though full of splendid timber, is not rich in variety. The Chinese Beech (Fagus sinenis) is the commonest tree. This species always has many trunks, and trees 60 to 70 feet high, with stems 3 to 6 feet in girth, abound. The interesting Tetracentron sinense is very abundant; trees 60 to 70 feet by 8 to 10 feet girth are plentiful. The leafage of this tree is very thin and characteristic. Large trees of White Birch and of several species of Maple occur scattered through the forest. The smooth-leaved Davidia (D. involucrata, var. Vilmoriniana) occurs sparingly, and good-sized trees of various Cherries, Bird Cherries, Mountain Ash, and Wild Pear are common. Rambling over the tops of the largest trees is Berchemia Giraldiana. Several species of Rhododendron occur; one species (R. sutchuenense) forms a tree 30 feet and more tall and 5 feet in girth. Shrubs in variety abound; in the glades Viburnum tonientosum was wTeathed in snow-white flowers. In more open places the Musk Rose is rampant, and near the summit Rosa sericea is abundant.

54 Forest and Crag

A precipitous descent, through fields margined with Tea-bushes, led to the tiny hamlet of Sha-kou-ping, where the torrent we had followed joins with a very considerable stream flowing down from the north-east. The united waters plunge at once into a ravine and finally enter the Yangtsze a few miles above the city of Patung. Sha-kou-ping is only 2600 feet above sea-level, and is hemmed in on all sides by lofty cliffs. The flora is that common to the glens and gorges around Ichang, and the wealth of flowers was extraordinary. The Banksian rose is one of the commonest shrubs hereabouts, and was laden with masses of fragrant white flowers. Opium Poppy was abundant and the whole countryside was gay with the colour of flowers. Styrax Veitchiorum occurs here, and trees 12 to 40 feet tall were masses of ivory-white.

89 The Ancient Kingdom of Pa

The place is called Hsin-chia-pa, alt. 1950 feet. We had covered 80 li, through a rich and interesting country. Lady Banks's rose was particularly abundant, with stems 2 feet round, festooning trees 40 to 50 feet tall. Mantzu caves occur sparingly. In several places we passed cultivated patches of Panicum crus-galli, var. frumentaceum.

We parted excellent friends with our hostess at Hsin-chia-pa, a trifling present and 400 cash made her extremely happy; her thanks were both genuine and profuse. Soon after starting we made a precipitous ascent of 1000 feet and crossed what is probably the water-shed of the Suiting and Sanhuei Rivers. A descent led to the head-waters of a small river, where is situated the tiny market village of San-che-miao. Market was in full swing, the one short street with its few hovels being crowded with people. We passed through without stopping to satisfy the curiosity of the crowd. At this village several roads converge, the one we followed continuing to descend the stream, and leading through a rocky jungle-clad defile. The cliffs are of red and grey sandstone, steep, rugged, and crowned with Pine and Cypress. As fluviatile shrubs Distylium chinense, various Privets (Ligustrum) and Cornus paucinervis abound. The last-named is a low-growing shrub with spreading branches, and laden with small flat corymbs of white flowers it formed a most attractive bush by the water's edge. In the jungle-clad slopes through which the road winds Tea bushes 15 feet and more tall are common. They looked uncommonly like spontaneous specimens, but were possibly planted long ago, though some of them have been undoubtedly naturalized. Occasional trees of the Red Bean ("Hung-tou"), Ormosia Hosiei, occur; at one time this was probably a very common tree in this region. Its timber is most valuable, and the tree has been ruthlessly felled. There is practically no cultivation in this defile, or room for any, and not a house for 20 li.

After traversing this wild and interesting ravine for several hours we made a steep ascent to the top of the cliffs, and on the way up discovered spontaneous plants of the Tea Rose (Rosa indica) in fruit. These were the first really wild specimens I had met with. Once on top of the cliffs we found that [90] the country all around is under cultivation, chiefly rice, with houses at frequent intervals. After a few li the road descends to the river again, and crossing by stone steps we reached the market village of Peh-pai-ho, where we found accommodation in a large house. This village, alt. 1600 feet, also known as Peh-pai ch'ang, is a small place with unprepossessing residents. Our quarters were dark, fairly filthy, and loafers crowded around until bedtime.

The day's journey of 60 li was through a sparsely populated country, which, considering the low altitude, was unusually wild and jungle-clad. The flora had points of interest, the finding of Tea bushes and bushes of the Tea Rose in the rocky defile being particularly noteworthy. On bare sandstone cliffs large white trumpet-flowered Lilies were common, with their stems thrust out at nearly right angles to the cliffs. We met very few people on the road, and most of the women we saw had natural feet. In the early morning we passed quite a lot of Panicum crus-galli, var. frumentaceum, cultivated.

118 North-Western Szechuan

From Che-shan to Shihch'uan Hsien the road ascends the right bank of the river, which flows between steep precipitous mountains. The path is usually several hundred feet above the stream, broad and fairly easy for the most part, but constantly ascending and descending. The mountain-sides are steep but, where not absolutely vertical, are all under cultivation, Maize being the staple crop. There is very little limestone, the rocks being chiefly loose sandstone and mud shales. These shales weather rapidly, and the steepest cultivated slopes are usually composed of these rocks.

The river is broad, and could easily be made navigable for boats during the high-water season. Even in its present condition rafts could be floated down, but we saw no traffic whatsoever on its waters. The water was dirty, and much driftwood was strewn along the shores. This is collected, dried, and stacked, forming apparently the principal source of fuel. Trees are very scarce, but around houses occur Sophora, Pistacia, Pteroceltis, Sterculia platanifolia (Wu-tung), Koelreuteria bipinnata, and Alder. The Koelreuteria was just coming into flower; the flowers are golden yellow produced in large, much-branched, erect panicles; the leaves are very large and much divided. Shrubs are not plentiful but, much to my surprise, the Tea Rose (Rosa indica) is quite common, and evidently spontaneous, by the wayside, on the cliffs, and by the side of the stream.

120 North-Western Szechuan

The next day we left Shihch'uan Hsien at sunrise, glad to escape from the malodorous, vermin-infested inn. No one put in an appearance from the yamên, and no attempt to prevent our taking the route proposed was made. I had rather feared this might happen, but my fears were fortunately groundless. On leaving the city by the north gate we struck a stream nearly equal in volume to the main river. The road ascends the left bank, and almost immediately plunges into a narrow, wild ravine, through which we continued the whole day. Like all such roads it skirts the mountain-side, being usually several hundred feet above the river, but is constantly descending to the water's edge, only to ascend again a few hundred yards farther on. It is in good repair, although the rocks are of soft mud shales, and signs of landslips were frequent. Wherever possible maize is cultivated, but houses are few and far between. The country strongly reminded me of that around Wench'uan Hsien in the upper Min Valley farther west. Trees are very scarce, the Wu-tung (Sterculia) being perhaps the most common. The shrubs denote a dry (xerophytic) climate, nearly all having small leaves, either thick or covered with a felt of hairs. Of these shrubs, Abelia parvifolia, Lonicera pileata, Ligustrum strongylophyllum, and various kinds of Spiraea, are common. Bushes of the wild Tea Rose are not infrequent.

123 North-Western Szechuan

The journey generally was a repetition of the two former days, through a rocky but uninteresting gorge. Wherever possible, maize is cultivated, and we noted two odd patches of rice. Houses are few and far between, and we met only a few coolies laden with potash salts, charcoal, and shingles. The flora was not interesting, Alder, Pterocarya, and Cornus controversa are the only common trees. Buddleia Davidii is abundant by the stream side, and was in full flower. The Tea Rose also is fairly common. A Lily without bulbils, otherwise very like Lilium Sargentiae, is plentiful in places. At Peh-yang ch'ang, alt. 4100 feet, we found a road leading off to the right, and connecting with the Lungan-Sungpan highway at Shui-ching-pu; this we decided to follow.

154 Chino-Thibetan Borderland

Many kinds of Rose occur, but often the species are local. Common to all these valleys, though most abundant in that of the Yalung, is Rosa Soulieana, with fragrant flowers, opening sulphur-yellow and changing to white. So also is Miss Willmott's charming rose (R. Willmottiae), with its abundant straw-yellow prickles, neat glaucescent leaves, rosy-pink flowers, and orange-red fruit. The beautiful R. Hugonis is confined to a narrow stretch of the Min Valley between 3000 to 5000 feet. This is the only rose with yellow flowers I have met with in China. The fruit is black and falls very early. R. multibracteata, an odd-looking species having pretty pink flowers, is very common in the upper reaches of the Min Valley and less so in that of the Tung. Forms of the Musk Rose (R. moschata) and of R. sericea occur but are local. With the exception of the "Southernwood," all these shrubs confine themselves closely to water-courses.

173 Across the Chino-Thibetan Borderland

Descending by a path, which at first easy soon becomes very precipitous and difficult owing to the abundance of loose rocks, we reached Hei-shih ch'ang, our destination for the day, at 6 p.m. In this descent, near the head of the pass, the "Yang-tao" (Actinidia chinensis) is abundant, and was laden with a wealth of large, white, fragrant flowers. By the wayside, Rosa microphylla is very plentiful, and bushes 2 to 4 feet tall were covered with large pink blossoms. One small tree of Carrieria calycina, laden with curiously-shaped, waxy-white flowers borne in erect panicles, was also worthy of note. But the flora generally has been destroyed to make way for crops of maize, oats, and pulse.

177 Across the Chino-Thibetan Borderland

A Rose with large bright red flowers made a fine ddisplay, so also did the pink-flowered Deutzia mentioned above. Two Lady-slipper orchids (Cypripedium Franchetii and C. luteum), with rosy-purple and yellow flowers respectively, occur, but are rare.

227 Sacred Omei Shan

The mountain-top is somewhat uneven, sloping away from the cliffs by a fairly easy gradient. It is everywhere covered with a dense scrub, composed mainly of dwarf Bamboo, with bushes of Willow, Birch, Sorbus, Barberry, Rhododendron, Spiraea, and Rosa omeiensis interspersed. Near the watercourses these shrubs are more particularly abundant. Trailing over the scrub Clematis montana, var. Wilsonii, is very common. At least five species of Rhododendron grow on the summit, but, judging from the paucity of fruits, they flower but sparingly. In places sheltered from the winds fine groves of Silver Fir remain, but in the more fully exposed sites these trees are very stunted and weather-beaten. The dwarf Juniper, with twisted, gnarled stems, is also plentiful in rocky places.

248 Wa Shan and its Flora

The plateau (8500 feet) is about half a mile across, marshy in places, and densely clad with shrubby vegetation and Bamboo scrub. In addition to those already noted as occurring in the belt below, we here found Hydrangea xanthoncura, Rosa sericea, and Aralia chinensis, also a species of Caltha and a few Conifers. Rhododendrons become more abundant as we advanced. Crossing this plateau we reached the north-west angle of the upper storey, and scrambled upwards by a narrow, rocky, tortuous path through dense thickets of mixed shrubs, which gradually give place to Rhododendrons as the narrow ledge at 10,000 feet is reached. Rosa sericea, which was past flowering below, was here a mass of lovely white. Two or three species of Lonicera and various Labiatae occur within this belt, and on shady rocks at least three species of Primula, including P. ovalifolia.

From 10,000 feet to the summit of the mountain Rhododendron accounts for fully 99 per cent, of the ligneous vegetation. A few Conifers, Lonicera, Rosa sericea, Clematis montana, var. Wilsonii, Pieris, and Gaultheria make up the remaining one per cent. Of the herbs. Primula is the most noteworthy. Five fresh species of this genus occur, and amongst them, though uncommon, the lovely yellow-flowered P. Prattii. A blue-flowered Corydalis, Cypripedium luteum, with large yellow flowers; Rubus Fockeanus and another herbaceous species are other pleasing plants. On shady rocks the curious Berneuxia thibetica abounds. This interesting plant was first referred to the genus Shortia by Franchet, and was later made the type of a new genus by Decaisne. The flowers are small and insignificant, white or pale pink in colour. On bare rocks I gathered the pretty white-belled Cassiope selaginoides.

My attention and interest, however, were chiefly taken up with the Rhododendrons. The gorgeous beauty of their [249] flowers defies description. They were there in thousands and hundreds of thousands. Bushes of all sizes, many fully 30 feet tall and more in diameter, all clad with a wealth of blossoms that almost hid the foliage. Some flowers were crimson, some bright red, some flesh-coloured, some silvery-pink, some yellow, and others pure white. The huge rugged stems, gnarled and twisted into every conceivable shape, are draped with pendant Mosses and Lichens, prominent among the latter being Usnea longissima. How the Rhododendrons find roothold on these wild crags and cliffs is a marvel. Many grow on the fallen trunks of the Silver Fir and some are epiphytic. Beneath them Sphagnum moss luxuriates and makes a pretty but treacherous carpet. On bare exposed cliffs I gathered two diminutive species of Rhododendron, each only a few inches tall, one with deep purple and the other with pale yellow flowers.

Wikipedia: Ernest Henry "Chinese Wilson