By Jennifer Possley, Field Biologist
Today was our whirlwind tour of botanic gardens in Beijing. Dr. Yi-Bo Luo of the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences kindly dedicated his entire Saturday to showing Hong, Hillary and myself around the 400-hectare Beijing Botanical Garden. To begin our tour, we met Dr. Luo at his office at the Chinese Academy of Science. He was our free pass for the day; when we walked across the street to the botanical garden, his presence enabled us to sail past the long lines like VIP guests. We first met with Dr. Shiwei Zhao, the Garden’s Vice Director. Hong presented him with materials about the Fairchild Challenge, and invited Dr. Zhao and the Beijing Botanical Garden to become one of our growing number of partner institutions. He expressed interest in learning more about the annual training program that Fairchild runs for its international partners. After this meeting, we spent several more hours in the garden. We toured the elaborate indoor rainforest exhibit, and we visited the Buddhist “Wofosi” or the Sleeping Buddha temple that resides on the garden property and houses a large reclining Buddha statue. My favorite part of our tour was the behind-the-scenes look inside the orchid nurseries. We saw row after row of perfect and beautiful orchids of all sizes, colors and scents, including the rare species from Yachang Orchid Preserve, Paphilopedilum hirsutissimum (upper left photo) and Dendrobium officinale (lower right photo). Dendrobium officinale has been poached, nearly to extinction, because it is prized as a treatment for diabetes.
By the way. . . Hillary and I were surprised to see an old friend at the Beijing Botanical Garden: Bigfoot is alive and well in the rainforest exhibit!