Visitors to Xishuangbanna become aware of its tropical environment immediately upon arrival. Towering, leafy palm trees line the main avenues. Huge banyans stand at various spots in the commercial district. Groves and gardens lie scattered throughout the city. For those coming from anywhere north, this is a whole new world, and Banna’s botanical wonders are a big part of the lure. And with the enormous variety of species, flowers are blooming all year round.
Appreciation begins right in Jinghong with a visit to the Tropical Flowers and Plants Garden, on the grounds of the Tropical Crop Research Institute of Yunnan. Nearly a thousand species of flowers, fruits and plants have been planted here, attractively arranged in different sections, including oil-bearing trees and medicinal plants that the Institute itself has cultivated and developed. Just a short 8-km ride east is the XIshuangbanna Primeval Forest Park, 2000 hectares of dense rain forest. While the park has no flower gardens, a walk through the forest reveals beautiful orchids and colorful epiphytes.
Even more impressive is the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, along the Luosuo River next to Menglun town. Covering a gourd-shaped area of one thousand hectares, the park comprises an eastern part for research and observation and a western part where visitors can see over four thousand species of plants, grouped and displayed in over thirty different sections. The park serves as a scientific research center, with its specimen hall, tropical plants germ plasma center, experimental farm and observation tower.
But it also makes for a splendid excursion, full of fine walks past rare and exotic flowers and trees. Among the botanical oddities here are: the “clock flower” that opens at sunrise and closes at sunset, the “dancing grass” that responds to sound, the upas tree with its poisonous sap, the “mystery fruit” that turns from sour to sweet and the huge “king lotus” pads floating in the pond and able to support the weight of a child of up to 20 kg.