Tag Archives: kapok

Postcards of China 2: Xishuangbanna area

IMG_7751Some things are not what they appear. This is not a dead leaf. It is in fact a butterfly – quite possibly Kallima inachus, also referred to as the orange oakleaf or dead leaf butterfly. We saw butterfly houses at both the Butterfly Spring in Dali and again in Xishuangbanna, though it was a cool spring so we didn’t see any in the wild.

IMG_7762I had thought that the advertisement on NZ television that features what appear to be blue as blue monarch butterflies might have undergone some computer intervention to change the colour, but no – they do exist. Though my perfunctory net search does not suggest they belong to the monarch family.

We must have been very miserable and ill in Singapore airport on the way home (we both went down with a bad bout of flu from China which laid us low for a good fortnight after we got home). I judge how ill we were by the fact that we spent the time in transit in Singapore in the pay-in lounge immediately adjacent to the butterfly house in the airport terminal and neither of us felt like moving. Not even the ephemeral appeal of butterflies was enough to entice us to while away an hour.

Jinghong (10)

Ccv_deQUUAAN_EgAs we flew into Xishuangbanna (on Lucky Air – not entirely sure of that branding), I wondered about the huge plantations visible from the air. Something twiggy. Rubber trees! I had not realised they were deciduous. I have always associated commercial rubber production with Malaya but maybe modern Malaysia has found palm oil more lucrative, leaving a substantial gap in the market for entrepreneurial Chinese. In fact the most common tree used for rubber, Hevea brasiliensis, originates from South America around the Amazon.

The Chinese plantings are monoculture on a massive scale and any monoculture brings environmental issues with it. South American leaf blight is a apparently a real threat to the rubber trees of South East Asia but maybe these recent plantings are of more resistant clones. Maybe. We could see evidence of traditional harvesting by tapping with the tins in place to collect the sap. Our local guide informed us that it was a lucrative crop for the plantation owners and it is one that can be grown on the very steep slopes typical of the area.


Jinghong (24)Jinghong (45)Jinghong is branded as the peacock city – even to light fittings in one area. In the tour of “primitive forest” (I was not entirely sure how primitive it was now that it has been adapted to accommodate tens, nay hundreds of thousands of visitors) there were tethered peacocks. What happens when you cross a pure white with a traditional blue? Why, this interesting combination.

In the days just before digital cameras, we visited Isola Madre on Lake Maggiore in Italy. I much preferred it to the better known Isola Bella. One of my enduring memories (not captured on camera) is of the oh so elegant and refined pure white peacocks perching on the magnificent old stonework. It was the epitome of style.

Peacocks are glorious birds but if you are thinking they would be nice to have in your own garden, do some research first. Any creature that size is going to cause a lot of damage perching on plants and fossicking around. I recall a local gardener who targeted the wedding market telling me she had to get rid of her peacocks. The excrement is so large and abundant, it was an issue for wedding parties, especially the wedding gown trains.

kapok (2)kapok (4)Kapok flowers. Some of us are old enough to remember the days of kapok mattresses and pillows but I doubt that many of us knew that they were stuffed with the fluff from the seed pods of the kapok tree, Ceiba pentandra. However that species has flowers that are considerably less spectacular than the ornamental kapoks. We had seen kapoks used as street plantings in Hue in Vietnam some years ago but they were not in flower.

Since the exotic chorisia has been reclassified as a ceiba, there appear to be about 20 different species of the latter and we didn’t know which one this large flowered orange tree seen in southern China derived from. In our mild conditions in Tikorangi, we can grow some of these tropical trees but not necessarily get them flowering (this is the case with our chorisia, more correctly called Ceiba speciosa these days) although they will bloom in the warmer north of New Zealand.


Finally, I don’t know anything about tropical waterlilies but they made a lovely picture in the expansive pond (maybe a smallish lake) at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanics Garden where we spent a thoroughly delightful morning.