Looking good now
The multitude of golden black-eyed Susan is setting the Autumn Garden aglow.
The multitude of golden black-eyed Susan is setting the Autumn Garden aglow.
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Blogpost 4 from Vietnam - Nhiu Co San – ‘the mountain in the cloud’

25th – 28th October
Richard and Andy take a break near the summit of Nhiu Co SanRichard and Andy take a break near the summit of Nhiu Co San
A loaded mini-van with four days supplies, local porters and our Vietnamese colleagues hailed the begininning of our next four day expedition into the Hoang Lien Range. This time our destination was the district of Y Ti and Nhiu Co San, a mountain which has only recently been explored and documented. It took two hours, and a tyre blow out, to get to the village and paddy fields which edge the trail into the forest of Nhiu Co San. This location is near the border with China and we picked-up further porters and guides, from the local Hani population who were familiar with this area.

After a hearty lunch we hit the trail and immediately the paddy fields gave way to a boggy forest dominated by magnolias and Hamamelidaceae (witch-hazel family). Any gaps between trees were laced with the webs of large spiders colourfully adorned and carfully avoided. It was here that we found Uocodendron whartonii (Hamamelidaceae) a taxa new to science and one we plan to explore further on our return. The weather was also quick to turn and we were lashed with rain as we entered the forest proper. The lower reaches were a mixture of old growth, saplings and cardamom. By the time we arrived at our camp our collecting bag and presses contained the seeds and specimens of much new material, including maples, a birch, magnolias, ferns and a range of Gesneriaceae.

The next morning brought a welcome break to the rain and we began to ascend steadily following a water pipe deep into the forest. Massive trees rose to form a broken canopy 40 metres above our heads, their trunks and limbs dripping with epiphytes and ferns. As usual our pace was slow, punctuated by collecting and a routine of data recording that accompanies this process. The porters marched ahead laden with all the food and tents, navigating the forest with the dexterity of mountain goats. Our accommodation for the coming two nights, tents beneath a giant Tsuga dumosa (Himalayan hemlock) and a cardamom shack in which all the food was prepared and cooked.

We struck out for the summit of Nhiu Co San on the third day and this was by far the hardest trek so far, the path was steep and treacherous, but our spirits remained buoyant with the many new collections we were able to make. As we neared the summit the forest became stunted and patchy with mosaics of open low vegetation. Here we collected Rhododendron species, lilies and an Allium (onion) which Du reckons might be new to science. The views were stunning into the valley below and cloud draped over us and disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. The summit (approx. 2700m) proved a step to far and after deliberation we decided it wasn’t worth risking the last 50m as it was too unsafe.

Our return journey was much faster as we made few collections and after a stop over at our second camp, we returned to the village the paddy field at the edge of the forest and left ‘the mountain in the cloud’ to its enigmatic slumber.

Alex Summers, Glasshouse Supervisor, Cambridge University Botanic Garden, @CamPlantsman
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