CUBG has taken part in two expeditions to northern Vietnam in the last years in collaboration with other botanic gardens based in the UK, and Vietnamese botanists.
Although it could seem that the flora of Vietnam is too tropical to be grown in Cambridge, northern Vietnam actually reaches subtropical latitudes, and considering that we collected in high altitudes, the species that we found could be sustained in the relatively mild weather of our Garden. Plus, of course, we have our Glass Houses for the freeze-intolerant elements.
We botanised and camped for days in the mountains around Sa Pa, and in the province of Ha Giang. Along those steep and muddy trails, we collected hundreds of different plants and observed those forests that left us with mixed feelings – the lush flora, with a combination of tropical and temperate elements, is interesting and intriguing. However, these forests are silent – all the birds are in cages in nearby cities – and their forest floors have been transformed into Cardamom plantations. Conservation threats to these forests are unfortunately hard to control in a country that is rapidly growing.
We targeted tree species, mainly Magnolia and Rhododendron. Some of them are highly threatened and one of our goals was to collect their seeds to ensure their ex-situ conservation. One of the highlights of the second trip is that we collected seeds of Magnolia grandis, a species considered as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, and that hopefully will find a refuge in our botanic gardens while more permanent solutions to its conservation are developed in Vietnam.