China is rich in wild flower resources and is famous all over the world. There are 12,000 plant species in Sichuan, ranking second in the country. The diversity of flora is closely related to the diversity of habitat types. Sichuan is located in the first and second among three steps of mainland China’s terrain, that is, in the transition zone between the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau and the Yangtze Plain. There is a huge difference in elevation, and the characteristics of high in the west and low in the east are particularly obvious. There are plateaus and mountains in the west, with an elevation of more than 3000m; while in the east, there are basins and hills, with an elevation of 500 to 2000m. The province can be divided into five parts: Sichuan Basin, high mountain plateau area in western Sichuan, hilly plateau mountain area in northwest Sichuan, mountainous area in southwestern Sichuan, and middle mountain area in Micang-Daba Mountains.
The specific geographical environment and unique climatic conditions have formed a multi-level stereoscopic flora belt and a special natural landscape. Sichuan holds three major climate types, which are, the humid subtropical climate in the Sichuan Basin, the subtropical semi-humid climate in the mountains of southwestern Sichuan, and the alpine plateau of northwestern Sichuan. The vertical changes in climate have resulted in significant vertical distribution of flora. There are four seasons in one mountain, and the weather differs in each ten miles.
There are numerous rivers in Sichuan, mainly belonging to the Yangtze River system. A small section of the Yellow River flows through Ruo’ergai in northwestern Sichuan, while the Min River, Dadu River, Yalong River, Jinsha River and other major rivers and the vertical structural valleys of tributaries that originate or flow through Sichuan are mostly dominated by canyons. Flora resources are particularly rich.
It is said that God favours Sichuan, the complex landscape and climate have bred diverse species of flora, and the scenery is extremely beautiful. Taking Mount Gongga as an example, the Dadu River on the east side is only 29km away from the main peak, while the difference in altitude between these two is more than 600m. This gives Mount Gongga a very typical vertical natural belt.
Under the influence of the East Asian and the South Asian monsoons at the same time, the Hengduan Mountains have abundant precipitation. Here live a large number of ancient species, as when the ice age comes, plants living at higher altitudes can migrate to warm and lower places. When the temperature rises at the end of the ice age, they can move back to cool and high places, allowing the ancient species to survive. The diverse natural environment of Mount Gongga has also created conditions for the differentiation of flora species, and today, it is one of the most significant areas for the differentiation of flora in the world.
The main vegetation types in Sichuan are closely related to the distribution of wild flowers. Broadleaf forest belt (Orchidaceae, Rosa, Berberis), coniferous/broadleaf mixed forest belt (Orchidaceae, Monotropa, Primula), dark coniferous forests (Rhododendron, Primula, Orchidaceae), alpine shrubs (Polygonatum, Iris, Fritillaria, Meconopsis), alpine meadows (Gentiana, Primula, Saxifraga, Meconopsis), rocky screes (Saussurea, Saxifraga, Corydalis, Boraginaceae), subalpine meadows (Anemone, Pedicularis, Orchidaceae), dry valleys (Incarvillea arguta, Eremurus chinensis, Pterocephalus bretschneideri) and wetlands (Batrachium, Primula, Persicaria, Pedicularis, Carex).
These four flowers viewing routes cover wildflowers under most types of vegetation, and the altitude is higher than 1000m. However, flora resources in regions such as Mount Emei and Xiling Snow Mountain are also abundant. Some adjustment combinations can be made according to different seasons and periods.
The routes involve many famous scenic spots as well as mysterious ethnic and religious culture, namely ancient Shu civilizations such as the Sanxingdui site and the Jinsha site. Once “the Road of Shu is more difficult than climbing to the Heaven”, now the convenient transportation of aviation, railway and highway makes it possible to see all the flowers of the mountains in one day.
Alpine gardens of Western China, welcome your presence!