PLANT COLLECTIONS FROM RUSSIAN FAR EASTERN FLORA
of the tasks facing botanical gardens is to study natural flora plants,
and collections gathered on the expositional plots of the laboratory for
Russian Far Eastern flora shall serve this purpose. By observing plants
in the form of collections, our researchers not only study their growth
and development, but also reveal more fully their useful properties for
development of growth and reproduction techniques.
Our collections of Far Eastern flora have always included diversified decorative plants. They were scrutinized for many years, taking into account the extent of specific plasticity in culture and capability for seed and vegetative reproduction. Major relevant work was performed by M. A. Skripka, who characterized more than eighty species of herbaceous plants from the south of the Russian Far East tested in the Botanical Garden, F. E. Branch, Siberian Department, USSR Academy of Sciences (now Botanical Garden-Institute, Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences) and recommended for use in park construction (Skripka, 1960, 1970).
A. B. Gutnik (1972) studied the decorative qualities of Russian Far Eastern irises, their biological and ecological properties and behavior in culture, and these investigations were subsequently continued by L. N. Mironova (1983). Again, D. L. Brishch determined wild lily species from the Russian Far East that present interest for growth in culture, including for winter forcing for cutting as well (Brishch, 1973). At one stage of the study of Far Eastern wile herbaceous perennial plants, investigations relating to this group were summarized and analyzed by L. N. Slizik (1977), who isolated groups of species with regard to their possible use and compiled plant assortments for various decorative facilities (Alpine hills and stone-covered gardens, vertical park construction, etc.). Work in this direction continued to be further reflected in a number of publications (Constructive Landscape Research, 1983; Park Construction in Urban Areas of Primorye, 1987; etc.).
Special attention is given in forming plant collections from flora of the Russian Far East and to their study in introduction to species that seldom occur on the territory of the Russian Far East, especially those, whose present number in nature is for some reason decreasing. In some cases, their cultivation in botanical garden collections is the only way to preserve them.
Besides, our Botanical Garden offers visitors a unique opportunity to familiarize themselves without leaving the suburbs of Vladivostok with plant species occurring in various areas of the Russian Far East in highly different conditions. The exposition plots of the Laboratory for Russian Far Eastern Flora boast about 360 species (59 of them rare and disappearing) from 225 genera of 78 families. The plants are arranged in conformity with their ecological demands: light-requiring species on open exposition plots, and those avoiding bright light on shaded forest plots.
Species, which in natural conditions grow in cracks of shady cliffs, are presented in the Garden on a stone-covered hillock under tree crowns. Adapted to insufficient soil between stones, these species are generally distinguished by small size and short rhizomes. Many of them are decorative, attracting people’s attention with their large flowers or azure foliage. Among plants settling on cliffs there is a whole series of species that are rare not only for Russian Far Eastern flora, but for Russia’s flora in general. Such species include Dennstaedtia wilfordii (Moore) Christ, a small and elegant fern. It belongs to the Dennstaedtia genus, which has approximately eighty species assigned chiefly to tropical and subtropical areas of the globe. In Russia, only two Dennstaedtia species occur, viz. Dennstaedtia wilfordii and Dennstaedtia pilosa. The principal distribution range of these ferns lies in the countries of East Asia; in Russia, they have been noted only in the south of Primorye. Due to their highly limited distribution, both Dennstaedtia wilfordii and Dennstaedtia pilosa have been entered in the list of rare plants of the Russian Far East, requiring protection (Kharkevich, Kachura, 1981). In favorable conditions, the former grows well to create picturesque groves. Its unique leaf form shows very expressively on the uneven surface of stones. Dennstaedtia wilfordii may serve to decorate shaded stone-covered hillocks, and stone-covered garden plots and parks.
A number of interesting species may also be found on another site, that exhibiting Russian Far Eastern junipers, which are preferentially creeping evergreen coniferous shrubs, like, for instance, are the Juniperus davurica Pall. and J. sargentii (A. Henry) Takeda ex Koidz. Whereas the former species, besides the Far East, occurs in Russia also in Yakutia and the Trans-Baikal region, the latter is found only in Sakhalin and the Southern Kurile Islands, where it can form continuous thickets on mountain slopes, or occurs in groups on coastal cliffs. Only one Far Eastern juniper species, J. rigida Siebold et Zucc. is a small tree (up to ten meters tall), a relict of arid climatic periods. An oval or tapered crown, cuspidate and very prickly narrow leaves (coniferous needles) distinguishes it from other species. In Russia, the rigid juniper occurs only in several districts of Southern Primorye in the form of single specimens or small groups, being preferentially distributed in Northeastern China, North Korea and Japan. As rare species, Juniper rigida and J. sargentii are cited in the list of protected Far Eastern species (Kharkevich, Kachura, 1981) and in Russia’s Red Book, 1988).
In natural conditions, junipers as a rule grow very slowly. They cannot compete with leafy trees and therefore occupy sites free of other species, namely cliffs, rocky detritus, rocky slopes and coastal sands. Significantly, junipers with rounded, dark brown gray-coated cone berries are poisonous.
Microbiota decussata Kom. is a juniper relative belonging to the same cypress family. It is actually the only representative of the microbiota genus and was discovered in 1921 by the Russian botanist I. D. Shishkin to be described in 1923 by V. L. Komarov as a new genus and species.
Microbiota is an evergreen shrub with creeping uplifting branches. Not only the species, but the genus as well is a Sikhote Alin endemic, not occurring elsewhere on the globe. On the southern slopes of Sikhote Alin, the microbiota not infrequently forms hardly passable thickets, which perform an important anti-erosion and water-conserving role in the mountains. It grows very slowly its branching growing annually not more than by 7 cm, and like junipers it can live up to 250 years.
Microbiota is a decorative plant and, along with the juniper, may be used for planting on rocky slopes. It is known to exist in botanical garden collections beyond its natural distribution (St. Petersburg, Tbilisi, etc.). As a relict and endemic species, microbiota is highly interesting for research. Today it is listed in the Red Book of the RSFSR (1988) and in the catalog of rare Far Eastern plants needing protection (Kharkevich, Kachura, 1981).
In late April-early May, bright rosy-purple or violet-red flowers of Bergenia pacifica Kom., yet another ancient endemic representative of Russia's Far Eastern flora, open on the juniper plot. The Bergenia may be noted over rocky slopes in mountains and in forest and sub-bald peak belts chiefly of the eastern macroslope of Sikhote Alin. It looks decorative not only because of the cymose flowers, but also due to the rounded dense leathery leaves, which survive even through winter.
In spring, rhododendron flowers, shrubs more widely known as wild rosemary flowers, are distinguished against the background of dark greenery of juniper coniferous needles. The genus Rhododendron had long ago attracted attention by its decorative qualities, and has now acquired exceptional significance in decorative horticulture. Thirteen rhododendron species are known in Russia’s Far East. One of them, Rh. Schlippenbachii Maxim. occurs in this country only in the very south of Primorye, growing preferentially in Japan, Korea and China.
The Russian botanist K. I. Maximovicz called Rh. Schlippenbachii Maxim. in honor of A. E. Schlippenbach, Russian naval officer and enthusiastic plant collector. During a voyage on board the Frigate Pallada along the coast of Korea, he collected herbarium specimens of Korean plants. Later, when he was already in command of the schooner “Vostok”, which sailed several times along the Amur and Tatar (Mamiya) Straight, Schlippenbach showed continued interest in plants to further assemble his herbarium (Gukov, 1989).
Rh. Schlippenbachii Maxim. occurs in undergrowth edges of larchwood forests. Given its highly limited distribution in Russia, it needs protection, and has been entered as a rare species in the Red Book of the RSFSR, 1988. Rh. Schlippenbachii Maxim. looks very impressive with its large, broad Campanulaceae , rosy, light rosy or (very rarely) white flowers opening slightly later than in other Far Eastern representatives of this genus. Plants of this species are responsive to favorable growth conditions. When planted on sunny plots with light rich soils, the shrubs grow well and in springtime are covered with lowers galore.
collection of Far Eastern plants, you can also familiarize yourself with
several other decorative shrubs. One of them, Sorbaria
sorbifolia (L.) A. Br. Occurs quite often along river banks, rocky
detritus edges and forest skirts in various areas of the Russian Far East,
East Siberia, as well as Mongolia, China and Korea. Its leaves are very
reminiscent of mountain ash (Sorbus) leaves, and this is reflected in the
name of the species. During blossoming (July-August), white flowers gathered
in terminal tapered racemes open on the shrub. Sorbaria sorbifolia (L.)
A. Br. Is a good nectariferous plant, and all kinds of insects feed on
its flowers. As a decorative plant, this shrub is known far beyond its
The Deutzia amurensis (Regel) Airy Shaw looks very pretty during blossoming. In June, its branches are covered with corymbose racemes with small (up to 1.5 cm in diameter) snow-white flowers are clustered therein. In Russia, this shrub occurs only in Primorye and Khabarovsk Territories, its principal distribution encompassing China and Korea.
On expositional sites of the Laboratory of Russian Far Eastern Flora, you can also find other plants that attract attention at all times of the year. In spring, apart from the already mentioned rhododendrons and Bergenia, these are also other early-blossoming species. The first to gladden people in the Russian Far East after spring are Adonis amurensis Regel et Rdde species. No wonder this plant is called “snowdrop”, given that its sunny-yellow leaves not infrequently grow alongside unthawed snow islets. Growing from under the ground in March-April, its stalks are leafless and covered with filmy scales, the upper ones of which cover small, still undeveloped leaflets; the latter will fully unfurl later, already during blossoming.
According to one legend, the genus received its Latin name after the Phoenician-Syrian sun-god Adone, who died every year in fall to resurrect in spring. The genus includes about fifty species, seventeen of which occur in Russia. Adonis amurensis is widespread in Russia only in the Far East, where it may be observed under forest canopies, and on glades and meadows. Beyond Russia, it grows in East Asia. Adonis not only blossoms beautifully, but is also nectariferous. It contains cardiac glycosides, and may be used as a medicinal plant.
Primula patens (Turcz.) E. Busch, one of the most decorative species
in the collection of Far Eastern plants, starts blooming in May. The umbellules
of its ruddy-violet or rosy flowers rising above the rosette of extended
down-covered leaves can be observed on moist meadows, among coastal shrubs,
and in river floodplains of Primorye and Khabarovsk Territory; it also
occurs in Eastern Siberia and in East Asian countries.
Primulas occupy a conspicuous place among beautifully blooming species, and have been known long ago in garden and greenhouse culture, where they are cultivated due to early blooming. Today, numerous Primula hybrid varieties are known to exist, differing from natural species in both diversity of flower form and color.
The Lythrum salicaria L., a rather common plant of damp and bogged meadows and shrub thickets, grows on the exposition site among other moist meadow species. Distributed quite widely, in Russia it is known not only in the Far East (Primorye and Khabarovsk Territories, Southern Kurile Islands and South Sakhalin), but in other areas as well.
In early summer, the strangely dark-colored, brown and occasionally almost black Fritillaria flowers among the varicolored grasses, red lily flowers and blue irises look quite unexpected. The Fritillaria received its name from the pock-marked or mottled color of its cup-shaped flowers.
Fritillaria grow in moderate latitudes of the northern hemisphere, totalling to about one hundred species. In the Russian Far East, three species of this genus occur, and two of them, viz. Fritillaria camtschatcensis (L.) Ker-Gawl. And F. ussuriensis Maxim. grow only in Primorye; outside Russia, Fritillaria occur in Northeastern China and Korea. This species is assigned to rare plants (Kharkevich, Kachura, 1981; Red Book of the RSFSR, 1988). Again, in Russia, F. camtschatcensis also occurs only in the Far East, but is distributed much wider than the other species, growing on herbaceous meadows not only in Primorye, but in Kamchatka, the Kuriles and Sakhalin as well. The bulbs of F. camtschatcenensis are edible, and residents of Kamchatka and American Indians are known to have used them as food.
Fritillaria are often cultivated as decorative plants in various botanical gardens and private collections. They are suitable for decorating stone-covered gardens and hills, as well as for group plantings on lawns.
In May-June, one more plant with unusual flowers, the Trillium camchatcense Ker-Gawl, starts blooming on the forest plot. This is one of the fifty representatives of a genus, whose species are forest plants. Trillium camchatcense is rather widespread over abundant l grass areas of Primorye, Okhotsk Region, Sakhalin Region, Kamchatka and Japan.
Trillium is one of the most decorative plants. Its erect stalk ends with a large (5-6 cm in diameter) flower, consisting of three green petals, the cup, and of three white petals, the corolla. Situated under the flower is a collar with three oval-rhombic leaves. The brownish-green fruit, reminiscent of a berry, is edible and quite tasty.
Our collection also includes a whole series of medicinal species. Among
them is Rhodiola rosea L. or so-called “golden
root”, whose rhizomes have been used as a stimulant for more than nearly
four hundred years.
Walking around the exposition sites, you can see a number of forest plants, e.g. Lathyrus komarovii Ohwi, a rather short (up to 60 cm) leguminous perennial plant. It is not always visible in the grass cover of broad-leaved and conifer-broad-leaf forests and on forest margins till its clustered purple-violet flowers, which turn blue in wilting, open in May. A little later, in May or June, the wide bell-shaped Disporum viridescens (Maxim.) Nakai flowers would open. This plant occurs on meadows and in shrub thickets in Primorye, Khhabarovsk Territory and outside Russia in East Asian countries.
Under tree crowns on the site of shade-loving plants, the dark violet flowers of Brachybotris paridiformis Maxim. ex Olivier). This species occurs in Russia only in the south of Primorye in mixed and larchwood valley forests, and occasionally can form thickets.
The Chloranthus japonicus Siebold), which occurs in Russia only in Primorye and Khabarovsk Territory, was transplanted to our collection from under the canopy of a mixed conifer—broad-leaf forest. This plant is interesting in that its spiked flowers have no perianth (petals), the long white stamens imparting the flowers their color.
Throughout summer, lily, iris, Amur Dianthus, and Papaver amurense (N. Busch.) Tolm. flowers, either alternately or jointly brightly scintillate among surrounding greenery. But gradually, with approach of fall, the number of blossoming species and individual plants continues to decrease. Time comes for late summer--fall flowers, heteropappuses and dendrathems, to bloom. Their flowers are similar to those of the widely familiar daisy, but unlike it are blue, bluish-purple, and white-rosy. Both heteropappuses and dendranthems are preferentially East Asian species. Over half of their representatives noted in Russia’s flora occur in the Russian Far East, many of them only in the south of the region.
Heteropappuses are biennial or (less often) one-year plants, and dendranthems are perennials. They present interest as decorative species, blooming when there almost no flowering plants. Besides, dendranthems are promising for selection.
The blooming of these species is the final chord of the passing summer. Yet, for a long time, virtually till the first autumn frosts, the remaining fading heteropappuses and dendranthems would gladden the eye among the heaps of dull grass and fallen leaves.
As was already noted above, our Botanical Garden had for a long time studied in culture a large group of decorative, rare and disappearing plants to allow us to summarize and systematize existing data on their ecology, seasonal development, and specific breeding. Our lab researchers have developed recommendations on measures for preserving the gene pool of a number of rare species (ferns, etc.), breeding techniques, cultivation and possibilities of using various groups of decorative wild plant (lilies, ferns, junipers, etc.) in park construction. The results are available at the Laboratory of Russian Far Eastern Flora, Botanical Garden-Institute, Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences.
The author extends
her sincere thanks to M. N. Abanjkina, L. M. Pshennikova and R. A. Koroliova
for the photographs and slides.
O. KHRAPKO, D. Sc. (Biology),
Head, Laboratory of Russian Far Eastern Flora, Botanical
Garden-Institute, Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences.