the numerous larchwood trees noted in the neighborhood of the ecological
trail, the maple genus is represented most comprehensively. Of the twelve
species of this genus, widespread in the Russian Far East, five species
occur here, including the Acer barbinerve Maxim.,
ginnala Maxim,, A. pseudosieboldianum (Pax) Kom.
and other species. Maples are an indispensable part of the lower tier of
mixed forests. They blossom in late May—Early June, but their star-like
light yellow or greenish flowers are unattractive. All the species are
nectariferous; however, the small-leaf maple is of special interest for
bee keeping. You can obtain up to 1.5 kg of honey with golden color, gentle
taste and smell just from one maple tree (Ismodenov, 1989).
The Mongolian oak (Quercus mongolica Fisch. Ex Ledeb.), one of the species most widespread in the south of the Russian Far East, starts to blossom in the second half of May. Its flowers are inconspicuous, both male and female flowers developing on one plant.
In the neighborhood of the ecological trail, you can also see yet another of the characteristic arboreal species of the conifer-broad-leaf forests of Primorye, the Manchurian linden (Tilia mandshurica Rupr.). This is one of the three species of the linden genus present in Primorye flora. Lindens are valuable nectariferous trees, blossoming already in summer, later than would other larchwood species. During blossoming, you would see numerous yellowish-white, rather small flowers.
The linden is a rather loved tree species, and Russians often mention it in their songs and tales. Ancient Slavs called the linden tree Lada, the Goddess of Love and Beauty, and in Western Europe people devoted it to the spring goddess Frei, guardian of the hearth.
You can hardly pass the trail without noticing the blooming Manchurian apple [Malus mandshurica (Maxim.) Kom.]. In the second half of May, its branches are covered with large, white, odoriferous flowers to bear quite tasty fruits in September.
There is a whole number of medicinal plants among the species occurring in the neighborhood of the ecological trail. One of the best known is Eleutherococcus senticosus (Rupr. et Maxim.) Maxim. This rather common forest shrub occurs either individually or in small groups in Primorye and Khabarovsk Territories and in the south of Sakhalin, and outside Russia in China, Korea and Japan. Eleuthero is characterized by palmatipartite leaves with five oval lobes and by needle-shaped downward-pointing thorns, after which this species is called “thorny” and nick-named “devil’s shrub”.
Eleuthero is a good nectariferous plant, but is more valued for its medicinal properties. Eleuthero preparations produce a generally toning effect similar to that of ginseng.
On forest outskirts, in the second half of June, the
Viburnum (Viburnum sargentii Koehne) attracts attention with
its unusual racemes, whose flattened edges have large (up to 2 cm in diameter)
bear large (up to 2 cm in diameter) bright white flowers, and small unattractive
fruiting flowers in the middle. Viburnum sargentii berries mature in September-October;
they look light red, are juicy and have a slightly bitter taste. They are
good for cooking fruit gel, stewed fruit and jam.
Manchurian currant [Ribes manshurica (Maxim.) Kom.] are edible and quite tasty. In Primorye, this is a rather common shrub of mixed conifer-broad-leaf forests, which growing along rivers and streams. Besides Primorye, the Manchurian currant also occurs in Khabarovsk Territory and Amur Region, but mainly in Northeastern China and Korea.
Lianas, plants lacking upright trunks or stalks, constitute a separate group. As they grow, they turn around their central axis to simultaneously entire the base. Some lianas additionally attach themselves to the base by means of tendrils and special tendril suckers.
Primorye is Russia’s richest liana province. In the neighborhood of the ecological path, you can come across five representatives of this group of plants: the Amur grape, Schizandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill. and three species of Acinidia, including Actinidia kolomikta (Maxim.) Maxim.
Schizandra chinensis is rather well known as a valuable medicinal plant. In medicine, its fruits, containing organic acids, are used to produce a toning effect. In fact, it has been used in Chinese medicine for about fifteen centuries now. In China, the Schizandra is called “berry of five tastes”, given that the fruit cover is sweet, the pulp sour, the seeds bitter and astringent, and the tincture itself salty. In Russia and Europe, Schizandra has become known relatively recently, from the first half of the 19th century, after having been described by N. S. Tourchaninov.
Schizandra fruits are used in the food industry to prepare tinctures and as additives to candy stuffing. It may also be used as a decorative plant for making various fencing, espalier, etc.
Actinidia includes forty species; a typically East Asian genus of relict
plants, it has survived in East Asia since the Tertiary Period. Known
to possess properties valuable for man, Actinidia belong to a group of
plants from which bees take pollen (Ismodenov, 1989). The cuspidate and
kolomikta Actinidia or seedless grapes, as they are generally called by
people, are valuable fruit and berry species. Their sweet aromatic fruit
are rich in vitamin C, good in fresh form, and their jam, fruit gel and
stewed fruit are also tasty. In raw and processed form, they are diet and
remedial food products. Besides, Actinidia likewise present interest as
decorative plants, Actinidia kolomikta in particular. By blossoming time,
its leaf ends whiten to then turn rosy and subsequently acquire an almost
red color. This is kolomikta’s biological property, ostensibly because
insects are attracted to
number of plant species (155) in the ecological trail neighborhood is observed
in the grass tier. Once the spring soil slightly warms up, the first flowers—small
and brittle, albeit unusually bright open up here and there in the forest.
They start blossoming long before leaves unfurl on trees and shrubs, and
include the golden-yellow Amur Adonis, the Ranunculus
franchetii Boiss., the show-white Anemonoides amurensis (Korsh.) Holub,
the spring Stellaria, and the lilac, azure and blue Corydalis.
All these species belong to Ephemeroideae plants. They use the short spring to grow and develop, when the forest still devoid of foliage is flooded with sunshine. Again, when the leaves on trees are almost unfurled, the seeds of numerous Ephemeroideae ripen, like for instance in Eranthis stellata Maxim. After the seeds had finished blooming and ripening, the overground portion of this plant yellows to die off, but the underground part remains intact till next spring.
Almost all of the above-cited species, primarily the Adonis and Corydalis, are nectariferous, and particularly valued because insects use them first to collect nectar and pollen after the long winters.
Among forest grasses, there are small plants noticeable only during blossoming. If you look attentively, you would see elegant Lloydia triflora (Ledeb.) Baker flowers among last year’s leaves and initial spring grass. Greenish veins are noticeable on the petals of its wide-open funnel-like white flowers, which open in early spring (April-May). Oxalis acetosella L. also starts blossoming at the same time. This species is quite common in conifer—broad-leaf forests, not only in the Russian Far East, but beyond its bounds as well. Its elegant flowers with white petals have a unique pattern of fine dark veins. The name of the genus Oxalis and the German name of the common Oxalis, “sour clover”, are associated with the fact that its leaves actually do have a sour taste. They are tripartite and highly reminiscent of cloverleaves. Interestingly enough, Oxalis leaves can react to strong light or mechanical irritation to lower as they do. The seeds have special attachments allowing scattering them from pistils and for ants to subsequently carry them all over the forest.
In May-early June, the Trigonotis radicans (Turcz.) Stev. starts blossoming on moist glades in the ecological trail neighborhood. Its azure flowers are small, but characterized by special charm. During early vegetation, its stalks stand upright to then lie down, their apices being capable of rooting.
One forest plant genus, Maianhemum, received its name from its blossoming time, May. In the ecological trail neighborhood, you can encounter all three species occurring in Primorye flora. These are small plants, whose stalks carry two cordiform leaves and end with a pennicilate raceme of small white flowers. The Smilacina hirta Maxim., representative of the Liliacead family, same as the Maianhemum family, can also be frequently observed to grow alongside the latter. It can occur under the canopy of mixed forests, on forest outskirts, and in shrub thickets in Primorye and the southern part of Khabarovsk Territory, and also in East Asian countries.
The spots of the blossoming Thalictrum filamentosum Maxim. impart the forest particular charm in late spring-early summer. Possibly because its leaves have no petals its umbelliform racemes appear very airy.
The azure-blue flowers with bright yellow spots of the Polemonium laxiflorum (Regel) Kitam. and Geranium eriostemon Fisch., both quite common forest species, open up in July on forest glades. Here, you can also encounter The Sedum aizoon L., which occurs not only in forests, but also on dry cliffs, rocky mountain slopes and shrub thickets as well. This species is widespread in the Russian Far East, occurring also in Siberia, Mongolia, Japan and China.
Not all forest grass flowers are bright-colored. For instance The Paris manshurica Kom. has greenish flowers that are far from attractive. On the other hand, the crowberry with its dove-colored—black juicy berries is more conspicuous. Vladimir L. Komarov from Primorye originally described this species, where it occurs in valley and mixed forests, being chiefly distributed in Northeastern China and Korea.
The stroll along the ecological trail is interesting not only knowledge-wise, but allows you to rest from the noise of neighboring Vladivostok, get a breath of fresh air and enjoy the chirruping of birds. After all the dull colors of winter, the bright spots of blooming early plants gladden the eye in spring and strike you with the diversity of foliage and trunk forms and colors in summer; again, the motley-colored leaves in fall beautiful in their own way, especially maples, whose foliage acquires first a lemon-yellow color, then a light rosy, fiery-red tint, or a purple-violet hue.
Even a cursory acquaintance with plant species occurring in the ecological trail neighborhood indicates that many of them are interesting fin one way or another. Every species occupies its place in the community of plants to contribute to the uniqueness of the flora and vegetation of the Russian Far East. Disappearance of any species would leave an empty link in the diversity of the plant kingdom surrounding us to make it look increasingly poorer. Only a cautious approach to every individual plant, flower and branch would allow multicolored nature and us to preserve the world’s multiform for posterity.
The authors sincerely thank M. N. Abanjkina and L. M. Pshennikova for kindly providing the photographs and slides.
O. KHRAPKO, D. Sci. (Biology), Head, Laboratory for Russian Far Eastern Flora, Botanical Garden-Institute, Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences.
S. PARTUTA, Botanical
Garden-Institute, Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences.