The ecological trail passes along one of the most picturesque corners of the forest-covered territory of the Botanical Garden-Institute, Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences.
    It is plotted so as to allow you to familiarize yourself with the characteristic forest formation of southern Primorye, namely with its black sprucebroad-leaf forest and a whole series of interesting representatives of Russian Far Eastern flora. Notwithstanding the fact that the trail is not very extended (not over 2 km), nearly 75 percent of all the plant species occurring on the territory of the Botanical Garden preserve zone were noted in its neighborhood. The list of plants growing in the neighborhood of the ecological trail numbers 216 species from 162 genera of 73 families.
     When you walk along the ecological trail, you can encounter 31 tree and 25 shrub species. The largest among them are representatives of coniferous species, the Korean cedar and the all-leaf spruce. However, here you can see coniferous trees as well, those that are not characteristic of conifer-broad-leaf forests, viz. the cuspidate yew (Taxus cuspidatum Siebold et Zucc. ex Endl.). The cuspidate yew is a rare, relict plant, a unique living monument of profound antiquity. The yew is distinguished from other coniferous species of the Russian Far East by absence of resin and by its long soft dark green needles. Interestingly enough, nor does the yew have any cones, so common to most conifer plants. Its seeds hide in bright red, juicy seed buds reminiscent of berries.
The yew is one of the most slowly growing tree species in the Russian Far East; when two hundred years old, it may be only twelve meters tall. It lives quite long (800-1000 years), and there are indications that it lives to as long as 1,500 and even 3,000 years (Vorobiov, 1968).
    Apart from the Russian Far East, the cuspidate yew is generally widespread in Japan, Korea and Northeastern China. Although it is a common species in the Russian Far East as a whole, it seldom occurs in the area extending from the southern boundary of Primorye to the estuary of Amur River, as well as in Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands. It occurs preferentially in the form of single specimens, less often in small groups. Despite its good fruit-bearing qualities and rather high germinating properties, the cuspidate yew occurs very seldom on the continental part of the Russian Far East. At present, it is on the list of rare species needing protection (Kharkevich, Kachura, 1981).
    Unlike the cuspidate yew, most Russian Far Eastern larchwood species do not belong to rare plants. The larchwood is the only deciduous tree among coniferous species. Their narrow flat soft gentle leaves (needles) yellows in fall to shed off by wintertime.
    The larchwood is very light requiring, albeit not demanding to climatic conditions. It withstands severe winters very well, is not very demanding to soils, and grows not only within forest zones, but in forest-tundra areas as well. In the Russian Far East, the larchwood is quite a common species, occupying large areas. Actually, Russias most widespread tree is not the birch, as is commonly thought, but the larchwood.
    Larchwood timber is unequalled among other tree species; it is of high quality, resinous and tough. Larchwood logs may be kept for a long time in water without rotting, and are consequently used in various underwater structures.
    The larchwood looks beautiful at all times of the year. In early spring, it is covered with gentle green gauze. In summer, the light green azure crowns of larchwood trees that grow 30-40 m tall due to their absolutely straight trunks appear truly majestic. With arrival of fall, larchwood trees remind you of torches that burn with even, shadeless golden-yellow flame that gradually turns brown, as if fading. Even in winter, when their branches lack needles, but are studded with short wart-like shoots with numerous decorative small cones, larchwood trees look unusually ornamental.
    The larchwood can be widely used for park construction in towns and settlements of the Russian Far East. It looks fine in single and group plantings, particularly in alleys.

    Among 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., A. 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 MayEarly 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 devils 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 Russias 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.

    The genus 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 kolomiktas biological property, ostensibly because insects are attracted to
blossoming plants.

    The largest 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 flowerssmall 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 years 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 coniferbroad-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-coloredblack 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 worlds 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.