The habitat in the south of Anhui is characterized by a subtropical warm climate, with an annual average temperature of 15.5°C, annual average rainfall of 1400-1500 mm, and an absolute minimum temperature of -13.3°C. The average annual relative humidity is 79%, average temperature 1n January the coldest month, is 2.9°C and average temperature in June, the warmest month, is 27.6°C.
The Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
The ginkgo tree is a very ancient tree native to China. It has a wide range covering most of our country. Anhui province is included in this range. It is usually found in temple yards and parks. The seed of ginkgo is full of nourishment and has been used as a medicine by Chinese people for over one thousand years. It is available in the market most of the time during the year. It is also used as an ingredient of moon cakes and pastries.
Old ginkgo trees are frequently seen attaining heights of 25-30m, with a diameter at breast height of over 1 metre. Ginkgos are found at elevations up to 1100m above sea level in this province.
It should be noted that some botanists believe that ginkgos exist in a wild state in the mountains of south Anhui and Chekiang provinces, but other botanists argue that there is no natural regeneration of ginkgo in any part of China, including Anhui, as they have never seen wild ginkgo stands or ginkgo mixed in hardwood forests. I think that this controversial question can only be solved by further investigation and study.
The Walnut family (Juglandaceae)
The walnut family consists of 8 genera and 24 species in China. Two species are the most important nut trees in our Anhui province.
The first is the English walnut (Juglans regia L.). It has been widely cultivated in this province from the north to the south. The habitat is characterized by high light intensity and fertile soils, and is not subject to very cold temperatures, so the walnut is especially suitable for growing in the northern part of Anhui.
A large walnut orchard was established in the northern plains of this province in the 1960s. It covers 1,530 ha, with about 200,000 trees planted. There are a number of varieties cultivars and hybrids derived and selected. The annual yields have been around 500,000 kg in the last few years, with half of the product, amounting to 200-400 t, exported to West Germany and England. These walnuts enjoy a high reputation for their excellent quality.
The second species is the Chinese Hickory (Carya cathayensis). It belongs to the same genus as the American pecan and hickories, but is in a different classification section, Sinocarya. This tree occurs in Anhui, Chekiang, Hupeh, Hunan, north Fukien, Kiangsi, and Kweichow provinces. The main centre, however, is in the south of Anhui and the north of Chekiang. The species covers an area of some 2,000 ha, and the annual yield is around 550,000 kg (550 t).
The harvest once reached 1,130,000 kgs in a year. The seed of the Chinese Hickory has a high oil content (69-74%).
In recent years, a natural stand of Chinese Hickory, with an area of 30-50 ha, has been discovered in the western part of the Dabei Mountains. I have been there once and collected specimens for identification. The area attracts many botanists and foresters, who go there for investigation and research work. Hickory trees in the section Sinocarya are found native only in China, and are characterized by a naked bud without bud scales. Botanically, Sinocarya includes four species:
(1 ) Carya guizhou - Guizhou Hickory. This tree has a limited range, and is found at elevations of 1200-1300 m above sea level. Guizhou Hickory is found in mixed evergreen and deciduous hardwood forests. The nut is not edible, but the wood is hard and durable.
(2) Carya hunanensis - The range of this tree lies in Hunan, Guizhou, and the west and northern sides of Guangxi provinces, at elevations of up to 800 m. The seed is edible and is good tasting.
(3) Carya tonkinensis - Limited in range to Guanxi and Yunnan provinces, at elevations of 1300-2200 m. This tree is often mixed in evergreen and deciduous hardwood forests with Quercus glauca (Ring-cupped oak) and Quercus acutissima ( Sawtooth Oak). The shell of this species is very hard, and it is the least valuable for food. The wood is particularly hard and durable, and is used for special purposes.
(4) Carya cathayensis occurs in southern Anhui and northern Zhejiang provinces, with a limited range in the Dabai mountain region, at elevations of 200-1200 m. This is the most important hickory in China.
America's famous pecan hickory (Carya illinoensis) was introduced and planted in this country at the beginning of the present century by missionaries. It is chiefly planted in churchyards, home gardens, compounds, public gardens, parks etc. The pecan grows quite normally at a young stage, but later becomes very slow-growing, likely being affected by a high water table, poor drainage, and insect attack.
The Hazelnut (Corylus heterophylla var. sutchuenensis)
This small Chinese hazelnut tree is not considered as an important nut tree in Anhui. It has a wide range in the south and west mountains of Anhui. Its elevation is from 600-1600 m above sea level, often found in the deciduous hardwood forests. Nuts are eaten by monkeys and other animals during the winter season.
The Beech family (Fagaceae)
There are 6 genera and 32 species in this province. Many species of this family occupy the dominant positions in the deciduous and evergreen hardwood forests. Here we will mention the chestnut species. The genus Castanea includes three species in China; our province has all three. These three species are the Chinese Hairy Chestnut (Castanea mollissima), the Small Chestnut (Castanea seguinii), and the Henry Chestnut (Castanea henryi).
This Chinese Hairy Chestnut is the most important of the three species. Its range covers the whole province, and it has been cultivated by our people for over one thousand years, so they have accumulated a great deal of experience in the culture of this chestnut tree. As for the other two species, they are still found in the wild state, often mixed in mesic hardwood forests, or in pure stands, especially the Small Chestnut, found at high elevations in the mountains.
Chinese Chestnut trees are planted in the lower lands. The range can reach as high as 900 m above sea level. There are several big chestnut tree orchards in this province. One is in the middle of the province, not very far away from Hefei town, and the other one is in the southeast of the province. The centre of production is in the mountains bordering the Jiangsu and Chekiang provinces at low elevations.
At a rough estimate, there are about 540 ha planted, with 5,550,000 invividual trees planted in all. The annual yield is 2,500,000 kg. The peak production reached was 3,180,000 kilograms in 1973. In the harvest season for the Chinese chestnut (September), large amounts of chestnuts are available in the market, at cost of about one U.S. dollar per kilogram.
Based on a talk given by Professor Li Shuchun to a group of American scientists visiting Anhui Province, China, in September, 1988. Professor Li has a special interest in woody plants and dendrology, and consented to talk to the visiting American scientists about the nut trees growing in this area of China. The talk was originally reported in the Nebraska Nut Growers Association newsletter for April, 1989) and Yearbook, West Australian Nut And Tree Crops Association - Vol. 14, 1989.
DATE: July 1990
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *