Asia /

Yunnan in autumn – Glorious gentians

Having visited China a few times in the summer I wondered how autumn would compare. The rice fields were golden and harvest is in full swing and the abundant spurges of the Zhongdian Plateau colour a rich red, the perfect foil for the dazzling selection of blue autumn flowers. Not just the glorious big trumpets of Gentiana veitchiorum or marshes choked with thousands of Gentiana sino-ornata, but the carpets of Comastoma traillianum, deepest blue aconitums, delphiniums and ubiquitous Halenia elliptica. It surprised me just how many flowers were still in full flow with soft yellow Salvia digitaloides, tumbling mats of golden Saxifraga brachypoda, various louseworts, white anemones and a delightful mix of gorgeous Swertia patula and delavayi near the impressive cliffs of Tiger Leaping Gorge. However,my personal favourite is the ravishing Cyananthus formosus on Hong Shan where it grows with Syncalathium souliei, Gentiana arethusae, G caelestis and the weird Saussurea quercifolia. Add to this clear landscapes, the verdant forests of Gaoligongshan and picturesque rural scenes, autumn in Yunnan was just as worthwhile as the flower-crazed summer. – Chris Gardner