September 2008 Archives

Well, I'm back home.  It's still a bit tough adjusting to the time difference, but I made the _HUGE_ mistake of napping after I got back.  The next morning, I was up at 2am and ready to go for the day!  I'm almost back to EST, though.  And boy do I miss the food!!

Regardless, posting w/in the PSU system on to this server is much, much easier and faster.  I've uploaded pictures to that last post I did before I left. 

But, it's harvest time here in central PA, so I'm going to go and see what I can fight off the squirrels for.  I do hope to post at least 2 entries every day, though, until I finish our trip. 

Thanks for your continued interest!  Sara
Well, my flight from Beijing leaves in four hours and I have to catch a cab in about an hour.  So, this will have to be my last writing from China.  I'll be back on-line in a day or two and will keep posting until I finish write-ups on all we saw.  I'll also post some pictures on that last post I just wrote.  I've just run out of time w/ this slow, slow, slow internet connection.

Hope you're enjoying our trip so far and I'll probably talk to many of you soon. 

On our last day at Dalaoling, our hosts took us to several sites around the park.  We started out the day checking out the highest point in the park.  It's about 2005 meters, though it seems they may have changed it to 2008 meters, just for this year (???).  It was a breathtaking site.  The bus could only go to about 1958 meters, and our hosts gave us the option of hiking on to the top, but, because of "lack of time" noone but me wanted to go  : (

Oh well.  The sites were beautiful nonetheless. 

We then spent a couple of hours with a little more data collection.  This was a different site than where we had previously been taking data, probably about a mile or so away (I'll have to confirm that).  We walked through a thicket of dense but short (about 4-5 feet tall) bamboo on our way to a slope that had many C. henryi, C. mollissima, and at least one C. seguinii.

After that, we drove down.  And down.  And down.  And down.  And on down this muddy, slightly trecherous road almost all the way to the bottom of the valley.  At that point there is a small village.  There we had lunch with a local farmer/hunter/innkeeper.  It was a great meal.  At the end, they both got dressed up in their best clothes to take a picture with us. 

Our group then travelled on down the road to a point where the bus could go no further.  At that point, we hoofed it further down the road and got to a trail that we learned would take us to some a beautiful waterfall.  The waterfall was called "Tiger Roar Falls" or "Hu Shao Pu" in Chinese.  It was a wonderful hike, thrilling at times, and well worth the site at the end.

After our hike, we went to a small chesntut orchard just up the road.  The owner was having some trouble with early bur death and browning that was significantly hurting his productivity.  It appeared to be a fungus, but none of us knew the exact cause.  The problem also seemed to be affecting only one of the two cultivars he had planted there.  The recommendation was to either use a fungicide or replace the trees with a less-susceptible cultivar. 


Leaves of Chinese chestnut at top elevation for Dalaoling.


Fred H. takes a picture of the highest point in Dalaoling.  The Chinese chestnut tree is located behind us.


Another view from our vantage point.  The highest point is up to the left of this picture.


Fred H. and Songlin get ready to take a height reading on a tree, probably a C. henryi.  The furrowed trees along the path behind them are either chestnuts or local oaks that look much like chestnut oaks and/or sawtooth oaks.


Also at site 2.  Doesn't this look like poison ivy?  I could have sworn this was poison ivy.  Our guides swore up and down, though, that it wasn't a poisonous plant.  Still, I wasn't about to go near it.  Though I didn't see him do it, I think Fred H. touched it.  About a day later, sure enough, he had a rash/blisters on his hands that looked exactly like poison ivy.  Just another plant that closely mimics what one finds in the forests of the eastern US.


Lunch at the Farmers house.  Note:  that ain't soda he's pouring in to my glass.  It's actually the local moonshine.  Now, I'm of Irish heritage _and_ a proud West Virginian, but I just couldn't drink the stuff.  If only they had aged it in some fine oak barrels.


Picture of our group with the farmer and his wife in front.  Unfortunately, I didn't catch their names. 


Beware of falling down, indeed!!  Most of the bridges to Tiger Roar Falls were done in a very .  . . local style. 


Tiger Roar Falls.  Of course this picture doesn't do it justice.  But you can imagine why they call it the "Roar" part.  And the "Falls" part.  The Tiger part comes from the rock in the upper left-hand corner of the pic.  Unfortunately, I didn't know that until after we started back, so I didn't get a good pic of it.  Anyway, it looks kind of like the head of a tiger.


Our first visit to a Chinese chesntut orchard in China.  The nuts are just about perfect for harvest at this orchard.
Our first site had so much just in chestnut, but there's a lot of other stuff to see around, too!  I just wanted to give you all a little taste of what this site had to offer.


Wonderful signs.  More to come.


Weird, red, parasitic, plant things.  I think Paillet got the name of it.


Weird, purple, fungus stuff.  It almost looks like velvet.


Pigs ears with peppers.  Mmmmm!  Just like mom used to make.  (But I joke.  They're actually quite good!!).


The slopes of Dalaoling offer many chances to get your pants muddy.  And squat toilets!  In fact, that blue mat thing is underneath the shower.  Pretty ingneous, huh?  You can clean the toilet while you take a shower.  The muddy pants are mine.  I did that coming back down from Zehao's plot.  I got the muddiest.  I also got the wettest, mainly because I bit it at one of the stream crossings. 


What appears to be the juvenile form of those weird, red, parasitic plant things.  Once I get the name, I'll post it.  They appear primarily under the white pine-type trees that abound in the forests here.  Once I get the scientific name of the pine, I'll post that, too.


There are some of the cutest little mushrooms around.  The vegetation here is quite lush and there is apparently a good lot of rainfall here.  So there are lots of mushrooms all over the place.

This is a lot of pictures, so I'll post more in another post coming up.  Call it "other features of Dalaoling, part er".

Zehao's plot.

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This post is a bit out of chronological order, but this site is pretty important.  Unfortunately, because of the distance and terrain required to get up to the site, we never got back up to collect data.  Thankfully, Zehao has already logged much of the diameter and height information on all the trees on that plot. 

While getting to know the site on the first day at Dalaoling, the whole scientific team made the trek up a very steep slope to observe chestnut trees up at Dr. Shen Zehao's plot.  We climbed a good 1000 feet up to get to his site which was chosen because it was "flat".  And this is true.  It's probably the flattest piece of ground - perhaps in all of China - that hasn't been cultivated. 

In any case, it was a fun and humid walk.  And what we saw up on that bench was well worth it!!  As we were still pretty new to the site and the three species, we still had a bit of trouble keying out the species we saw.  Henryi was typically easy to key out - the leaf shape is very distinctive.  But mollissima and seguinii are very much alike. 

Once up there, we saw some very large trees.  And then we started seeing trees that keyed out exactly as Castanea seguinii - according to two keys we had with us - the only difference being that they were over 80 feet tall!  In the literature - and with everything I'd heard - the C. seguinii is often referred to as the "dwarf chestnut" and that it rarely reaches heights over 10, 12, or 15 meters (depending on the reference one uses). 

But there were some very large chestnuts up there.  In fact, the dominant tree in the canopy was either C. henryi or C. seguinii.  Based on our observations, we did not see any C. mollissima at Zehao's plot.  But with sizes > 20" dbh and most trees over 80feet in height, wonderful, straight form and no evidence of blight infection - not even suspicious lesions like we'd seen below on the road - this was a wonderful place to observe chesntut.  And is also a site for us to note for continued observation and collection.

If you're interested in reading more about Zehao's plot, you can go to  Then search for "Shen" and "Dalaoling" and you should find several articles about the site.  The disadvantage is that they are mostly in Chinese.  The advantage is that you can at least read the abstract in English.


We basically followed a stream up to Dr. Shen's plot.  There were some beautiful water features along the way.


The walk up was very humid.  Steamy!


Dr. He Wei stands beside a beautiful chestnut.  I don't remember if this was a henryi or segunii.  Suffice to say most looked this good and large.


Kim stands next to a large C. seguinii


Zehao stands next to another C. seguinii individual.

Taking Data.

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On the third day, our group took data on some of the chestnut trees that had been found.  We measured trees along a hill going up in elevation in the morning as a whole group.  We found many large size trees, mainly Castanea henryi.  One of the most difficult problem encountered was finding out whether a particular tree was a Chinese chestnut, a Henry chinkapin or Seguin chestnut.  This time of year was almost ideal because of the bur production -- seeing how many nuts per bur, along with various leaf morphological characteristics really helped key out certain individuals.

In the afternoon, after an atypically light lunch, we split into two groups.  GROUP 1 - Songlin, Sara, Kim, and Li Daoshin headed down a trail and across the creek to climb up a slope across from the main areas in which we worked in the morning.  GROUP 2 - The Freds, Dr. He Wei, and one of our other Chinese guides paralleled the main jeep trail on which we'd been working the previous morning.  They kept about 20-50 feet off the road and took data.

Both groups primarily found the same thing, which was a whole lot of Castanea henryi (zhui li), but Group 1 found Seguin chestnut (mao li) and Group 2 found more Chinese chestnut (ban li).

At the end of the day, we all sat around entering and taking a look at the data, formulated a plan for the upcoming fourth, and last day, that we'd be at Dalaoling.


Songlin stands next to a chestnut tree (likely Castanea mollissima) in the first area where we all took data.  This is also the site where we first found a confirmed case of chestnut blight that was described in the previous post.


Sara stands next to a large, almost 30" diameter chestnut stump in the location of where our group first took data.  Species could not be confirmed, but it is certainly chestnut.


Li Daoshin, Songlin Fei, and Sara Fitzsimmons rest while climbing to take data on various chestnut trees.


Kim measures a large, 90ft. tall zhui li during the afternoon portion of data collection at Dalaoling.


The group enter data after a long day of climbing around and measuring trees.
During the first and second days at Dalaoling, we spent a good deal of time trying to find true signs/symptoms of the chestnut blight.  There were many lesions (see lesion photo below) and sites of some sort of infection (see witches broom photo below), but did not find any that could truly be identified as being caused by Cryphonectria parasitica.

On the third day, our group worked to take data on the trees we had found.  During the morning, we took data up on a hill along the first site we looked at during day one.  It was there that we found the fungus (pics below).


Is the blight fungus causing these witches brooms?


Maybe this one has some?


This one looks very promising . . .


It most definitely is the blight!  First definite confirmed case with stroma and necrosis (though still not as bad as can be found on American chestnuts.  This specimen was a small sprout in very heavy competition in the understory.

We are still unsure as to what is causing many wounds and lesions on the other trees above.  There is an insect that causes similar damage found in the second picture.  What is causing the witches broom is unknown, though there are many burls that may be found at the base of each clump.  Several samples were sent with Dr. He Wei to sample.  We will be meeting with him in the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 25 to see if he isolated any Cryphonectria parasitica from those sample.

Excuses, excuses.

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My internet connection in China continues to be painfully slow, but at least I've got one here in Beijing (it's been four days!).  But I've still gotten up pictures for the last entries I put up.  I hope to have new entries up tomorrow night.

Since we left Ankang, we have travelled to Xi'an to see the Terra Cotta soldiers and today we flew from Xi'an to Beijing.  Tomorrow we will go see the Great Wall.

We're still having a great time and only have three more days left.  Thanks again for reading!

Hi everyone.  This is the first internet access I've had in a while.  We are now in Ankang, a few hundred kilometers north of Yichang and Dalaoling, our first stops.  For some reason, I cannot upload very many pictures tonight.  I will try in the morning.

Until then, in the interest of providing everyone an update, I'm going to just add what prose I can.  Once I can upload some pictures, I will do so and then update these initial blogs.  We will leave for another site with many chestnut early tomorrow morning.  As long as I have internet access there, I will continue to add more entries.  Thanks for your interest in our trip!

One the first full day at Dalaoling, our group took a stroll down a jeep trail to see what types of vegetation - particularly chestnut, of course! - was living in the area.  The particular area we searched was chosen because 1) it was known to have chestnut and 2) it had never been artificially replanted. 

There were so many interesting sites to see along the way, including Castanea mollisima and Castanea henryi.  There were rumors of Castanea segunii, but we did not see it along our first trek.


Dr. Steiner proves that we found Castanea mollissima on our trip.


Dr. Fred Paillet sketches the leaves of the Chinese chestnut along the road in Dalaoling.  The tree in question can be seen behind Fred.

A comparison of leaves of Castanea henryi (zhui li) - top - and Castanea mollissima (ban li) - bottom.

At Dalaoling.

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When we first arrive at Dalaoling, we visited the map room and room with herbarium specimens.  Both of these rooms were very useful in getting us oriented to where we would be studying for the next several days.

The total area of Dalaoling is almost 2000 hectares.  The picture below is a model of the area.  Dr. Zehao Shen has been studying this area for at least 10 years and his expertise was invaluable.  For his thesis, Zehao started at the lowest elevation (about 800 meters) and worked his way to the highest elevation (just over 2000 meters), all the while documenting the major vegetation types along the way.

Our group took a few group shots and made our way to the hotel that would be our home for the next four days.  Of course, we couldn't go for more than four hours without eating, at it was lunchtime!  We continue to eat well.


Model of Dalaoling National Forest Park


Of course Fred had to closely examine each specimen.


A picture of the whole group from Dalaoling.  Dr. Zehao Shen from Beijing University, Ms. Xu Yan from the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Kim Steiner from Penn State, his wife Susie, Dr. Fred Paillet - very knowledgable chestnut ecologist, Dr. Fred Hebard of the TACF Meadowview Farms, Dr. Songlin Fei from the University of Kentucky, Sara Fitzsimmons from TACFs PSU office, Dr. He Wei from Beijing Forestry University, the Directors of Dalaoling National Forest Park (names to come soon).


Three-square (round?) Chinese food meals a day?  Yes, please!
Dalaoling is a National Park in China.  It used to be a National Forest but was recently turned into a National Park so that the natural biodiversity could be preserved.  As such, timber harvesting will no longer be allowed in Dalaoling.

One of the major funders of the Dalaoling National Forest Park is the Three Gorges Dam Project.  On our way from Yicahng City to Dalaoling, we stopped quickly at the Dam.  It is an impressive project.  The picture below cannot display the magnitude of either the river or the dam.  But it was here that we spotted our first living chestnut tree!

Before one gets to the dam from Yichang City, one passes some of the amazing karst features for which China is famous.  The one in the picture shown below is supposed to look like the face of Chairman Mao while he is laying down.  On the south side of the river, one will find the limestone formations.  Chestnut, of course, prefers acidic soils, so we stayed to the north where the more acidic soils can be found. 

The landscape of China this part of China is truly breathtaking.  People will build houses and farm the land wherever they can.  As long as a terrace system can be build, people will be there and farm the land.  People even grow their crops right up against the road.  There really isn't anything such as a "lawn" that I've seen.  Every square inch is used for something productive.  I'll post some pictures of this aspect a little later.

Also, you know that expression "for all the tea in China"?  There really is a lot of tea here!  And we've only been to one province!


Karst features on way to Dalaoling.

Near side of the Three Gorges Dam


Far side of the Three Gorges Dam


Our first chesntut tree sighting!  Fred H. found this one.

Day 2.

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On the second day, our group flew from Beijing to Yichang City.  We met up with two of our accompanying scientist, Dr. Wei He from Beijing Forestry University and Dr. Zehao Shen of Peking University.  Dr. Shen is a friend of Dr. Songlin Fei, a member of our group, and they had met previously while studying at Peking University.

In Yichang, we met with the Deputy and Assistant Deputy Director of Forestry in Yichang as well as with the Director, Assistant Director, and field crew of Daloaling, which would be our utlimate destination in Hubei province.

At dinner that night we would also have our first chestnut sighting!!  They were quite good.


Having dinner in Yichang City.


Our first chestnut sighting!  It's in a dish with pork.  I must say that I don't think I've ever eaten so well as since I've been in China.

We made it.

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We've finally made it to China.  All members of our group left on September 10 and arrived in Beijing on Thursday, September 11. 

Thankfully, just about everyone and everything made it.  The one holdout was Fred H.'s bag. 

The time difference is 12 hours ahead of eastern standard time, and that takes a lot of getting used to.


Flying over the poles and through Siberia.


Fred waits for his bag to come. 


Of course, the first thing one needs to do wherever they may travel is get a cup of coffee at Starbuck.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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