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THE ORIGIN OF GARDEN PLANTS AND THE FSU CONTRIBUTION

The Eastern Asiatic Center


The Eastern Asiatic Center of ornamental plants covers most of the Provinces of the Eastern Asiatic Floristic Region. It includes Vavilov's Chinese center and all of Japan as well. According to Vavilov, China is one of the most important region of world agriculture, but it is also important as a source of ornamental plants. The mountains of Central and Western China, the adjacent lowlands, and Japan have given birth to some 250 species, or 5% of the total in general cultivation today. This area is of prime importance for countries having temperate climates, since more than half of its native species can be raised in the open, including the peony (Paeonia lactiflora), tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa), royal lily (Lilium regale), ballon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) and China wisteria (Wisteria sinensis). Examples of well-known annual indigenous to this range are the China aster (Callistephus chinensis) and the popular shrub kerria (Kerria japonica).

Ancient Chinese gardens displayed a large diversity of ornamental species. References in old manuscripts to certain tree species allow us to determine, to some extent, the plants then in common use in China. For example, in the Chou Dynasty (1122-240 B.C.), trees were traditionally planted as memorials. The stately pine became the symbol for members of the royal family, sophora for high government officials, and poplars for the common people. The emperor who founded the Ch’in Dynasty (217 B.C) was known to have collected some 3,000 species of various herbaceous and woody plants in his garden. In China and Japan two of the most popular cultivated plants were the garden chrysanthemum and the day lily (Hemerocallis), the latter was also used as food. The migration of ornamental plants from China to Europe was greatly affected by the "Silk Trade Route" that connected the countries of the East with those of the West. Notwithstanding the ancient cultivation of ornamentals in China and Japan, an even greater number of their species were later introduced to European gardening between the mid-nineteenth and the mid-twentieth centuries.

THE ORIGIN OF GARDEN PLANTS
 
 
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