Xishuangbanna Garden

The Menglun Tropical Botanic Garden, established in the 1950s by the famous Chinese botanist Prof. Cai Xitao, is located in the Xishuangbanna region of China’s southwestern Yunnan Province, near the borders of Burma (Myanmar), Laos and Vietnam. It is therefore also known as the Xishuangbanna Tropical Bontanic Garden and is the largest garden of its type in China. At an altitude of around 1640 feet, it is blessed with both abundant rainfall and an annual average temperature of around 70°F, making it a natural greenhouse. It currently nurtures over 12,000 tropical plant species, over half of which are unique, rare or endangered.

The garden consists of two major areas — the Botanic Garden area and the Rainforest area.

A. The Botanic Garden area is itself divided into 13 themed sections, including:

  1. The Tropical Fruit Tree Garden
  2. The Palm Garden
  3. The Aquatic Plants Garden
  4. The Medicinal Plants Garden
  5. The Bamboo Garden
  6. The Dipterocarp Garden (an important source of camphor)
  7. The Herb & Spice Garden
  8. The Endangered Plant Garden (with over 100 plants protected by the state)
  9. The Banyan Garden
  10. The Tree Garden
  11. The Shade-Growing Plants Garden
  12. The Famous Flowers & Trees Garden

B. The Rainforest area contains many and exotic plants, such as the:

  • “Rain Tree” (Samanea saman), so named either because: (a) its light-sensitive leaves close on cloudy days, allowing rain to fall through the canopy; (b) the grass is much greener below a rain tree than the surrounding grass; (c) a steady drizzle of honeydew is often created by sap-sucking insects; or (d) its stamens can drop from the canopy like rain during heavy flowering;
  • Banyan Tree (Ficus benghalensis), a plant that grows on another plant, whose prop roots (which develop over a considerable area) resemble a grove of trees, with every trunk connected directly or indirectly to the primary trunk, thus demonstrating that “a single tree can make a forest”;
  • “Poison Arrow Tree” (Antiaris toxicaria), whose latex was smeared on arrowheads in ancient times by the Li people for use in hunting and warfare;
  • “Sky Tree” — a titanic 200 foot tall evergreen (Dipterocarpaceae) which grows about 65 feet higher than the surrounding vegetation, forming a kind of “tree-over-tree” landscape;
  • “Miracle Fruit” (Synsepalum dulcificum), which when eaten, causes sour foods (like lemons or limes) to taste sweet;
  • Talipot Palm (Corypha umbraculifera), whose leaves were used historically to engrave Buddhist scriptures;
  • Tropical Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes), which lives by consuming insects;
  • “Egg Fruit Tree” (Pouteria campechiana), whose rich flavor is reminiscent of an egg-custard;
  • “Traveler’s Palm” (Ravenala madagascar-iensis), which can store several liters of rainwater in the sheaths of its stems, which could be used as an emergency drinking supply. Its fan also tends to grow on an east-west line, providing a crude compass.


  • Visited: May 1998

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