Dream of Red Leaves: the Story of a Senior Entrepreneur

Authors: Go Chengdu

2017-02-09

When leaves begin to fall from trees in late autumn, there is a distinct chill in the air. Inadvertently, groves of trees with flaming foliage come into sight, making people feel a trace of warmth in such a cold season.
With lush vegetation, Chengdu has long been reputed as the Land of Abundance since ancient time, showing exuberant vitality to the world. When winter arrives, ginkgo trees across the city begin to turn gold and then fall, and the whole city seems to be in a quiet state. "It's exciting to see some bright-colored plants like maple trees in such a fruitful season," said Lv Rongsen, a researcher at the Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
I want to give you a colorful Chengdu
Graduating from China Agricultural University, Lv Rongsen has been working in the field of botany for about 5 decades. Though he is already at the age of over 70, Lv is stills engaged in scientific research. Slightly different from his past studies that focused on citrus and sea-buckthorn, and through which he made outstanding achievements, his current research is on red-leaf pistache, a totally new garden tree. Regarded as a kind of red leaf tree, the red-leaf pistache is bred from a kind of wild variant of Chinese pistache by high technology. The leaves of the new species turn red from yellow in late autumn and early winter, and are highly ornamental.
Why does Lv want to develop such a new species? He said that a strong wish in his mind for more than 20 years was to cultivate a species of red-leaf tree which is adaptive to the climate in the Sichuan Basin and can be planted in most places of other parts in China. "With mild climate and biological diversity, Sichuan, where most plants flourish and look exuberant, is abundant in natural resources. But there was not any local species of red leaf tree and almost all species introduced from overseas can't grow well here. Therefore, I hope that people in Sichuan could see red forests through my efforts."
Two decades' efforts to make Sichuan more beautiful
Lv had worked at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) before he came back to Chengdu. When asked what made him decide to come back and work in Chengdu, he said that although his ancestral home was not in Sichuan, he was born and grew up in Chengdu. He has strong love for the land. "For many years I didn't work in Sichuan after my graduation from university, but I always missed my hometown. So I came back when there was a chance, hoping to make a contribution to the economic and social construction of Chengdu and realize my dream involving the red leaf tree."
However, developing a new species is never an easy job. In order to find suitable samples to cultivate, Lv traveled around Sichuan in the past 20 years and finally found the variant of a wild Chinese pistache during a visit to the Hengduan Mountains. "There are many species of red leaf trees in Hengduan Mountains, where the climate and natural environment are totally different from those in Chengdu Plain, resulting in the inability of the wild plants to survive. Then I tried to narrow down the search scope for the samples to lower altitude areas and finally found the suitable sample in the places 1000~1500m above sea level."
Despite finding the suitable sample, Lv was confronted with a technological problem about how to cultivate it into a local species. Through unremitting attempt and comparison, he gradually discovered appropriate methods of selecting seed, breeding and nurturing seedling, succeeding in developing the variant of wild Chinese pistache into such one which adapts to the local natural conditions. In addition, Lv raised the germination percentage of the tree from 1%~3% to current 15%.
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