Mountain Plants of South-West China
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Mountain Plants of South-West China

An exploration of the scenery, culture and of course plants of one of the world's biodiversity hot spots.
4.4 (15 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
1,524 students enrolled
Created by Paul Krause
Last updated 5/2013
Price: Free
  • 5.5 hours on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • By the end of the course you will have a good overview of the richness and diversity of this wonderful area
View Curriculum
  • A Love of Nature

South-West China is a biodiversity hot spot, an area of tremendous scenic beauty and also of intense cultural diversity. This course provides a photographic tour of the plants found in the mountainous areas of Sichuan and Yunnan. You will also see the scenery and gain a little understanding of the cultural diversity of this wonderful area.

As many gardeners know, China has played a significant role in the development of garden flora throughout the world. The mountain plants of South-West China are quite hardy (covering ranges H5-H7 in the UK's Royal Horticultural Society's hardiness ratings), so the course will be of interest to horticulturalists as well as botanists and general travellers.

I use Latin (scientific) names for plants throughout the course. You will find a lecture covering the principles behind the naming of plants, and I do explain the significance of many of the specific names. As a result, if you are not so familiar with the science behind the naming of plants, you will gain a little more understanding as you progress through the course. Please note also that I have tried hard to be accurate in my naming, but please send me a message if you believe I have incorrectly identified a plant - this will improve the course for all. I have taken as my primary reference for current names Christopher Grey-Wilson and Phillip Cribb's most excellent Guide to the Flowers of Western China.

I should emphasise that seed and plants of almost all the plants shown are commercially available through a range of nurseries. Plant material and seed should never be collected from the wild unless this is done under properly authorised and regulated expeditions. If you are encouraged to visit the areas shown in this course, please only take photographs and notes - leave all the plants for others to enjoy.

Who is the target audience?
  • Botanists
  • Horticulturalists
  • Travellers
  • Armchair travellers
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Curriculum For This Course
15 Lectures
2 Lectures 34:34
This lecture provides a quick introduction to the course. I illustrate the geographic area covered, and then talk a little about the cultural, scenic and of course plant themes that will be explored.
The Magic of Yunnan and Sichuan

I use latin/scientific names for plants throughout these lectures. Some of you may not be familiar with the binomial system (Genus and species) so I have provided this very brief introduction to (hopefully) help in such cases.
Digression on the Naming of Plants
Summer in Sichuan
3 Lectures 01:33:21
Wolong is probably the most widely know of all the areas we will visit in Sichuan because of its status as a Reserve for Pandas. Of course, this protection also means that the plant habitats are very well preserved and very rich. We will explore the valley floor at around 2,300m above sea level and then gradually climb up towards the Balangshan pass at around the 4,000m mark. Photographs were taken in early June 1993, and (with greatly improved road and weather!) in late July 2001.

We now travel in a northerly direction following a tributary of the Min Chu up into alpine grasslands at around 3,200 - 3,700 meter altitude. We will see a wide range of shrubs and herbaceous perennials, with many being familiar as hardy garden plants, or as plants that are parents of popular garden cultivars. These photographs were all taken in early July 2001.
Alpine Grassland

A Little Bit of Mountain
Dali and the Cangshan
2 Lectures 43:52
We travel from Kunming to the west and slightly to the north to Dali on the edge of Er Hai ("Ear Lake", referring to its shape). Dali lies at the foot of the Cangshan, a range of mountains of metamorphic rock. The Cangshan provide a good introduction to the mountain flora of Yunnan, but without being too challenging to access. The photographs in this lecture were taken towards the end of May 1993.
The Cangshan in Spring

Although this says "Summer", I have to admit there are only a few days difference in the timing between the visit recorded in this lecture and that in the previous one - as it happened, the "Spring" photographs were taken at the end of a trip in May (1994), while the "Summer" pictures were taken at the beginning of a trip to Yunnan in June (1995). Nevertheless, you will see more plants!

I should add that a few photographs at the end were taken in September (1997), so this introduces the first autumn gentian of the lecture course.

The Cangshan in Summer
The Yangtze-Mekong Divide
2 Lectures 34:49
This lecture is mostly travelling, but we do look at some plants too! We go North from Dali to Shigu ("Stone Drum"). Geographically, this marks the first great bend of the Yangtze. Politically, it is the site of two major events in Chinese history. Then we travel on to the Li ti ping - the pass over the Yangtze - Mekong divide that features in Frank Kingdom-Ward's Land of the Blue Poppy.

Note to myself: I need to add photographs of Primula sonchiflora and Diapensia purpurea.

Note for others: Do rerun this lecture once the above message to me has gone - they are both most beautiful plants!

To The Stone Drum

We have crossed the Yangtze-Mekong divide and are now based in Weixi on its Western flank. From here we can access the rich forest and some of the alpine meadows at around the 3,500m mark. All the photographs in this lecture were taken in the month of May.
Weixi and the Mekong
Lijiang and the Yu Long Xue Shan
3 Lectures 01:00:57
Although Lijiang is well known as a city, the old town that is a centre for the Naxi nationality is more accurately referred to as Dayan. The lecture shows some pictures of Dayan in 1994 before moving on to the Bai Shui (White Water) valley; an attractive valley that leads up into the Yulong Xue Shan (Jade Dragon Snow Mountain). Here we see some of the spring flora photographed in May (1994). We start at about 3200m above sea level and climb gently up to about 3500m or so.
Dayan and the Bai Shui valley

We return to the Yulong Xue Shan in early June (1997). This time we visit the Gang Ho Bah, a glacial valley that takes us up to the scree slopes of the mountain. We also return to Bai Shui. 
The Jade Dragon's Summer Treasures

The Jade Dragon's Autumn Secrets
The Zhongdian plateau
2 Lectures 01:02:32
The Zhongdian Plateau (more recently renamed "Shangri La") is a predominantly Tibetan populated area at around 3,200m above sea level. At the time of this visit in May 1994, the area was relatively little visited by tourists, but it is now one of the key centres in the Dali/Lijiang/Zhongdian triangle. The natural history is stunning with the seasonal lake/wetland area of Napa Hai perhaps being its most famous feature. We will of course focus on the rich and varied plant life of the plateau and its surrounding mountainous ridges.
The Zhongdian Plateau in Spring

The Zhongdian Plateau is stunningly rich in plants. I had too much material, so have split this into two lectures. This first one focuses on the very beautiful Tianchi ("Celestial Waters") area - about 400m above the main plateau - and the lower slopes around Napa Hai and the road leading to Beta Hai. These photographs were taken in mid June 1995.
Zhongdian Summertime
Acknowledgements and Additional Resources
1 Lecture 06:31
We finish off with a quick review of the overall messages of the course. I also provide some pointers for further studies and then give my thanks to those who have helped me on the way.
Review and Next Steps
About the Instructor
Paul Krause
3.9 Average rating
126 Reviews
10,668 Students
2 Courses
Professor of Software Engineering, University of Surrey

Paul Krause is Professor of Software Engineering at the University of Surrey. Prior to moving to his full-time Professorship in 2003, he was a Senior Principle Scientist at Philips Electronics. During his time at Philips he consulted widely with their global software development teams in Bruges, Eindhoven, Vienna, Bangalore and Singapore. He also wrote and delivered training courses on a wide range of advanced software development techniques both to individual teams and at the Global Philips Software Conference.

Since moving to the University of Surrey, his teaching has focused on Web Technologies. He teaches at both Undergraduate and Postgraduate level, with his courses always receiving very strong scores in the student feedback. He uses many of the technologies he teaches in his research work, ensuring that his taught material is both up to date and full of practical insights. During the last 13 years he has delivered introductory, intermediate and advanced level courses on: Java, Ruby on Rails, JavaScript (including Node.js, jQuery and Angular.js) and Behaviour Driven Development.

Prof. Krause was one of the authors of the first versions of the British Computer Society’s Information System Examination Board’s Foundation and Practioner’s Software Testing syllabuses. He is Editor (Computing and Software) of the Institute of Engineering and Technology’s Journal of Engineering, and a Guest Mentor at Coding House, CA.

He has travelled widely in Europe, Africa and Asia both for pleasure and for work. This has given him a broader perspective than just the technical aspects of his work, and this is also reflected in some of his Udemy courses.