Regarding natural sanctuaries in Hong Kong, the Shing Mun Arboretum stands out as a place of great significance. Established in the early 1970s, this sprawling 4-hectare expanse of abandoned terraced fields is a testament to the city’s commitment to preserving its native plant species. With over 300 species, many indigenous to Hong Kong or South China. The arboretum serves as a living classroom for students and nature enthusiasts alike.
The Origins of Shing Mun Arboretum
The Shing Mun Arboretum was founded with the primary objective of ex-situ plant conservation and as an outdoor classroom complementing the Hong Kong Herbarium. Over the years, it has grown into a lush green haven, brimming with a rich diversity of plant life. It is a place where one can experience the beauty of nature while gaining a deeper understanding of Hong Kong’s unique flora.
The Illigera and the White Dragontail Butterfly
One of the recent additions to the arboretum’s collection is the Illigera celebica, commonly known as Illigera. However, during June of this month, it was observed that most of the Illigera’s leaves were half-eaten. Giving the plants a somewhat unkempt appearance. This was due to the presence of numerous caterpillars feasting on the leaves. These tiny creatures were not your typical garden pests; they were the larvae of the uncommon White Dragontail butterfly (Lamproptera curius). Additionally, a few adult White Dragontails were spotted nearby, resembling dragonflies. Despite the apparent plant damage, the coexistence of the butterflies and their food plant was a promising sign of biodiversity conservation.
The Rarity of Illigera in Hong Kong
Illigera holds a special place in local conservation efforts. Not only because it serves as the larval food plant for the elegant White Dragontail but also because of its local rarity. It is only found in a few select locations, including Fung Yuen, Sai Kung, She Shan Tsuen, and Tai Mo Shan. To underscore its significance, the species are available in the Forestry Regulations, making collection, sale, or possession of Illigera illegal.
Conservation Efforts for Illigera
In recent years, various attempts have been made to propagate Illigera, but all efforts involving cutting have been largely unsuccessful. The good news is that seeds collected from different locations have shown a reasonable germination rate. Approximately 35% and young seedlings have displayed relatively high survival rates. Several batches of Illigera seedlings have been nurtured in the nursery and reintroduced into suitable locations within the natural or semi-natural environment, such as Tai Tong, Shing Mun Arboretum, and Fanling. These populations are thriving, and the observation of White Dragontail larvae feeding on the Illigera population at Shing Mun Arboretum is a promising early sign of the success of conservation efforts.
The Enriching Collections of Shing Mun Arboretum
The Shing Mun Arboretum is not only a place of conservation but also a hub of education and exploration. In addition to the Illigera collection, the arboretum showcases various other plant species of interest. It boasts a bamboo garden, protected plant species, plants named after renowned botanists, plants first discovered in Hong Kong, and Camellias found in the Hong Kong countryside. It serves as an excellent destination for learning about the unique plant life of the region.
Visiting Shing Mun Arboretum
To explore the enchanting Shing Mun Arboretum. Visitors can embark on a pleasant one-hour walk from the Shing Mun Country Park Visitor Centre. Whether you are a botany enthusiast, a nature lover, or someone looking for a tranquil escape from the urban hustle and bustle. Shing Mun Arboretum has something to offer for everyone. It’s a place where the beauty of nature and the importance of conservation come together in perfect harmony.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit this remarkable natural sanctuary in Hong Kong. They witness the delicate balance between plants and butterflies that showcases the beauty of biodiversity.
The Shing Mun Arboretum is a testament to Hong Kong‘s commitment to preserving its native plant species. The recent addition of the Illigera celebica and the White Dragontail butterfly highlights the importance of biodiversity conservation. With its rich collection of plant species and a tranquil ambiance. This arboretum is a must-visit for anyone who has an interest in nature and conservation.