Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 11 – I’ve definitely been enjoying the weather since returning to South China ten days ago, and very glad that I left Ohio before the snowstorm hit! I prefer the flowers over snow! There are some beautiful trees blooming here right now, and one is the Bauhinia Tree. The Bauhinia is also called the Hong Kong Orchid because it is the official emblem of Hong Kong. They even have a large golden bauhinia statue near the harbor and a representation of the bauhinia on their flag. The Bauhinia is also called the Purple Camel’s Foot and the Hawaiian Orchid Tree. They are native to Southeast Asia, but are now also grown in other areas of the world with warm climates. The flowers, in varying shades of pinks and purples and also white, bloom throughout the winter. They eventually get long seed pods, but it’s too early for them now and I can’t find a good picture I’ve previously taken. www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 22 – Anyone who knows me is aware that I could care less about shopping for shoes or purses, but, I LOVE to buy tea! I have a whole drawer of tea, which was overflowing, so today I decided to organize it. I found some “Blooming or Flowering tea,” called “kaihua cha” in Chinese, which I had bought at a tea market back in the spring and forgot that I had! I’ve also seen it called “fairy tea.” These are little balls of tied up tea leaves, usually either green or jasmine tea, and dried edible flowers such as carnations, roses, jasmine, peony, marigold, lily, etc.. Mine had a single flower, but you can get fancier kinds with multiple flowers. I don’t normally use pictures from other places, but, I’ve included one with diiferent kinds for sale on Taobao (the Chinese Ebay) so you can see the fancy ones. You use either a small glass teapot or glass; something like a big wine glass works nicely. Pour in hot water and within a minute or two the flower ball will start to open! And once you finish the first glass, you can enjoy a second and sometimes third, with the same flowers and tea leaves. Following is the link where I got the picture of the different kinds from: https://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=a230r.1.14.87.W7xoMH&id=41555278903&ns=1&abbucket=7#detail
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 15 – The most beautiful tree blooming here right now is called the Silk Floss Tree. As with so many other species found here now, it is not native to China, but to South America; It can also be found in southern areas of the USA. The variety found here has various shades of pink flowers, but there is also a white variety. The trees are very tall and covered in blooms from late summer until mid-autumn or later! I actually have pictures from last year where they were still blooming here in December! They often lose their leaves before flowering, which helps the flowers stand out even more! After the flowers die, the seed pods develop; the seeds are encased in a silky white floss, which gives the tree its name. When not blooming, they can be identified by their thorny trunks. These trees are related to the Kapok trees which I shared a picture of back on April 10thhttp://www.myownchinesebrocade.com/picture-a-day-1/2016/4/10/kapok-or-mu-mian-cotton-tree-flowers
I don’t think I have any pictures of the seed pods for this tree, but it looks very similar to the ones of the Kapok trees.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 12 – Passionfruit isn’t native to China, it is originally from South America, but it is grown here now (mainly Guangxi). I wouldn’t say it’s really common, but we can find it when it is in season (mid-summer to early fall). It has a very interesting taste, quite tart, but yet sweet. You cut the fruit open and scoop out the pulp and seeds to eat; The seeds are crunchy. I usually eat it just as it is, but sometimes I add a little sweetener. The other way I see it used is in fruit teas. There are a lot of varieties, I’m not sure what exactly we get. They grow on vines, and the flowers are beautiful! This is a flower we saw at the Singapore Zoo.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 6 – Today, I thought I’d share a picture of bananas growing. I’ve been reading about how bananas grow and did a little further research today. Bananas do not actually grow on trees, they are actually large herb plants! And, the fruit we eat, by botanical definition, should be classified as berries! Banana flowers, the large maroon/purple buds, also called blossoms or hearts, are also eaten; We have seen them in the fresh markets here and in the Philippines. They can be eaten raw or cooked, and are considered a vegetable when eaten. One of the routes that I walk along the lake has some banana trees that I’ve been watching, but today when I went by, one of the blossoms I just photographed a couple of days ago was missing. I guess someone decided it was a free meal. There’s much more about these plants that I won’t attempt to explain here, but, the “petals” of the bud are called bracts, which lift up one by one, uncovering the delicate white flowers beneath, which eventually become the bananas. In my picture, you can see all the wasps enjoying the nectar in these! The flowers eventually dry and fall off and the black “bottom” of the banana is formed. I’m going to watch for a banana flower to buy and cook, I’ll keep you posted! Back on July 31, I posted a picture of the local banana farms. https://linda-walsh-n6tp.squarespace.com/config/pages/568757bdd8af102bf3da0525
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, June 23 – The lotus ponds are in full bloom and look beautiful! We have four main areas that I can walk to within 15 minutes and see them, but these pictures are the closest one which is right within our housing complex. The boardwalk along the lake goes along one end of it, and the road from one of the main entrances winds around the other end. I wrote much more about the lotus a while back, which is under the “Nature” sub menu if anyone is interested. http://www.myownchinesebrocade.com/nature-1/ At that time, the best pictures I had taken were from Macau. Lotus are not only loved for their beauty, but many parts of the plant are eaten/drank in many forms. I have become quite a fan of lotus root as well as the flowers :-)
Living in a subtropical climate, we have an abundance of colorful flowers. I especially love all of the flowering trees. One that is blooming right now is the Kapok Tree, called Mu Mian 木棉, or Cotton Tree, in Chinese. They bloom mainly in March and April, and are quite striking because the large reddish-orange flowers bloom before any leaves appear. The birds love the flowers! You can see how large the flowers are by the one I’m holding and also by the pictures with the birds (These are 7-8 inch birds). When the flowers fall from the trees, many Chinese people hurry to collect them because they dry them and use them to make what is called five flower tea, known as a cooling tea for hot weather. It was a rainy day today, but from the bus, I saw a mother and her two children busily collecting flowers that had fallen in the rain. The flower petals and seeds are both edible. About a month after the flowers bloom, large pods, filled with silky cotton fiber encasing the seeds, open and the “cotton” is carried by the wind to disperse the new seeds. Historically, this “cotton” was used for making clothes, filling pillows and furniture, and as a filling for life jackets. The seed pods pictures are from last year.
I’ve always loved daffodils, so it’s the one flower I especially like to buy each year at the Spring Festival Flower Fair. In Chinese, it is called shui xian 水仙, which is literally “water immortal” and the English translation is often either “water fairy flower” or just “water narcissus”. They are put in shallow bowls, of all sizes, with just water or water and pebbles. It is believed that if they bloom on New Year’s Day, it will bring good fortune for the upcoming year, so, they are cultivated very carefully to do just that; And mine did have its first few blooms on New Year’s Day, today there are many more! The blooms are quite small and have a very sweet smell. I bought a small dish with a dozen bulbs and it cost 20rmb or about $3usd. Sometimes, you will also see “narcissus carving” where the bulbs have been cut a certain way in order to bloom with a certain curve, then they are put in a dish to grow as a bird or something else. I found this interesting article about the Chinese bringing daffodil bulbs to the USA in the late 1800’s: http://www.pacifichorticulture.org/articles/relict-gold-the-long-journey-of-the-chinese-narcissus/