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The South China Botanical Garden is a favorite destination for locals and tourists alike. Boasting a stunning collection of rare and exotic plants, this attraction is also a center of cultural learning and scientific research. Visitors are free to photograph gorgeous blooms, learn about slash and burn cultivation and create a piece of traditional pottery.
The garden was first built in 1929 and began its existence as Sun Yatsen University's Institute of Agriculture and Forestry. Today, it is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Many scientists and researchers still work here and regularly publish scholarly titles based on their findings.
With so many unique and interesting displays, the garden is high on most tourists' "must do" lists when visiting the nearby city of Guangzhou. The garden is divided into three main sections: the Research and Residential Zone, the Dinghushan Nature Reserve and the Nursery and Exhibition Zone.
In this zone, visitors will find the fascinating herbarium that houses some 1,000,000 plant species, many of which are quite rare. This is also the zone that houses cutting edge laboratories where scientists conduct research connected to biotechnology, plant resources and other academic disciplines.
Formed in 1956, Dinghushan is considered the oldest nature reserve in China. Approximately 2,400 distinct species of plants are cultivated here, of both tropical and sub-tropical varieties.
Also in this zone is the renowned Long Dong Magic Forest, which has been selected as one of the most scenic spots in the region. It encompasses two peninsulas that are known as the Relic Garden and the Palm Garden. The two are a study in contrasts, with the Palm Garden providing a display of evergreen trees and plants, while the Relic Garden reflects the changing seasons.
Also in this zone, visitors encounter "Guangzhou's Oldest Village", a recreation of a primitive settlement. Here, visitors can try out the ancient villagers' lifestyle by engaging in some of their typical daily chores and learning about slash and burn agriculture.
When it's time for a break, the village also boasts a number of tree houses that replicate the homes of ancient villagers and provide places for modern tourists to relax and rest their feet.
This arboretum features some 13,000 plants and trees such as magnolias, orchids and rhododendrons. Altogether, this zone boasts some 30 categorized gardens along with an education hall and state-of-the-art conservatories.
Tourists of many descriptions are fascinated by the botanical garden. People intrigued by rare plants and photography flock here, as do people who are interested in scientific research.
Visitors with an interest in China's culture and history will love the recreated village, while children enjoy the Science Education and Information Center with its interactive exhibits.
Although it is a rainy season, visiting the botanical garden in March through mid-May is probably the best time of year for seeing the most species in bloom. The summer is also a lovely time to visit. However, the weather can be hot, so shorts, sunblock and hats are recommended.
Most summer visitors also find that their comfort is enhanced when they carry and use mosquito repellant. Also, prospective visitors should be aware that nearby Guangzhou hosts the Canton Fairs from April 15th to April 30th and October 15th through October 30th. The garden can become quite crowded during these fairs.
The garden is open year round, and visitors who make repeat visits in various seasons will find that the display varies greatly each time. On most days, the garden opens at 7:30 and closes at around 5:30.
The garden is found about five miles north of Guangzhou in southern China alongside the Pearl River. It is accessible by bus, subway and taxi from the city.