The Narrow Road to the Deep North: Travels in Japan

The Narrow Road to the Deep North: Travels in Japan

The Narrow Road to the Deep North: Travels in Japan

Our March lecture was by Diane Clements, who shared with us her trip to Japan in mid June with the AGS and Greentours.

Diane’s talk was named after a book by poet Matsumoto Basho. On her trip she visited a range of varying habitats from seashore to mountain top, encountering woodland, marshland, all incredibly rich in numbers of species.

The tour began on Sado Island, in the Sea of Japan just north west of the largest island Honshu. Visiting the garden of their local guide the group saw water lily Nuphar japonica and Platanthera japonica, the Japanese butterfly orchid, endemic but endangered. In the island’s woodlands was Aesculus turbinata, the Japanese horse chestnut and Cryptomeria japonica, the Japanese cedar, locally called Sugi. Also growing wild were familiar garden plants such as Weigela florida, Tiarella polyphylla and Paris tetraphylla.

On the seashore the group found Carex macrocephala and Glehnia littoralis, which Diane was interested to note has a range as far as Alaska. A floral highlight of Sado island is a promontory smothered in Hemerocallis middendorfii exaltata, dotted with Lilium maculatum.

Returning to mainland Honshu, the group travelled to One National Park where at 1400 metres is the high altitude Ozegahara marshland. Here grows Rhododendron albrechtii, Viburnum plicatum and Epigaea asiatica, which bears downward facing pink bell flowers. Rising to 1600 metres, the Hakuba mountains are home to Leontopodium japonicum, Pinus pumila and Primula modesta. Even higher at 1800 metres, which is only snow free for two months of the year, grows Hydrangea peteolaris and Arisaema galeatum, the Helmet Cobra lily.

In the foothills of Mount Fuji, growing in the acidic volcanic soil is Neottia acuminata and Maianthemum yesoense, orchid Galearis cyclochila and Cypripedium macranthos, widespread from Japan to Europe and bearing the largest flowers in the genus. Spotted lady slipper Cypripedium yatabeanum has small flowers with variable colouring from plain yellow-green to highly spotted with maroon-brown.

Near the city of Kamakura the group saw familia Fatsia japonica and Lysimachia clethroides, as well as, orchid Spiranthes sinensis with pink-tipped white flowers. Lilium auratum, the golden-rayed lily, so named for the golden yellow streak down the centre of each tepal has strongly scented flowers, which are are the largest of any lily species.

Diane finished her tour on Rebun Island, off the north western tip of Hokkaido, rich with endemic flora. The group saw masses of Heracleum maxima, a large umbellifer, Aquilegia flabellata and Iris setosa, both available on the AGS seed exchange. Particularly special sightings were of the Cypripedium macranthis var. rebunense, Leontopodium discolor and Trollius rebunensis, all endemic to the island.