As we take our warm-weather clothes out of storage, nature is also shedding its winter coat and donning its spring finery. Last month, we went bird watching in Beijing Olympic Forest Park when there was still frost on the ground. By now, the last traces of winter should be gone and you’ll be able to spot many new species flitting between budding trees.
Ancient Chinese poets loved to extoll on the arrival of spring. Take the following Tang Dynasty poem, “Spring Dawn” (春晓 , chunxiao) by Meng Haoran (孟浩然):
春眠不觉晓 (chun mian bu jue xiao)
I wake up at the dawn of spring,
处处闻啼鸟 (chu chu wen ti niao)
And hear the birds everywhere sing.
夜来风雨声 (ye lai feng yu sheng)
As sounded the wind and rain overnight,
花落知多少 (hua luo zhi duo shao)
I wonder how many blooms alight.
Most of the plant species in Beijing only bloom between late March and May, so now is the best time to break out of the daily grind in search of nature. Besides the popular peach and cherry blossoms, you might find yourself surprised by the sheer diversity of Beijing’s flora. We spotlight eight plant species below, along with the best places to enjoy their beauty.
Cherry blossoms (樱花, yinghua)
If you can’t make it to Japan for hanami, your second-best choice is Yuyuantan Park in Haidian District. You’ll find a sea of 2,000 pink, yellow, and white cherry trees in bloom, most of which are diplomatic gifts from Japan. Expect huge crowds on weekends. Best times to visit: Late March to mid-April.
RMB 10. Daily 6am-8.30pm. Yuyuantan Park, 10 Xisanhuan Zhonglu, Haidian District (8865 3800) 海淀区西三环中路10号玉渊潭公园
Peach blossoms (桃花, taohua)
Did you know that Beijing Botanical Garden has the largest peach garden in the city? Get up early and lose yourself among the thousands of peach trees before the masses descend on the place. Best times to visit: Early April to early May.
RMB 10. Daily 7am-5pm. Beijing Botanical Garden, Xiangshan Nanlu, Haidian District (8259 8771) 海淀区香山南路北京植物园
Apricot blossoms (杏花, xinghua)
Every spring, visitors flood into Fenghuangling Nature Park to see apricot buds burst into a sea of pink flowers. Apricot trees cover approximately 400,000sqm of the park; families can also enjoy hiking the green hills and exploring thick forests. Best times to visit: Early to mid-April.
RMB 25. Daily 6.30am-5.30pm. Fenghuangling Nature Park, 19 Fenghuangling Lu, Sujiatuo Town, Haidian District (6245 5933) 海淀区苏家坨镇凤凰岭路19号,凤凰岭自然风景公园
Tulips (郁金香, yujinxiang)
Located just west of Tian’anmen square, Zhongshan Park is the only place in Beijing where you’ll find an abundance of tulips. The bulbs were gifted to China from Holland in the 1970s. Best times to visit: Mid-April to mid-May.
RMB 3. Daily 6am-8pm. Zhongshan Park, 4 Zhonghua Lu, Dongcheng District (6605 5431) 东城区中华路4号（天安门西侧）中山公园
Pear blossoms (梨花, lihua)
The most beautiful flowers are often the most fleeting. Despite the Chinese affinity for pear blossoms, they seem to flower overnight, only to be washed away by the rain. Though better-known for the quality of its watermelons, Daxing District also has a Lihua Village with more than 30,000 pear trees. Make a weekend of it by staying at one of the many guesthouses there; there are also shops and restaurants. Best times to visit: Mid-April.
Lihua Village, Panggezhuang Town, Daxing District (8928 8545) 大兴区庞各庄镇梨花村
Crabapple blossoms (海棠花, haitang hua)
Crabapple trees bloom later than peach and cherry trees and the flowering season lasts longer. Every April, more than 3,000 crabapple trees bring crowds to Yuan Dynasty City Wall Relics Park, a normally quiet retreat that runs along a canalon the border of Haidian and Chaoyang. Best times to visit: Early April to May
Free. Daily 24hrs. 24 Anwai Xiaoguanjie, Chaoyang District (8464 8252) 朝阳区安外小关街24号（近育慧南路）元大都城垣遗址公园
Magnolias (玉兰花, yulan hua)
The long-lived magnolia tree was favored by Chinese emperors and produces large, fragrant flowers. The magnolia trees at Tianzhe Temple are the most famous, some of the specimens having been around for over 300 years. The white and lilac blossoms are made even more enjoyable by the tranquility of the surroundings. Best times to visit: April and May.
RMB 55. Daily 8am-4.30pm. Tanzhe Temple, Tantuo Shanlu, Mentougou District (6086 1699) 门头沟区潭柘寺镇
Peony (牡丹花, mudanhua)
Formerly grown only for the emperor, the peony is the floral emblem of China and is associated with fortune, prosperity, and nobility. The “king of flowers” produces massive, heavy blooms that range from fuschia to pure white, canary yellow, and cotton candy pink. To get a close look at these revered flowers, head to Jingshan Park just north of the Palace Museum. Best times to visit: Mid April to late May.
RMB 5 during peony season. Daily 6am-8.30pm. Jingshan Park, 44 Jingshan Xijie, Xicheng district (6404 4071) 西城区景山西街景山公园
Photos: RL HYDE (FLICKR), SALTMARSH (FLICKR)
This article originally appeared on p28-31 of the beijingkids April 2014 issue. Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com