Displays of mellow yellow to chase away late winter blues
By Lu Feiran
IN late winter and early spring, yellow is the main color of nature in many parts of the city — from wetlands to park flowerbeds.
In this season, the color can be divided into three categories: the yellow of withered grasses; the yellow of budding plants; and the yellow of flowers in bloom.
Yellows of withered grasses
Reeds don’t usually catch the eye in spring and summer, when they are up against colorful blooms, but now when most other plants are still dormant, reeds take center stage with beautiful shows of color.
Bamboo, Manchurian wild rice, smooth cord grass and cattails usually grow in the coastal area of the wetland.
“People often believe that withered plants are ugly but that’s actually not true,” said Yuan Lin, a professor with the State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research of East China Normal University.
“The reeds have tall, straight stems and wide yellow leaves, forming spectacular sights.”
Prominent among them is smooth cord grass. Native to the west coast of North America, it was introduced to Shanghai in the 1990s to stop coastal erosion on Chongming Island.
But cord grass quickly out-competes other plant species, changing the ecological structure on the island.
“The main problem is that the diversity of the ecological system has decreased because of cord grass,” said Yuan. “And because of its rapid growth, it’s impossible to remove it completely.”
Less invasive and more popular wetland residents are Manchurian wild rice and cattails.
In addition to helping create wetland views, the stem of Manchurian wild rice becomes a tasty and nutritious food, once the it is infected by fungus and swells.
The resulting dish, usually called “jiaobai (茭白),” is a favorite with many families in autumn and winter.
Cattails — also known as bulrushes — are interesting to view around now as this is the fruit-bearing season.
The fruit of cattails look like sausages or — as their name suggests — cats’ tails, depending on who you ask. Either way, they’re pretty cute.
Yellow buds and flowers
While the withered grasses are reminders of last year, the yellow of budding plants and of flowers in bloom herald the arrival of spring and new life.
Examples can be found downtown.
As spring nears, plants start to bud and flower. Weeping willows are the most conspicuous among these, with catkins ranging from delicate yellow through to golden.
Many weeping willows grow along riverbanks, providing splashes of vivid color in the drabness of late winter.
Yellow blooms can be found easily in local parks at this time of year. Among perennial favorites are daffodils, their distinctive flowers trumpeting that spring is almost here and with it, warmer days.
The distinctive flowers trumpet when spring is almost here.
Cord grass Native to North America, the plant is introduced to Shanghai in the 1990s to stop coastal erosion on Chongming Island.
Manchurian wild rice One of the plants help create wetland views, the stem of which becomes tasty food in autumn and winter.
The yellow fruit of the plant, now in the fruit-bearing season, resembles cats’ tails.
Weeping willows are among the most conspicuous plants to bud in spring, with catkins ranging from delicate yellow through to golden.
Where to find the ‘Yellow Shanghai’
• Chongming Island
Chongming Island has the city’s richest wetland resources, making it the best place to view reeds in all their withered splendor.
The island has two major wetlands: Shanghai Chongming Dongtan National Nature Reserve and Chongming Xisha Wetland Park.
The Dongtan reserve is reknowned as an important location for migrating birds, but outside the migratory season it is still a fascinating place to view the sea of swaying wetland grasses.
Reserve staff face a constant battle preventing invasive smooth cord grass from crowding out native plantlife, but after years of management, a suitable environment for birds and plants alike has been created.
But visitors need to aware that due to the presence of the birds, access to some areas is limited.
Meanwhile, the Xisha wetland is smooth-cord-grass-free zone. This is considered the island’s best spot to watch sunset. A 7-kilometer wooden walkway stretches into the vast reedbeds, giving visitors the opportunity to walk into a natural painting of golden sunlight scattered on yellow reeds.
As well as the two major wetlands, Chongming has free coastal areas where reeds are also found. And unlike the wetlands that are crowded with visitors on weekends, these coastal areas are usually quiet and tranquil.
The only problem is that public transport doesn’t reach them.
Shanghai Chongming Dongtan National Nature Reserve
Location: Near Dongwang Highway (the gate is close to a windmill)
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm
Transport: The Shanghai Sightseeing Bus Center has tour bus to the gate of the reserve.
Admission: 50 yuan (US$8) for weekdays and 80 yuan for weekends and holidays
Chongming Xisha Wetland Park
Location: West of Mingzhu Lake, Luhua Town
Opening hours: 8am to 5am
Transport: The Shanghai Sightseeing Bus Center has tour bus reaching the gate of the park.
Admission: 20 yuan
• Hengsha Island
Hengsha is the smallest island in Shanghai and has been developed into a holiday resort over the past few years. Apart from viewing swaying reeds on coastal areas, visitors are able to enjoy a back-to-nature experience on the island with activities on offer including fishing, viewing orchids and fruit-picking.
If you go by public transport, go to Wusong ferry station and cross by ferry to the island. If you want to drive, travel to Changxing Island through Changjiang Tunnel, and take the car ferry from there.
• Zuiguanhai Park
The name of the park literally means “a mouth watching the sea.” The “mouth” means “Nanhui mouth.” In ancient Chinese geography books, there is a passage about the formation of the area, saying that it is where “the Yangtze River and Qiantang River meets and the land looks like a mouth.”
Reeds grow along the East China Sea coastline. The problem is that there is no public transport to the park. There is a hotel next to it, so visitors can stay overnight and watch sunrise over the waves.
Location: next to Dishuihu Lake, the Pudong New Area
Opening hours: 24 hours
How to get there: no public transport available
Keep warm and wear waterproof shoes
IT’S still quite cold, especially at coastal areas, so it’s essential to wear a windbreaker and warm, waterproof shoes to stop you from freezing.
• Pay attention to the tide table
If you go to a coastal wetland, it’s best to choose a time when the tide is low. This is when you can see all the plants and scenery at their best.
And the best time for taking pictures is sunset and sunrise.
• Don’t go in deep without a guide
Swampy wetland can be dangerous for visitors unfamiliar with the terrain, although most of Shanghai’s wetlands have wooden walkways for visitors.
If you want to stray from the walkways — and it’s permitted — hire a local guide.