In September of 1996, I visited the Yulong Shan in NE Yunnan Province in China. It was my debut in botanizing within that remarkable country, accompanied by a talented contingent of like-minded plantspeople, and there is hardly a better place to sample its fantastic flora than in the dramatic mountains northwest of Lichiang. It was there that I collected the seed of Picea likiangensis var purpurea, the Lichiang Spruce, after having previously read titillating tributes to its ornamental appeal.
For the past decade plus, before its inaugural fruiting, I have held this Picea in high esteem. Spruces are, as a whole, a hard sell in the Pacific Northwest. Prone to mites and assorted foliar diseases, the truly blue spruces (Picea pungens) are a miserable landscape choice for our cool, maritime climate. [Read more…]