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Virtual Flora Tours Help Us Enjoy HZAU’s Beauty

Recently, the “HZAU iPlant Website” was officially launched, and it received praises from faculty and students who also shared it with their classmates, alumni and colleagues. Some expressed surprise at the kaleidoscope of the plants on campus, and others thought the website is convenient for them to learn some previously unknown species and saw it as a knowledge base.

The website published a list of 933 plant species in 571 genera of 153 families as well as subspecies on campus, and uploaded more than 1500 photos of wild and cultivated plants in 500 species. The idea of building this website is credited to Fu Qiang (a staff from the college of Horticulture & Forestry sciences). He accidentally found a way to showcase his beloved campus.

Having engaged in many years of botanical specimen making, Fu Qiang came to realize in 2018 that the diverse botanical specimens in the university museum could be shared digitally. And National Specimen Information Infrastructure (NSII) is the best platform for sharing digital information about specimens of plants, animals, rocks, mineral fossils and the polar life.

Then, Mr. Fu contacted the NSII platform without delay and got involved in the collaborative efforts to build its plant sub-platform. In the process, Mr. Fu heard that Zhejiang University had launched the Chinese University iPlant Association (CUiPA) as early as 2017 with the support of NSII. Having hold the belief that HZAU deserves a place in the association, he made relentless efforts. Finally, HZAU became one of its third group of members in 2019. At the same time, he started to build a plant website of HZAU.

Since the second half of 2019, Mr. Fu has devoted enormous energy every day to build the “HZAU iPlant Website”. To prepare for the website building, he was incredibly busy with picture-taking, sorting, identifying and marking. During the pandemic, Mr. Fu sacrificed his break time to take over 2,000 photos of plants on campus.

To enrich the plant base and complete the list, Mr. Fu tramped over hills and drifted through woods along with his camera and took the plants photos in Mountain Lu, Shennongjia and other places when leading his students to do internships. Motivated by him, teachers from the College of Horticulture & Forestry Sciences and students from the HZAU Horticulture Association all joined his project. In recent years, they have left their footprints in the 5-square-kilometer campus. With their joint efforts, the website was officially launched in November 2021.

Every matter, grave or trivial, can be enlightening, so is the process of building the website. During the building process, “The Cuipa Team”, as a part of the Horticultural Society, played an important role. After four rounds of survey, classifying and summarizing guided by team teachers, the number of plant species collected by the students increased from 700 to 933.

In addition, the students actively participated in the online or offline summer camps hosted by CUiPA, and communicated with their peers from more than 30 universities, including Peking University and Zhejiang University. They also voluntarily organized lots of activities, such as specimen-making training, ginkgo gender observing, and ginkgo phenological observation.

HZAU has currently ranked the sixth among the Chinese university iplant list. “As the survey continues and the number of participating students and faculty increases, the plant species are expected to reach more than 1,200 species, and the website will keep updated.” Fu Qiang said, “We will add and integrate the latitude and longitude of different plants to the electronic map, thus enabling everyone to have access to those real species around us and appreciate the beauty of HZAU.”

Translated by: Chen Ru
Supervised by: Xie Lujie