Flora and Fauna

This page was written for Haba Snow Mountain in particular. However, the information generally applies to all the high mountain regions of Yunnan.


Forests

Forests

The tree line on Haba Snow Mountain (哈巴雪山) occurs around 4,000 meters. It might be a bit higher or lower, depending on local conditions.


The upper forests harbor varieties of rhododendron and other flowering trees. When they burst into bloom in May and June, they present a delightful panorama of colors—white, pink, blue and yellow. Evergreen and deciduous trees make up the lower forests, with a smattering of flowering trees that bloom earlier.


The leaves of the Yehuajiaoshu tree (野花椒树, Wild Flowering Pepper Tree) turn red in the first half of October. They contrast dramatically with the dark waters of Black Lake (黑海). Many of these trees dot the north shoreline and adjacent slopes.


Buckthorn trees grow at around 3,000 meters in elevation. In autumn, they produce many thousands of yellow berries reputed to contain a high concentration of vitamin C. On the advice of my guide, I tried some and found them downright tasty.


Insects

Insects

Throughout the lower meadows and forests, local residents maintain beehives for honey production. They are made of a meter-long section of hollow log. These are filled in on the ends, except for a hole where the bees come and go. The bees arrive in spring, use the hive for a time, and migrate later in the year.

Cicadas inhabit the forests on the lower part of Base Camp Route (大本营路线). On dry and hot days, they make a distinctive and unusually loud singing sound, created by vibrating a membrane on their abdomen.


Birds

Birds

Birds observed include eagles (山鹰, shanying), circling high above the bare alpine regions looking for prey. Ducks raise their young on Black Lake and the adults visit other lakes nearby. Lower down, a bird with a longish tail always seems to fly in pairs, mates I assume. One of the thrills of my life was spotting a male Golden Pheasant. Such an arresting display of colors! Astonishing!


Posters supplied by Haba Snow Mountain Provincial Nature Reserve (哈巴雪山省级自然保护区) show a deer, presumably native to the area, and two colorful birds. These are tentatively identified as Chinese Monal and Blood Pheasant.


Amphibians

Amphibians

Salamanders inhabit Black Lake, the brook at Kentahua Meadow (肯塔花坪) and perhaps other high country waters. These evidently belong to the Hynobiidae family of Asiatic salamanders. Reports of the Chinese Giant Salamander living in Black Lake appear to be unfounded, according to one specialist who examined photos of the amphibians.

Bear

Bears are known to inhabit the backcountry, but they are rare. This would be the Moon Bear (Ursus thibetanus), also known as Asian Black Bear. For best practices on camping in bear country, see here.

Tiger

Tigers inhabited Tiger Leaping Gorge until the 1990s when they became extinct.