After years of efforts, agricultural researchers have in recent years brought back to north China plain oak trees that had long disappeared.
"Have you ever seen the movie of Ice Age? The 'favorite food' that the squirrel is painstakingly looking for is the fruit of Oak tree. Oak also has a poetic name 'Xiang Shu' in Chinese…"said Prof. Xu Zhongqi, vice-president of the Hebei Agricultural University, who has done a lot of research into the rare tree species and brought oak trees back to the Hebei Plain.
Xu said that before humans appeared en masse, the Hebei Plain, where the Xiong'an New Area is situated, used to be densely covered by forests, mainly oak trees. With the expansion of the human population and agricultural production, the pristine forest vegetation was destroyed, and oak trees gradually disappeared from the plain.
"The selection of tree species for the beautiful forest must be well matched with Xiong'an. They must possess such traits as indigeneity, long life, good looks, preciousness and adversity resistance. The oak family trees have all these traits. That is why we have made oak one of the main species in the forest," said Chief Technology Officer Xu Chengli of the Ecology Restoration and Rehabilitation Company under the Xiong'an Group.
6月14日，雄安集团生态建设公司技术总监徐成立正在查看“千年秀林”里栎树幼苗的生长情况。长城网·冀云客户端记者 信贺宁 摄
On June 14, 2022, Xu Chengli was checking the growth of oak saplings. (Photo by Xin Hening/Great Wall New Media)
In April, 2018, Xu Zhongqi and Xu Chengli together with German experts set off from the Xiong'an New Area on a tour of tracing places where there might be distribution of oak trees. They came down deep in a mountain area in the Yixian County of Baoding city, which has similar latitude. They searched and in the end found a large expanse of natural oak forest, thus providing evidence to the idea that oak can make the Xiong'an New Area its home.
The oak trees that are growing all over the mountainous area in Yixian County are totally different from the common bush type of oak. "They have bronze branches and iron trunks, like knives, like swords, like halberds, too" as is described by Shu Ting in her poem "To the Oak Tree". They are standing aloft on the mountain slopes, looking as beautiful as a painting, Xu Zhongqi acclaimed, adding that their unbridled growth in the wild is the best state of the forestation project pursues.
6月14日，雄安集团生态建设公司技术总监徐成立（左）和河北农业大学林学院副院长许中旗行走在“千年秀林”中，仔细观察栎树生长情况。长城网·冀云客户端记者 郑佳洵 摄
On June 14, 2022, Xu Chengli (left) and Xu Zhongqi were walking and observing the growth of oak trees. (Photo by Zheng Jiaxun/Great Wall New Media)
The oak tracing tour has made the dream of returning oak trees to the Hebei Plain a reality. Then, after four years' trial planting, the Xiong'an New Area's forest has formed a shape of a concentric circles, with oak trees in the center surrounded by mixed forests made up of maple trees, goldenrain trees and Chinese scholartrees. In the future, more oak trees will be planted in the outer circles, modelling on the state of natural forest, making the beautiful forest as closer to a natural forest as possible.
The prime principle of making a forest as natural as possible is to choose indigenous species or at least species that are adaptable to local conditions. Such high-quality trees like oak and pistacia lentiscus used to be distributed on the Hebei Plain. Their disappearance is temporary. It doesn't mean they could not grow again in the place that used to be their home. Xu Chengli told Xu Zhongqi confidently that "the trial planting has proved that their early choice is absolutely correct."
生长在易县深山中的大片成熟栎林，茂密粗壮、冠大荫浓。长城网·冀云客户端记者 信贺宁 摄
The mature oak trees deep in the mountains of Yixian County are growing exuberantly with big crowns. (Photo by Xin Hening/Great Wall New Media)
"The oak forest grows very well. I hope that it grows better so that it will become a model for popularizing oak on our plain area," said Xu Zhongqi. The two "Xu's" have made another appointment of making further research so as to make the returned oak adapt to the local conditions and restore and rehabilitate the forest vegetation as soon as possible.
"The forest we have planted and cultivated is not only close to but also better than nature, as such forest is the stablest, the greenest, promising the most potentials of realizing continuous reproduction in an endless succession," Xu Chengli said proudly. Over the past five years, the Xiong'an New Area has afforested 30,266 hectares, with 23 million trees. The forest cover has been raised from 11 percent at the beginning to 32 percent, adding more greens to the earth.