Story: Phuong Phuong
Photos: Pham Phung, Thuan Bui
Hundreds of flowers burst into bloom as heralds of spring. Following a chilly winter, blossoms have begun to return in the mountains. In this issue of Heritage Magazine, let’s admire some of the most exotic flowers in the mountains of Ba Na (Danang) and Mau Son (Lang Son).
The Queen of Spring visits the Ba Na Hills
Located about 25km from Danang City, the 1,500m-high Ba Na Hills are among the few locations in Vietnam blessed with bell-shaped Enkianthus quinqueflorus. Commonly known as “Hanging bells,” these deciduous shrubs belong to the Ericaceae family. More than 500 of these bushes grow sparsely or in clusters on Ba Na’s mountain ridges. Despite their modest heights of four to five meters, these shrubs boast many branches aflame with rosy blossoms. Their radiant beauty shines through as they flutter with the wind’s caress like a sweet springtime serenade. Hanging bells are most beautiful in the early mornings when dew drops still glisten on their fragile petals.
Pham Phung, a local who has spent the past 10 years photographing this iconic flower, said: “The poetic scenery is further elevated by the presence of sunbirds. Whether fluttering in the wind or reveling in the flowers’ sweet nectar, they’re bound to deliver some of the most beautiful shots for photography enthusiasts.” Since the flowers only bloom for a month, visitors should consider visiting Ba Na Hills during the Lunar New Year to fully enjoy their brief flowering season. As well as in the Ba Na Hills, hanging bells can be found on the road to Voi Mep Peak in Quang Tri Province and in the mountainous forests of Yen Tu in Quang Ninh Province.
A dainty spring muse on Mau Son Mountain
Another species of small tree with bell-shaped flowers that blooms during the Lunar New Year is Prunus campanulata, found on Mau Son Mountain in Cong Son Commune, Cao Loc District, 30km from Lang Son City. Several hundreds of these small trees dot the mountain’s ridge. Every year, Lang Son photographer Thuan Bui trudges through villages of Dao Lu Gang ethnic minority people and along narrow mountain trails at a precarious height of 800m in search of the most beautiful blossoming trees.
Mr. Bui cautioned that Prunus campanulata was not to be confused with Enkianthus quinqueflorus, which grows in the Ba Na Hills and some other mountainous regions. Also known as “kanhizakura cherry,” Prunus campanulata trees can grow up to 10m in height. The deep pink bell-like flowers are considered the “dainty spring muses” of Mau Son Mountain. The colder the spring weather, the more brilliant the flowers. During the flowering season, the trees shed all of their leaves, allowing the hot pink flowers to adorn the seemingly dead branches and light up the forest when viewed from above. Seen from below, the canopy creates a vivid crimson dome. The flowers usually bloom two weeks after the Lunar New Year, after which new buds begin to sprout. Kanhizakura cherry trees are extremely difficult to cultivate, especially when moved someplace with a different climate and type of soil. Therefore, we can say that these trees are only beautiful on Mau Son Mountain.
Both kanhizakura cherry and hanging bells are sought-after ornamental plants for the Lunar New Year. However, these flowers only retain their vivid colors in their natural habitats. Cut branches do not make good ornamental plants since the blossoms wither in just two or three days. Tourists should admire these fluttering bell-shaped flowers in their natural settings at the coming of spring.