20 students from LEOT went with teacher Thong and volunteer Clare to the Botanical Gardens in Luang Prabang. At 10 am we took a 15-minute boat trip down the Mekong to get to the gardens on the other side of the river. We were met by staff who explained that the Gardens were set up 10 years ago to display and study Lao plants and trees.
A botanist gave us a talk about the importance of biodiversity and conservation. She explained that you need to have biodiversity (a big variety of plants) in order for the natural world to remain healthy. For example, if you have a forest with only one kind of tree and if that tree gets a disease, they could all die and the forest would be gone. But if you have a forest with 10 types of trees, then a disease that kills one kind of tree will not mean that the forest will be gone – the other trees will still be there. So that is why conservation is important. We must look after the trees and plants to make sure we have plenty of variety.
She also told us that only about 30% of Lao plants and trees have been identified – about 70% have not been identified and studied – so there is a lot of work to do to learn about Lao plants. If we do too much clearing of land and damming of rivers we may lose some plants which we still don’t know about and which could have important uses, such as for building, for furniture and for medicine.
After that we spent some time looking at plants that have different uses as medicines; we also saw many types of ginger and other interesting plants. Then we walked through the gardens, up to a viewpoint from where we could see down to the Mekong, and through the palm garden and the avenue of bamboo. We ate our lunch at the restaurant and got the 1:30 boat back to town. Everyone enjoyed the trip to these beautiful gardens.