The sandy hills of this hot and arid desert area of XinJiang province in northwestern China stretch seemingly infinitely towards the horizon as gale-force winds howl incessantly. This area is home to the most ferocious winds in all of China. Indeed, one might rightly call it the mother of all gale-force wind tunnels, since it regularly churns out gale-force winds reaching a level of 8 on the Beaufort-12 scale. On an average year, there is a gale-force wind of level 8 that lasts for a month, and in some years it lasts for up to two months.
The Desert Botanical Garden area of Turpan might also be called the mother of all temperature extremes, with a lowest night-time air temperature of -28 degrees Celsius and a highest daytime air temperature of 48 degrees Celsius. But on the desert's sandy surface, temperatures in excess of 80 degrees Celsius have been recorded. Adding to the heat is the lack of moisture: annual average precipitation is lower than 16 mm, while the annual vaporization factor is at 2837 mm.
It is hard to imagine a natural environment more hostile to flora or fauna than this area, yet it is home to a desert arboretum dedicated to preserving the naturally-occuring desert plants of the region. The arboretum is composed of the Species Garden, the Chinese Tamarisk Garden, the Herbal Medicines Garden, the Seedling Garden for native sandy-soil plants, the Wild Flower Garden, as well as an adjacent woods where trees native to the region grow.
There are altogether more than 300 sandy-soil plants being preserved here, comprising 71 genera, with 247 species, of which 49 species are precious plants on the verge of extinction, including a species of the Chinese date, or jujube (which, unlike the palm-tree date of Middle Eastern deserts, is a deciduous shrub), the sand ilex, the white thorn, various liquorices, etc.
These 247 species of plants comprise roughly 80% of all desert plants found in sandy-soil areas throughout China. The Chinese Tamarisk Garden maintains 15 different tamarisk varieties, which account for 83% of all the tamarisk plants of China. When the tamarisk tree is in bloom, it fills the garden with red, and a sense of springtime invariably pervades the area. The Herbal Medicine Garden deserves special attention, as more than 50 herbal medicine plants from China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, from Kazakhstan, and from Mongolia have been collected and replanted here, establishing the Herbal Medicine Garden as an important research center for herbal-medicine plants.
The desert arboretum is intersticed by a series of interconnecting roads and a network of irrigation pipes, and with various adjacent support facilities. A corresponding scientific research facility with nearby housing blocks for the research facility's staff have also been constructed within the arboretum. With its focus on the re-introduction and preservation of rare desert plants, including a number of plants that are on the verge of extinction, the Desert Botanical Garden of Turpan ranks as one of the primary plant-preservation arboretums for sandy-soil plants in the world, providing not only economic benefits, but also zoological benefits to China as well as to the entire world.
Lastly, the Desert Botanical Garden of Turpan boasts an observation tower whose telescope offers spectacular views of the Bogda Peak of the Tianshan Mountains, the Flame Mountain Range, the Grape Valley, and Ayding Lake. It is THE place to go to take in the expanse of the topography surrounding the city of Turpan.