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Zhao Hanzhang1
The Research Institute of Forestry
Chinese Academy of Forestry
Wan Shou Shan
Beijing 100091


Hippophae rhamnoides (sea buckthorn) is a shrub or small tree which is tolerant both of drought and cold. It provides land stabilization/ amelioration, fuel, food (fruits are very rich in vitamin C), medicine (bark) and fodder to rural communities living in harsh environmental conditions in China. Like all the species of the family Elaeagnaceae, Hippophae rhamnoides is a nitrogen fixing species thanks to its symbiosis with Frankia bacteria, housed in root nodules.

Hippophae rhamnoides is a dioecious species distributed widely in Asia and Europe (2–115° longitude, 27–68°50 north latitude). In China it occurs naturally mainly in the provinces of Inner Mongolia, Hebei, Liaoning, Shanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Xinjiang, Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan. The total area of Hippophae rhamnoides in China is about 920 000 ha of which 80% are natural stands (Wang Guoli & Zhong 1990).

Recognizing the importance of this multipurpose tree species, a FAO technical assistance programme was initiated in China in the late 1980's with financial support from the Government of France. This was the first systematic approach to explore, sample and test Hippophae sp. in China. The objectives of the programme were the following:

During the past five years the below results were achieved.


Seed was collected from 19 sites throughout the natural range in China (see Table 1 and Figure 1). Collections were well documented and were made from a minimum of 20 mother trees, spaced at. least 50 m apart to minimize relateness and future inbreeding. Seed from 19 provenances were sampled.

Table 1: Seed collection of Hippophae rhamnoides in China

LocationNorth LatitudeEast LongitudeElevation
Lin Zhi, Tibet29°35'  94°10'3700
Mozhugongka, Tibet29°52'  92°01'3900
Tianshui, Gansu34°20'105°48'1700
Wushan, Gansu34°45'104°56'2000
Qinan, Gansu35°01'106°13'1900
Xiji, Ningxia35°57'105°48'2200
Hualong, Qinghai36°03'102°12'2700
Guxian, Shanxi36°35'111°40'1100
Datong, Qinghai37°10'100°50'2800
Kelan, Shanxi39°02'111°30'1700
Weixian, Hebei39°55'114°30'1600
Youyu, Shanxi40°10'112°35'1360
Liangcheng, Inner Mongolia40°20'112°15'1250
Zhuolu, Hebei40°25'115°15'1300
Chifeng, Inner Mongolia40°20'118°56'1400
Gongliu, Xinjiang43°25'82°02'  775
Nileke, Xinjiang43°50'82°30'1105
Chabuchaer, Xinjiang43°52'81°05'  600
Bole, Xinjiang44°54'82°02'  750

Figure 1: Map of the 19 provenances of H. rhamnoides collected in China, divided into 4 groups

Figure 1


The seedlots were sown in nurseries and observations were made on seed characteristics, germination and seedling traits. In 1986, field trials were established on 15 sites in 11 provinces of China (see Table 2). A randomised complete block design with 4 replications was used, with 36 plants per plot, spaced 3×3 m or 2×4 m. In 1988, floods and droughts had occurred frequently in some of the provinces of China and a total of 6 planting sites suffered serious damage. In the remaining 9 experimental sites, the survival rate of seedlings was over 90 %.

Table 2: Locations of field evaluation of Hippophae rhamnoides

LocationNorth LatitudeEast LongitudeElevationAnnual Mean Temp.Annual Rainfall
Tianshi, Gansu34°20'105°48'125011.0550
Datong, Qinghai36°56'101°41'2400  3.9533
Guxian, Shanxi36°35'111°40'1100  9.0600
Youyu, Shanxi40°10'112°35'1400  3.6449
Zhuolo, Hebei40°25'115°15'1200  5.3500
Jianping, Lioning41°23'119°40'  750  5.6400
Chifeng, Inner Mongolia42°20'118°58'  570  4.6350
Yining, Xinjiang43°57'  81°31'  663  8.5246
Duerbete, Heilongjiang46°50'124°26'  145  0.9385


A preliminary assessment of the field trials has yielded some indicative results. Significant differences among the provenances were evident. This could maybe have been predicted by the fact that the occurrences of Hippophae rhamnoides are widely dispersed and, to a certain extent, completely isolated from each other (Rousi 1971).

Generally, the hight of the seedlings was found to be positively correlated with latitude. The provenances from Qinghai, Gansu province and Ninxia Hui Autonomous Region located in mid latitude and high elevation areas, showed superiority in growth in the nursery and the field, and also had more branches and better coppicing ability. Not surprisingly, the weight of the root nodules per plant was found to relate closely to the above-ground biomass of the plant.

The ratio of female trees in the trials was 50%. Fruit size was significantly and positively correlated with latitude and negatively correlated with elevation. The provenances located in the northern part of China had bigger and earlier-maturing fruits than those found in provenances from the central-western area. There was also significant variation in the biochemical composition of the fruits from different provenances. Vitamin C and acid content were negatively correlated to latitude, while sugar content was positively correlated (see Table 3).

Table 3: Biochemical composition of fruit of different provenances.

ProvenancesVitamin CTotal sugarTotal acidTotal Oil
Tianshui, Gansu1337.32.383.55  9.88
Wushan, Gansu1675.22.524.51  7.08
Qinan, Gansu1932.33.363.60  9.54
Xiji, Ningxia10513.043.7510.89
Hualong, Qinghai  822.24.603.36  5.43
Guxian, Shanxi  976.73.443.58  5.68
Datong, Qinghai  337.05.493.5610.22
Kelan, Shanxi  861.74.501.9711.44
Weixian, Hebei  614.34.742.6019.27
Youyu, Shanxi  208.05.931.93  6.75
Liangcheng, Inner Mongolia  487.94.602.2713.25
Zhuolu Hebei  765.23.902.36  5.51
Chifeng, Inner Mongolia  306.75.142.1812.22

The 19 provenances could be divided in 4 different groups2 (see Figure 1):


Guoli, W. & Zhong, Z. 1990 Research and production of sea buckthorn in China. Voluntary Contribution to World Forestry Congress, Paris, France. 5 pp. (E)

Rousi, A. 1971 The genus Hippophae L. A taxonomic study. Ann. Bot. Fennici 8: 177–227

Figure 2

Figure 2: Hippophae rhamnoides subsp. yunnanensis in China

1 Manuscript received March 1992.

2 A total of 3 different sub-species were sampled: 4 provenances of H. rhamnoides subsp. turkectarica (from Xinjiangprovince); 1 of H. rhamnoides subsp. gyantsensis (from Mozhugongka of Tibet); and the reminder (14 provenances) of H. rhamnoides subsp. sinensis.

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