Chinese factories are not renowned for their landscaping – a few scrubby trees and sickly pot plants are likely to be the most natural greenery on offer. But once in a while one finds something interesting. At the end of the day, outside an ugly building in the middle of southern China, I spotted this extraordinary grass, catching the sun’s rays as is sunk through the smoggy sky towards an industrial horizon. The plumes began life a deep, dark red and advanced with age through flamingo pink to fluffy white. A mixture of the grasses at different stages made for a swaying meadow of candy-floss colours.
I was stumped until I got home and did some research, but it turns out to be Melinis repens or rose Natal grass from South Africa. Quite how it found its way to a factory forecourt in China I will never know. Preferring desert uplands in its native country, it grows in open and disturbed areas and is often seen growing on roadsides. Sadly, I can’t find anyone offering seed in the UK, so on my next visit I will have to secrete a few in my luggage!