As we look out across the world’s largest wetland area, the swath of marshy flora growing in the shallow waters of Dawa County, China is an eye-popping crimson. A vast luscious landscape surrounded by an astronomical beauty of “red weed”, as if found on Mars. Claimed by French astronomer and author Camille Flammarion — the reason Mars is red is the red vegetation growing on it.
Despite its otherworldly appearance, the lush red grasses of this Chinese marsh have all too Earthly, if still rare, origin. The plant is actually a form of Chenopodium (a member of the Amaranthaceae). This specific species is unique in that it can thrive in alkaline soil, or sweet soil. This other worldly landscape is also known as ‘home of the cranes.’ Namely the red crowned crane, among the rarest cranes in the world. This graceful animal is also known as a symbol of luck, longevity and fidelity.
Governmentally protected, tourists can walk among the rare reeds via specially installed wooden walkways that extend out over the delicate ecosystem. It is unlikely that this location was an inspiration for H.G. Wells’ War of the World’s weeds, but it makes the site no less unearthly. The area thrives with the world’s largest reed marsh which is reproduced to papyrus-like paper, perfect for writing science fiction stories on.