Sunday, March 12, 2017

Taiwan 2. December Wildflowers

The large grass, Miscanthus sinensis, dominates much of the
open land in Taiwan, with spectacular bloom spikes in
In my previous installment, I focused on some of the spectacular cultivated plants of Taiwan. Here I return to my core subject of wildflowers.  We usually use the term wildflower for native plants, as opposed to cultivated plants and invasive weeds from elsewhere.  In Taiwan, however, it is sometimes difficult to tell what is truly native and what has been brought from somewhere else.

In the spectacular Taroko Gorge, a species of Hibiscus greets
December visitors.

A close-up of the Hibscus from Taroko, which may
be either H. taiwaniensis or H. mutabilis
People, known today as Taiwan Aborigines, have been in Taiwan for at least 6000 years, having migrated here from southern China.  Those first people most likely brought some plants with them, on purpose as well as by accident.  Their descendants didn't stay put , and became master boat-builders and navigators. The ancestors of the Austronesian people who  eventually colonized much of the Pacific,  parts of Asia, and Madagascar., originated in Taiwan . In their comings and goings, these sailors probably brought other plants.  300-400 years ago, another wave of immigration from the mainland, this time of Han Chinese, came to the island, giving rise to ethnic Taiwanese.

With the introduction of Chinese civilization to Taiwan came more trade and active interest in horticulture, and likely more "non-native" plants.  Be that as it may, these are some of the  wild plants that I found blooming in Taiwan during the month of December.

Our three weeks in Taiwan took us to Taroko Gorge, Alishan, and Sun Moon Lake in the central mountains, as well as tropical Kenting National Park in the south, and Yangmingshan National Park in the North.

A species of Pandanus from the southern end of Taiwan.
Ipomoea pes-caprae grows along Taiwan's beaches as it does
in Florida and tropical beaches around the world.
So we saw truly tropical plants, such as screw pine (Pandanus spp.) and beach morning glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae) which can be found on tropical and subtropical beaches throughout the world.  Surprisingly, we also saw many plants blooming in the central mountains, where it was already decidedly chilly.  Except for the highest peaks, there is no real winter in Taiwan, so one can find flowers year-round.
Phoenix hanceana is the native member of the date palm
genus in Taiwan.  Here it is growing along the wind-swept
coastal bluffs in Kenting National Park.
Evolvulus alsinoides is another member of the 
morning glory family, Convolvulaceae.

Yellow members of the sunflower family, Asteraceae, 
are common in the mountains. 

Another late-blooming yellow Asteraceae from the mountains
Tithonia diversifolia blooms abundantly on mountain slopes
west of Alishan.

A morning glory, Ipomoea cheirophylla, is common along
roadsides throughout Taiwan.
A wild begonia blooms in the Yangmingshan National Park  near Taipei.

A yellow member of the mint family, Salvia nipponica, continues
to bloom in Yangmingshan at about 2500 ft elevation, despite chilly
December temperatures.