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NP QUARTERLY

June 2019

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Cover Story

Taiwan's Blossoming Mountains - Ascend for a Panorama View of Flowers

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Blooming Yushan rhododendrons (Rhododendron pseudochrysanthum) transform Hehuan mountain into a splendid brocade.
Blooming Yushan rhododendrons (Rhododendron pseudochrysanthum)
transform Hehuan mountain into a splendid brocade.

Article / Jer-Haur Li Photo / Hsiao-Lu Hoo

If you had been up in the mountains whether as part of a mountain climbing activity, driving along a high mountain road or visiting a high altitude recreational area, then you would have noticed the world of alpine flowers. As the season changes, the dazzling and delightful flowering landscape characterizes the alpine vegetation. Why not stop for a little break and admire the magnificent mountains draped in a host of alpine plants.

Changing Vegetation with Altitude

As elevation increases, the lush and green broad-leaved forest gives way to misty cypress forest as it rises through the fog, and finally breaking into a silent and more homogeneous forest comprising hemlock spruce and Taiwan spruce. Here, vegetation not commonly seem in low elevation can be found. Further up is the refreshing Taiwanese White Fir forest (Abies kawakamii Hayata), which gradually sparse out and become replaced by patches of shrubs, grasslands and rock debris. In addition to decreasing plant species, the incline is characterized by the appearance of alpine vegetation. The landscape appears brighter and more colorful in the thin air. Under the open sky, the profusion of colors become richer until they overwhelm the krummholz at the mountain peaks.

At different altitudes, mountain forests can be divided into different forest b e l ts a ccording to the composition of tree species. When the environment becomes harsher at altitudes where plants are unable to achieve the crown density of a forest, many scatterings of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants continue to survive, forming a special alpine plant community. In terms of world measurement, an alpine plant community refers to a transitional zone of disappearing closed forest until it reaches a year-round snow covered areas where no plants can survive. Taiwan does not have any region that is snow-covered all year round. Therefore its alpine plant community is distributed at more than 3,100 meters above sea level, up to the highest mountain peaks.

Not desolate as imagined, the compos i ti on of a lpine p lant communities is actually very diverse. Some species grow only in high mountains while others can adapt to a wide variation in altitude. In addition to typical elevation and climatic impact, alpine plants sometimes break through their boundary and grow into lower altitudes due to unfavorable local geological conditions, fires, collapses and human destruction. In addition to their significantly high “characteristics” rate, some plants species show ice age relic features, thereby evidencing the long term changing process in the island's climate and land.

Male flowers Taiwan white fir (Abies kawakamii Hayata) is an important species in the highest forest line. / Provided by Shei-Pa National Park Headquarters
Male flowers
Taiwan white fir (Abies kawakamii Hayata) is an important species
in the highest forest line. / Provided by Shei-Pa National Park Headquarters
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