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Hengchun Tropical Botanical Garden

  • Date of declaration:2011-12-29

Hengchun Tropical Botanic Garden is at the southern tip of the Hengchun peninsula, nearby the Sheding Nature Park of Kenting National Park. It falls under the administrative jurisdiction of Hengchun township, and is managed by TFRI from its Hengchun research center. Hengchun Botanic Garden covers 64 hectares. It has seventeen display areas, including the Botel Tobago Island Plant Collection, Ethno-plant Collection, Lianas and Vines Collection, Aquatic Garden, Native plant Collection, Cycadaceae Garden,Tropical Fruit Collection, Rare and Endangered plants Collection, Pea Family Collection, Weeping Fig, Ficus Collection, Palm Collection, Fagaceae Collection, Lauraceae Collection, Croton Garden, Arum Family Garden, Fern Garden. The Hengchun Tropical Botanic Garden was surrounded with primary forest and rich biodiversity, as a good choice for research, environmental education and recreation to public.

Exhibition Areas
Native Plant Collection

Hengchun Peninsula is located at the southern tip of Taiwan. The main landforms in this area include the coast, hills and mountains. The peninsula falls in the tropical monsoon rain forest region. It is a unique area in Taiwan in terms of geography and climate. Many botanists divide Taiwan and Hengchun into two different floral regions because the plants on Hengchun Peninsula are very different from those in other parts of Taiwan, with more endemic plants found on the peninsula. More than 1000 plant species have been identified in this area, with 225 of them being rare species.

In light of the abundant and diverse flora in Hengchun Peninsula, five vegetation types were selected that are distributed according to landform and native plant habitat. These five vegetation types are all not suitable for farming or ranching except for the secondary forest due to landform and geology. The original vegetation has survived due to minimal development.

These five native vegetation types are: coastal vegetation, littoral forest vegetation, uplifted coral reef forest vegetation and montane forest vegetation. Secondary forest vegetation is also found in areas that have been greatly disturbed. Each vegetation type was planted according to its original ecological distribution. Visitors can follow paths to enjoy these vegetation types and compare the ecological differences in each area with the aid of interpretive signs.

Botel Tobago Island Plant Collection

According to recent studies, there are 130 families, 488 genera and 828 species in total on Orchid Island. Of these, 3 families and 106 species are ferns, and only 1 family, 1 genus and 2 species are gymnosperms. The majority of species found on the island are from the angiosperm families of Moraceae, Euphorbiceae, Rubiaceae or Fabaceae. The local vegetation on Orchid Island consists of diverse plants communities on diverse landforms, such as coral reefs, littoral forests, grass plains and mountain forests. The environmental conditions of the Hengchun Peninsula and Orchid Island are similar, providing perfect conditions for this ex-situ conservation program of rare and endangered plants.

Owing to its unique geographical location, Orchid Island shares 32 endemic genera with the Philippines and 29 endemic genera with Taiwan. Of over 800 native vascular plant species found on the island, 82 (3.63%) are endemic. These species account for 8.76% of Taiwan’s total endemic species.

The native plants found on Orchid Island are essential for the academic studies of phytotaxonomy (the scientific classification of plants) and phytogeograqphy (the geographical distribution of plants), because they represent an ecological bridge between the plants of the Philippines and Taiwan.

Lianas & Vines Collection

A liana is the name given to any long-stemmed, woody vine that is rooted in the soil but utilizes trees or other structures as vertical support to climb up to the top of the canopy. There are myriad methods of vine grown that have evolved: grapevines have a growth habit of trailing, rock vines grow small aerial roots that attach to the hosts, Nikcearnut caesalpinia climbs by using thorns to adhere to its host, while another vine, called the moonflower, climbs to the top of the canopy by its main stem and does not require a host.

Most lianas and vines grow in tropical and subtropical regions, with the greatest density found in tropical moist deciduous forests and rainforests. In these forests, vines and lianas connect the entire forest by providing a connective network throughout the canopy. Most vines and lianas are important in providing daily human needs. For example, they are important for providing food, material to build shelters, for transportation, and for making clothing, household goods, gardening tools and medicines.

Cycadaceae Collection

Sago cycads are commonly called Iron trees in Chinese. They appeared during the Paleozoic Era – 150 million years ago – and survived through the Jurassic Era when dinosaurs roamed the earth. They truly are living fossils. Chinese proverbs say that the Sago cycad blooms every 60 years. Therefore, people believe the blooming of the Sago cycad to be an auspicious sign. If the natural environment is suitable or good care is given to Sago cycads, they can actually bloom every year and bring joy. People love Sago cycads for their beauty and for the belief that they repel evil spirits, so they are commonly seen in gardens.

Sago cycads are gymnosperms – evergreen trees. There are about 30 different species throughout the world distributed in the tropical and sub-tropical areas of Asia, Australia, the Pacific islands, east Africa, and Madagascar. Only one species is found in Taiwan: Cycas taitungensis, an endemic species.

Tropical Fruit Garden

Fruit trees are very important economic crops in sub-tropical Taiwan. The local landforms are complex with highly diverse climatic zones including a frigid zone, a temperate zone and a torrid zone. Therefore, a wide range of trees can be cultivated. Fruit trees in the frigid and temperate zones are mostly deciduous and include apples, pears, peaches and plums. Tropical fruit trees are mainly evergreen and include avocados, jackfruit and cocoa.

Tropical fruit trees not only produce food but also contribute to the beauty in nature whether they grow in the wild or are planted in fields. Durians are called the king of fruits because of their unique taste, while the tender, sweet and slightly sour mangosteens are called the queen of fruits. This garden is located in southern Taiwan where the climate is warm and suitable for tropical and sub-tropical fruit trees to grow. There are also tropical fruit trees in this garden that have been introduced from central and south America and tropical Asia. Some are primary economic fruit trees in their native lands while some are less known to the world but have great market potential.

Weeping Fig

The Weeping fig(Ficus benjamina var. bracteata) belongs to family Moraceae. The trunk is yellow and white, and is distinct from other species of the same genus. Many beard roots grow on the trunks of this species. These are adventitious roots, also called aerial roots. The Weeping fig is called the white banyan in Chinese because of the many white aerial roots that hang down. Aerial roots are one of the features of plants that grow in humid areas as they aid plant respiration. The more humid the environment, the faster the aerial roots will grow.

When aerial roots reach the soil, they rapidly absorb nutrients and water from the soil and grow rapidly into columns known as prop roots. Prop roots can strengthen the stability of the trees and speed up the expansion of the trunks to increase the range of tree crown. They also help form a special occurrence - one tree can become a forest.

Palm Collection

Palms are the most representative plants of the tropics. They can be divided into two main groups: those with pinnate leaves are called feather palms, while others with palmate leaves are called fan palms. Palms often have single or multiple trunks. The leaves are clustered at the top of the trunk and form a unique umbrella-shaped crown that can only be found in palm trees. The sizes of the fruits vary greatly. The largest seed in the world is that of the double coconut, with a diameter of 50 cm.

Palms are mainly distributed within the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. The two main areas of distribution are tropical America and Asia. According to existing records, the most ancient cultivated plants in the world are date palms. This proves that palms have long been favored by people.

There are six genera and six species of native palms in Taiwan. Yellow Rotang palms and Formosan sugar palms are more commonly used in daily life. However, many species were introduced to Taiwan. Of these, areca palms were introduced to Taiwan the earliest – brought over by the Dutch during the mid 17th Century. Therefore, this species is closely related to historical and cultural progress in Taiwan.

Croton Garden

Crotons are tropical foliage plants found from Australia to Indonesia and Malaysia. They have evolved a wide variety of leaf shapes and colors which make them wonderful interior and exterior decorative plants.

Due to these diverse leaf shapes and colors, it is difficult to classify these plants. They are all grouped under the common name croton with many hybrid species designations, such as the common Codiaeum variegatum. Crotons are not native to Taiwan, but were first introduced by early British missionaries to the Danshui and Tainan regions in the late 19th century, during the Qing Dynasty. In 1901, Tashiro Yasusada also introduced croton species from Shinjuke Gyoen National Gardens to both the Taipei Botanical Garden and here, the Hengchun Tropical Botanic Garden.

There were 20 further types of Crotons introduced to Taiwan during the periods of 1911-1917 and 1946-1956 and, since then, many more have been introduced for research and educational purposes.

Ethno-plant Collection

Ethno-plants are plants, which are usually utilized by certain folks or habitants in their daily live. (e.g. as food、clothing、housing、transportation、medicines or costume. ) Most of them are native plant but even the same plant can be used in different way by people with different culture.

The Paiwans is the major aboriginal groups in Hengchun Peninsula. As daily food, taro (Colocasia esculenta) and sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) are mostly used as the starchy staple food; as vegetables, redflower ragleaf (Crassocephalum crepidioides) and Trichodesma calycosum were usually included. The Paiwans had often used the inner barks of Hayata fig (Ficus irisana) and India-charcoal trema (Trema simplex) as material of clothing; for cloth dyeing, the coloring comes from the rhizome or root of red corm yam (Dioscorea matsudae), Taiwan acacia (Acacia confuse) and Oldham scolopia (scolopia oldhamii). The houses were built with timber and plants in southern Paiwans. The Paiwans in Hengchun peninsula use commonly Taiwan ebony (Diospyros phiippensis) and Formosan aglaia (Aglaia formosana) for beams and columns; the climbing bamboo (Schizostachyum diffusum) and yellow rattan palm (Calamus quiqesetinervius) are used as rope to fasten and tie components of the structure together; Silver grass (Miscanthus floridulus) or lalang grass (Imperata cylindrical) are utilized for the roof and wall. Plants have been used for healing since prehistoric times.

The plants used for medicinal purpose can broadly be classified as two types:internal and external . For example, the Paiwans put harlequin glorybower (Clerodendrum trichotomum ), Taiwan tetrastigma (Tetrastigma formosanum) into hot water and applied them to the wound to stop bleeding or cure ailments. To reduce fever they crushed Asiatic pennywort (Centella asiatica), Rhynchosia minima or Asian ponysfoot (Dichondra micrantha). In the tradition of the Paiwans a set of ritual events are performed, such as the lead up to the harvest and farming seasons, rites of passage, the ritual for healing and the ceremony for demonstrating reverence to ancestral spirits. The climax of five-yearly Celebration, Maljveq, is the activity Djumuljat. The ceremonial ball has a diameter of 20 cm and consists of two layers – an inner layer of Formosan acacia (Acacia confuse Merr.), with an outer layer of kudzu bean vine (Pueraria montana ) woven around it. By spinning the seed of Chinese soap berry (Sapindus mukorossii) on a bottle gourd (Lagenaria leucantha) the priest asked the origin of the illness to find out the pathogen.

Rare and Endangered Plant Garden

About 300,000 species of plants exist on earth, each with its own unique genetic and physiological features and forms. Maintaining biodiversity is necessary to keep the natural environment in balance and ecosystems stable.

Taiwan is divided into tropical and sub-tropical zones by the Tropic of Cancer, and is surrounded by the ocean. The complexity of landforms and altitudinal differences in climate contribute to extremely diverse and rich plant species. There are about 4000 species of vascular plants alone, with a quarter of these endemic to Taiwan. Although we have such abundant natural resources, the amount of floral groups in the wild is decreasing rapidly and many risk extinction due to environmental changes, habitat destruction and inappropriate use of biological resources.

Pea Family

This area offers an introduction to the Leguminosae plants (pea family), commonly called legumes. The family contains three sub-families, which are Papilionoideae, Caesalpinioideae and Mimosoideae, and floral pattern is the main feature to discriminate. The most common feature making pea family recognizable is pod, a long multi-seeded dry fruit, which develops from a simple carpel and several ovules. Species in this family display a wide diversity of pod morphology in types, structures, colors, and so on. The pea family is large, containing more than 16,000 individual species from 700 genera, making it the third largest family of flowering plants after Asteraceae (Asters, such as the sunflower) and Orchidaceae (Orchids). The majority of pea species grow in tropical and subtropical regions.

This family is important not only because of its diversity, but also its supply of a great amount of important vegetable protein and oil, second only to Gramineae (true grass) species. In addition to being an important food source, they are used for timber, medicine, animal feed, fertilizer, dye, paper fiber, ornaments, nectar, fuel, pesticides and resin.

Aquatic Garden

Vascular plants of hydrophyte and hygrophyte mean the plants that spend part of their life circle in water can also grow, reproduce and completed their life circle in watery environments. A submerged plant that indicate the plant that is fully submerged in the water with roots fixed to the soil beneath; An emerged plant refers to the plant that grows in shallower water areas, its stems and leaves rise above water surface while the roots are fixed on the soil beneath;A floating-left plant means the plant habitats in the water areas whose depth is around our knees or waist, the plant’s roots are fixed to the bottom soil and its leaves float on water surface;A floating plant means the plant that floating on water surface while its roots are not fixed to the soil. Aquatic plants are not only the important food source, such as the rice grains are fruits of rice (Oryze sativa), but also help prevent erosion or absorb polluting chemicals.

Ficus Garden

Fig species, or figs, belong to the family Moraceae. They can be monoecy or dioecy. They are widely distributed in tropical and sub-tropical zones, and number roughly 1000 species. The syconium is the most important feature of this family with many small flowers inside. Only the fig wasps can enter and pollinate the flowers. Figs are one of the keystone species in the tropical zone. Their juicy ripe fruits are a main source of food for frugivores, including primates, birds and bats, especially during the dry season when there is not enough food. It plays an important role in stabilizing the ecology of tropical forest.