Taiwan is a small and densely populated island (link), but it has high mountains in the center and those mountains are so rugged that that they remain wild. Because it is a small island, access to wild Taiwan is surprisingly easy. You can, for example, take a city bus from downtown Taipei, Taiwan's capital, to Yangmingshan Park, hike for the afternoon and take the bus back to the city center, or start from there on a backpack adventure through the mountains of central Taiwan.
I was led by Neil Wade of Taiwan Adventures who normally takes people on more energetic hikes, but seemed content to show me around.
From the Yangmingshan Park parking lot, an easy trail led through a pleasant forest
There were handsome stands of ferns
It was February, spring time, and the plants were putting on new growth. The fiddleheads will open into new fern fronds.
The trails lace all over the mountains
Some places it seemed a familiar north temperate forest
and then we'd see a tree fern!
Once, in the Age of Dinosaurs (Mesozoic), the flowering plants barely existed and forests were formed by tree ferns and related, now-extinct flowerless plants. Today tree ferns are a treat to the north temperate botanist, because they are confined to wet tropical areas. (And they're so beautiful!)
The uplands of Taiwan, have (of course) been used in various enterprises over the last 300 years, from logging to military maneuvers, making the vegetation along the hiking trails, in various stages of recovery, more varied and interesting.
Below, violets flowering on the forest floor.
I didn't have an opportunity to explore the botanical riches of Taiwan, but they exist. The island is the most diverse region in the newly published Flora of China--including the renowned plant diversity of the mainland's Yunnan Province. (Yes, Taiwanese certainly object to being lumped into the People's Republic of China, but the comparison of plant diversity is useful). Mountains, valleys and coastline, very wet to just moist, temperate to tropical, all have selected for different plants, in many cases unique to Taiwan. Of course you have to have a good eye, or walk in a remote area or look in a botanical garden to see them, because for the most part people surround themselves with common, useful or very showy plants. But they are there. Wild Taiwan is easy to reach, complex and gorgeous.
Comments and corrections welcome.
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