In general, modern urbanites are unfamiliar with Taiwan's native plants and vegetation types. This museum's 4.5-hectare Botanical Garden provides a place for city dwellers to experience Taiwan's native plants up close. In addition, inside a towering greenhouse is a diverse collection of rain forest trees and plants from all over the world, presented in the form of a simulated rain forest environment complete with complicated plant communities.
Tropical Rain Forest Greenhouse
This giant, glass greenhouse features six sets of columns and seven circular beams, and is the most prominent landmark in the Botanical Garden. Inside, the exhibition area is divided into several sections including towering trees, man and plants, tropical flowering trees, orchids, palm slopes, river valley wetlands and fish of the Amazon River. This very large greenhouse contains 300 species of rain forest plants to simulate the complex rain forest environment including Ceiba pentandra, Hevea brasiliensis and Cecropia peltata, as well as coffee and cocoa trees. In the air-conditioned basement of the Tropical Rain Forest Greenhouse is a 14-foot aquarium, housing some of the Amazon’s largest fish. A series of smaller aquariums present tera fish and piranha.
Northern Taiwan is influenced by the northeastern monsoons. It covers the Yilan Plain, northern coast and the Taoyuan Terrace, with Miaoli’s Huoyian (Flame) Mountain serving as the southern border. The climate is humid with average amount of precipitation. This exhibit area is divided into several subsections including tree ferns, wetlands environment, dry river valley and windward ridge environment, etc. The main species of plants in this exhibit area including Cyathea lepifera, Cyathea metteniana, Chionanthus retusus, Euscaphis japonica, Machilus thunbergii, Quercus glauca, Michelia formosana and Diospyros morrisiana.
This is the area in Central Taiwan between the Da-an River and the Jhuoshuei River. It has the mildest and most favorable climate for plants in Taiwan with plenty of sunshine and little wind damage. This area is divided into deciduous plant and broadleaved evergreen forest sub-sections. The collection of species of plants in this exhibit area includes Cinnamomum camphora, Liquidambar formosana, Acer serrulatum, Sapium sebiferum, Sapindus mukorossi, Tricyrtis formosana and Setaria palmifolia.
The Southern Lowlands include the area from the Jianan Plain to the Pingdong Plain, between the Jhuoshuei and Fonggang rivers. This is one of the most important agricultural regions in Taiwan. However, to create the abundant farmland here, much of the natural vegetation was cut down. This destruction is seen in the emergence of wasteland and areas of secondary growth. The species introduced in this area are Acacia confuse, Melia azedarach, Broussonetia papyrifera, Macaranga tanarius, Mallotus japonicus, Vitex negundo, Imperata cylindrica and Miscanthus floridulus.
Monsoon Rain Forest
This is an environment in which the northeastern monsoons alternate with the southwestern monsoons. The dry and wet seasons are distinct. Dense thickets, with the branches of trees overlapping one another, are characteristic of this environment, in addition to continuous, flat canopies. Coarse, dry leaf blades possess cuticles or rust-colored hairs. This exhibit area includes examples of the Fonggang River Valley, Shouka and Mudan Mountain environments. Plant species exhibited along radiating paths are Castanopsis indica, Castanopsis formosana, Viburnum odora-tissimum, Ficus variegata Blume var. garciae, Astronia formosana, Medinilla formorsana, Calamus formosanus and Pleocnemia rufinervis.
Atolls are made up of porous coral rich in lime and possess a climate that is hot and dry. Trees grow up through cracks in the rocks. Deep in the valleys, aerial roots of Ficus trees stretch downward, forming prop root forests. Mountain slopes are scoured by rainwater, creating buttresses. Along windy ridges, thorny forests develop, composed of plants with coarse, small, dry leaves. Atoll species exhibited in this area include Diospyros philippensis, Palaquium formosanum, Drypetes littoralis, Aglaia formosana, Dendrocnide meyeniana, Ficus benjamina, Ficus tinctoria and Longflower justicia.
Orchid Island is a volcanic island located off the southeastern coast of Taiwan. It possesses abundant vegetation and forests. This island has a closer phytogeographical affinity with the Philippines than with Taiwan. The indigenous Tao (Yami) tribe that inhabits this island has developed a unique ethnobotanical culture. The Orchid Island exhibit area introduces the species of Myristica ceylanica var. cagayanensis, Litsea garciae Vidal, Euonymus cochinchinensis, Syzgium simile, Pometia pinnata Forst., Donax cannaeformis and Excoecaria kawakamii.
Littoral Forest (Strand Forest)
Littoral forest plants are light, fibrous and possess buoyant fruits that are able to flow with the currents. Such forests develop along estuaries, bays and shoals, forming a verdant screen between the coastline and the inland plain. Banana Bay and Sail Rock are examples of littoral forests. In this exhibit area the plant species include Barringtonia rasiatica, Barringtonia racemosa, Thespesia populnea, Hernandia nymphiifolia, Guettarda speciosa, Pongamia pinnata and Cerbera manghas.
Taitung Cycads(Eastern Lowlands)
The Eastern Lowlands are confined to the alluvial cliffs and steep terraces along the Mawuku and Luye rivers. Taitung cycads (Cycas taitungensis) have a unique, short tree-like appearance and are very hardy. This is a relic species, that is currently endangered. Species exhibited in this exhibit area are Diospyros eriantha, Severinia buxifolia, Arundo formosana and Selaginella tamariscina.
Lianas and Succulents
This area focuses on Taiwan’s native lianas of the legume family. Ten species are represented including Rusty-leaf mucuna, Longglobose fruit caesalpinia and Taiwan millettia. Adjacent to this is an area featuring succulents, including the cactus and other families.
Nursery and Seed Bank
Next to the Research and Education Center are the nursery and seed bank. These units are responsible for the Botanical Garden’s live exhibits, collection of live specimens and the conservation and propagation of endangered and native plants. The nursery currently houses about 1,000 species, many of them orchids, such as Sobralia and Phaius orchids. The elephant ear orchid, the largest butterfly orchid that grows on tree trunks, and double coconut, the plant with the heaviest seeds are also represented. The seed bank holds a collection of seeds from Botanical Garden plants. It also carries out exchanges with related agencies in Taiwan and abroad, as well as tissue cultivation of a diversity of plant species. Currently, the endangered Lilium speciosum has been successfully cultivated. Many other orchid species have also been grown into seedlings. The terminal buds of a number of alpine plants have been preserved in liquid nitrogen.
Special Exhibit Room and Ferns Exhibit Room
If no special exhibitions are being held in this room, it is dedicated to the exhibition of ferns from a variety of environments. Special exhibitions are held on a non-regular basis, and feature such topics as orchids, bulbs and peonies. These special exhibitions offer visitors the chance to see flowers in an array of striking colors and enjoy aromatic flower fragrances, as well as the opportunity to learn about a variety of plant types.