Monday August 25, 2008
Being our last day in the field, we knew the botanizing would be brief
since we needed to make it to the coastal town of Taichung in Northwest
Taiwan by evening. We headed back down Ali Shan on Highway 18 to connect
with Interstate 3. Our first stop was just down from the Ali Shan police checkpoint, where we entered another cryptomeria forest at 6,600'. One of
the first plants I found was an impatiens with amazing black calyxes and
white petals. Only later when we saw it again, did Mark correctly suggest
it was instead a gesneriad, Hemiboea.
We found more of the red foliaged form of Begonia chitoensis, but at 1,600'
higher than before.
A dark-foliaged schizophragma and an array of epiphytic ferns adorned
almost all of the trees here. We even found Alpinia here, much higher than
we had seen it before, along with many more calanthes.
Some of the most interesting ferns included a glossy form of the normally
dull-leaved pyrrosia, an arachniodes that produced plants from leaf bulbils,
another naked rhizome polypodium, and a stoloniferous woodwardia resembling
Heading further down the mountain, a stop at 6,000' yielded an amazing 8'
tall callicarpa with huge clusters of developing fruit growing among
lithocarpus (evergreen oaks), and a patch of acorus growing nearby in a dry
Further down at 5,500', we stopped by a sheer roadside cliff covered with
Tricyrtis growing right on the rock face without what appeared be a speck
of soil. We initially assumed this to be more T. ravenii, but a second stop
several hundred feet lower with more advanced plants revealed this to be
our third tricyrtis species of the trip, T. lasiocarpa.
Also here, we found a carex resembling C. morrowii, and a peperomia. What
I initially assumed to be an escapee turned out to be one of many native
species of peperomia. Another strange find was what appeared to be a
ramonda in flower (later id'd as Conandron ramondioides), growing near the peperomia.
In the fern world, there was a very long leafed pteris here, that look
superficially like P. cretica and a lovely small white-backed cheilanthes
with deeply cut foliage...possibly C. farinosa.
At 5,300', we stopped to check out another slope of cryptomeria and bamboo,
only to find it rich with understory plants we hadn't seen before.
Underneath the cryptomerias were masses of Alocasia odora...a strange
As we meandered down the steep, but rich slope, we encountered the wonderful
Zingiber kawagoii in full flower along with paris (Pic 2)...a plant we certainly
didn't plan to find growing with alocasia.
Above us, we again spotted large clumps of the epiphytic Aglaomorpha
meyeniana fern in the trees. There were numerous masses of aspidistra here,
some solid green, while others were heavily spotted yellow. Nearby plants
included Disporum taiwanense, both in a branched and unbranched form, more
of the 4' tall cane-type begonia, along with more Arisaema grapospadix
including a stunning silver center form Mark spotted, among large patches
of lepisorus fern.
The scheffleras had switched here from the higher elevation Schefflera
taiwanense to the mid-elevation S. octophylla.
We wondered if this might be hardy from this fairly high location? Along
the roadside was an interesting clone of Colocasia esculenta with silver
speckling on the leaf. Initially I thought this might be insect damage,
but none was evident and none of the other nearby clones showed the same
pattern. Down the road just a bit, we even pulled off to see a massive
patch of Tradescantia zebrina...a nice and unique form that was obviously
Our final stop of the trip at 4700' was a steep sunny bank topped with a
solid line of more Tricyrtis lasiocarpa. This clumping species has one of
the most spectacular flowers of the genus, and to my knowledge, all of the
material in the trade represents a single population. I was surprised to
find it growing in full sun and producing large 2'+ tall plants, some with
leaves reaching 8" long x 4" wide.
It was hard to tear ourselves away, but realizing it was already 2:15pm and
we hadn't made it far past our starting point or stopped for lunch, we drug
As we continued toward our hotel in Taichung, we continued west on Highway
18. Not far away, we stopped at a small country store where we purchased
instant noodles which we enjoyed on their public picnic deck, overlooking
the forest below. One of the interesting things we noticed around the town
were more Lilium formosanum, but all without the purple back we had seen in
the high mountains. This form was also much taller than what we'd seen
earlier, perfectly resembling the form widely cultivated in the US. As we
traveled further along Highway 18, we continued to see this same form of
Lilium formosanum dotted along the roadside...only one flower in the wild,
but when brought into cultivation it had between 5-10 flowers just as it
does back in our home garden. It appears the commonly cultivated form is
simply a lower elevation form, but is indeed L. formosanum. When I relayed
this to Dr. John Grimshaw of the UK's Colesbourne Garden on my return, he
shared a passage from the 1950 publication in Woodcock & Stearn's,
Lilies of the World, which quotes William Price: "'In the plains the
flower is pure white, but as one ascends the perianth becomes faintly
marked with red on the reverse. Above 6000 feet it is wonderfully different,
being quite a small slender plant about one foot high with a perianth of
confirming size. At the higher elevations the red markings become deeper
and take the form of rich red bands on the keels of the perianth segments.
The change is so gradual and continuous that it is obviously the same
species all the time.'" That's pretty cool!
We had hoped to find Amorphophallus hirtus, which grew near Highway 18,
but despite our best efforts, it was nowhere to be found. If there was
anything disappointing about the trip, it was our inability to find any of
several Amorphophallus species that grow here including A. kiusianus,
A. henry, A. paeonifolius, and A. hirtus.
We continued west on Highway 18, then north on Interstate 3 into the huge
city of Taichung. Although it took a bit of backtracking in the city to
find Highway 12, the main route through town, we finally found it. Riding
down through the city, we couldn't believe our luck when we spotted our
hotel, The Splendor, right on our road in the midst of 5 o'clock rush hour
traffic. We were greeted by the concierge...a first for Taiwan and
directed to the front desk, who directed us to the hotel check-in on the
12th floor. Things were certainly looking up. We arrived at the 12th
floor to find a lush lobby, complete with a variety of restaurants, a
business center, and virtually anything a traveler could ask for. Our
room was equally as amazing. I've stayed at plenty of nice hotels, but
this probably tops the list...especially with our expectations being
I must thank travel agent Dale Mackie of Whose Travel in Taiwan. I had
struggled for months trying to make reservations in Taiwan with folks who
spoke little or no English. I was ready to give up when I stumbled on an
on-line article mentioning Whose Travel and the American who ran it. All
I had to do was tell Dale where we wanted to stay, our requirements, and
how much we wanted to spend, and he found us hotels that fit our needs.
If anyone plans to visit Taiwan, I can't say enough good things about
Whose Travel. Whose Travel was started by Dale, who moved to Taiwan in
1997, where he taught English to groups of travel agents. Dale eventually
married one of his students, Vivian, and the two of them formed Whose
Travel in 2003. When booking hotels rooms in Taiwan, you must pay in
advance of your trip, for which you will get a paper travel voucher.
All you have to do when traveling is to present the travel voucher when
you arrive at your hotel and you're in like Flint.
Our dinner buffet at The Splendor Hotel is hard to describe. The spread
from which to choose was literally the size of a football field...I've
never seen anything like it. Overindulging was the order of the day,
from soups, to entrees, to deserts...simply outstanding!
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