Monday, 22 April 2013

Fushan Botanical Garden

Sometimes, visiting the most charming sites in Taiwan takes a little extra effort, and this is true of Fushan Botanical Garden. Geographically, it isn't far from Wulai, which is in easy commuting distance of southern Taipei city but, lying the other side of the mountains, it can only be reached by travelling to Yilan and then turning north again.

Visitor numbers are restricted to 300 a day, by application only, and there's no public transportation available, so we were very lucky to have friends who invited us along on their trip.

Having visited Taipei Botanical Garden, I am already starting to become familiar with some of Taiwan's indigenous plant species, but I was little prepared for the scale of Fushan. At 410 hectares it must rank amongst the largest botanical gardens. Only 30 hectares are open to the public, but that's quite enough for a day's wandering.

Taiwan is home to many indigenous plant and animal species that evolved during its long geographic isolation, and Fushan is a safe haven for many of them. Despite long walks through the mountains around Taipei, I saw many species for the first time at Fushan, as well as old favourites that have taken up residence in the British countryside.
The garden opens at 9 am and visitors must leave by 3.30, so we arrived early to make the most of the time available. We saw two videos about the plants and animals inhabiting the area, and had a short talk by a guide, then we were left to our own devices.

As well as many specimen trees and explanatory signs in English and Chinese, there are hectares of forest, lakes and rivers. We saw Formosan rock monkeys, and heard many frogs croaking in the undergrowth. The clear water of the rivers and lakes was teeming with fish and hovering over them were dragonflies of various sizes and colours.

The area experiences extremely wet weather, with rain falling every two out of three days, which is possibly why there were no mosquitoes. It may also be due to the high altitude, as the garden lies between 400 and 1400 metres above sea level. I'm not sure how high we were, but clouds frequently obscured nearby peaks.

The high humidity created ideal conditions for growth, huge ferns giving the area a prehistoric atmosphere. They grew everywhere, including in the trees.

We spent several hours wandering the gardens, breathing the rich mountain air. I was so glad I wasn't the one who had to drive all the way back to Taipei. I think everyone slept well that night.

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