The Central Cross-Island Highway is lined with a welcoming committee of the Taiwan Red Pine (Pinus taiwanensis), the main tree species used for forestation in the mountains of Taiwan. The Taiwan Red Pine is rich in pine resin, which is an important ingredient for the making of turpentine and rosin. Pure Taiwan Red Pine forests are therefore also prone to forest fires. Fire may burn off the mature pine trees and also cause the hard pine cones to crack and eject the seeds within. During the raining seasons in spring, the seeds sprout and eventually grow into a new forest. Fires therefore play a key role in the generational alternation of the Taiwan Red Pine. No wonder people sometimes quip that forest fires may be set by the trees themselves.
A species endemic to Taiwan, though often mistaken for the Taiwan Yew (Taxus sumatrana), the two are not closely related at all. If you look closely, its terminal buds usually appear in a cluster of three. It is therefore also known as the “Three-Tipped Yew”. There are separate male and female trees (dioecious). It is now listed as a rare plant. Recommended viewing location: Lishan Eco-trail.
Common name: Five-Flavor-Fruit (Magnolia-Vine)
A species endemic to Taiwan, this deciduous woody vine grows in forests between 1,500 ~ 2,400 meters above the sea level. It can be found along the Lishan Eco-trail and along the road to Fushoushan Farm. The clusters of red berries look delicious, but actually the berries are sweet and sour and the seeds are bitter and spicy, and all have an astringent tang. The mix of flavors is also why it’s also known as the “Five-Flavor-Fruit”. It has a cousin named the “Southern Five-Flavor-Fruit” (Chinese Magnoliavine Fruit, Schisandra sphenanthera) with berries that are grouped into a ball. Despite a different appearance, the name says it all about the flavors.
Common Name: Pearl Flower, Snow Flower
Between late winter and early spring, Lishan is cold enough to make your teeth chatter. The cliffs along the Central Cross-Island Highway seems to be covered with a layer of white snow as well. Upon closer examination, the branches are in fact covered in hundreds of small white flowers swaying in the wind. These are like the smiling faces of young girls welcoming passing visitors. The delicate, snow-white flowers look like small pearls, or snow blowing in the wind when in full bloom, so it is also often called the Pearl Flower or Snow Flower.
Common Name: Taiwan Stranvaesia
A species endemic to Taiwan, Taiwan Stranvaesia is found in forests between 2000 ~ 3000 meters above the sea level, and the clusters of red berries last well in the fall and winter. The red makes a perfect match with the shiny green leaves. The berries are shaped like pears so it is also known as the “Yushan False Pear”. Many birds like to feed on the berries. Recommended viewing location: Can be found around Yakou in Siyuan and Tianchi on Fushoushan.