Taiwania cryptomerioides

Special Report - "Taiwania Day" in Kyoto Prefectural Botanical Garden




Taiwania cryptomerioides Hayata
This unique species was documented by our team for the Dendrological Atlas project in midFebruary 1995 in the Gaoligong mountains, Nujiang Prefecture, on the border region of Yunnan and Myanmar/Burma, with help from both the National Herbarium, Beijing, and the Kunming Institute of Botany, Yunnan. In November next year – during our Earthwatch expedition to Taiwan, coordinated by the Taiwan Forest Research Institute, Taipei – we had the opportunity to survey the conifer stands in the Chilan Forest Reserve, including a magnificent stand of Taiwania. During these wonderful opportunities – many thanks for all who helped us – we could not make a documentation of the coning stage of the species. After all, our "conifer archive" is now richer by specimens and photos of this unique conifer! Thanks to Dr. Hidetoshi Nagamasu of the Kyoto University Museum who made the arrangements with the Kyoto Prefectural Botanical Garden, István was crane lifted to document coning branches of a mature 30-m tree of Taiwania. Not long ago a few fallen open cones were noticed under the tree – this made curious both the garden staff and István so they started to look at the tree top. But nothing could be seen even with binoculars. No wonder – this large tree has really small, lightweight cones less than 2.5 cm in length, hidden among the dense branchlets near the top of the tree. – Below are some of the rarely seen pictures made with the help of Mr. Nakai who handled the machine in the air and moved it into the right position for taking the photos. The history of the tree goes back to 1930 when small plants of Taiwania were sent back from the Kyoto University Experimental Forest (then located in Taiwan). Today, Kyoto Prefectural Botanical Garden has several mature trees grown from this stock and at least two of them are coning. (When preparing Conifers Around the World for publication we were searching for close-up photos of this tree – it was not easy, finally Taiwanese colleagues helped us out. Now, future editions of C.A.W. may contain some new images!) It is perhaps good to recall the discovery (for science) of Taiwania. It was first found in Taiwan, and described in 1906, later in the continent (Yunnan and adjacent areas in Myanmar/Burma, described in 1939). And to surprise "coniferists", a dozen years ago it was also found in northern Vietnam! In its primary habitats Taiwania can grow into a stately tree reaching 60 m in height and up to 3 m in trunk diameter. Today, July 5, the task in Kyoto was only to go as high as 25 m to get the images. Thanks for the kind assistance we received from the Prefectural Botanical Garden.