Aubrey’s Nature Field Note

Title:  Natural Wonders of Taiwan: The Taiwanese Cherry Blossom Tree

Abstract:

April is the high point of cherry blossom season in Taiwan. People from all over the island flock to Taiwan’s national parks to catch a glimpse of the blooming pink cherry trees native to the island. When in bloom, the dark pink cherry blossoms are usually found in clusters on the branches of the cherry trees, sometimes in several dozen groups. The Taiwanese government spends a lot of time and money to preserve these trees, as many Taiwanese people see them as symbols of Taiwan’s beautiful natural environment.

Introduction:

Take a look at your world map. If you can find China and Japan off China’s east coast, look a little under Japan and you’ll see a small island. That is Taiwan. It’s cherry blossom season right now in Taiwan, and the trees in Taiwan’s higher altitudes are blooming with bouquets of pink.

Every year between February and April, Taiwanese people flock to the mountain areas of the island to see the cherry blossoms in bloom. A lot of tourists from mainland China come to national sites such as Yangmingshan National Park, Wulai Aboriginal Area, and the Alishan Forest Recreation Area, all to see the trees filled with blooms of dark pink flowers.

Recently, I traveled to one of these areas to see the famous blossoms for myself.  My host family really enjoyed seeing the beauty of some cherry blossoms in one of the higher altitude areas of Taiwan.  We were all very excited to get to see them in their natural environment! My host mom explained to me that going to see the cherry blossoms every year is a big tradition in her and a lot of other Taiwanese families, as it is a marker for the beginning of spring and a time to celebrate the coming season!

What does this creature or plant look like?

When talking about cherry trees, most people think of the small, light pink flowers of the Japanese cherry blossom, or sakura. Taiwanese cherry trees are native to Taiwan, and while they have some similar characteristics to Japanese cherry trees, there are also some major differences as well.

The Taiwanese cherry blossoms’ flowers are larger than Japanese cherry blossoms. The flowers often bloom all at the same time and in large quantities, making them quite a sight to behold. The blossoms of the Taiwanese cherry tree are dark pink in color, usually containing three to five petals per flower. In contrast, the Japanese cherry blossom is pale pink, and each flower has several very small petals.

Taiwanese cherry trees are smaller than their Japanese counterparts. Slender and growing 20 to 25 feet tall, Taiwanese cherry trees do not reach the 30-foot height most Japanese cherry trees can reach.  Both Taiwanese and Japanese cherry trees do not live very long—only 15-20 years in most cases. Compare this to giant redwoods, which can be hundreds or even thousands of years old!

How did I feel when I saw it?

Taiwanese cherry blossom trees are some of the most beautiful things in nature I have ever seen! The combination of mountain views and pink cherry trees against a bright blue sky makes for a breathtaking view, and one I won’t soon forget. The clusters of dark pink blooms on the cherry trees are pretty amazing to see. When I looked at the flowers up close, I noticed how fragile and delicate the flowers’ petals are. Looking closer, I could see the intricate system of veins flowing up from the heart of the flower, bringing nutrients to its parts. I felt a sense of wonder, thinking about the relationship between the cherry tree, its branches, and the pink blossoms that bloom on it. It made me think about the delicate balancing act involved in nature, and how even minor changes to the environment can drastically affect the plants and animals in it.

Where does it live?

Taiwanese cherry blossoms mainly grow in areas of Taiwan from 1,000 to 3,000 meters. Most are found in higher altitudes and in the mountain areas. Cherry blossom trees bloom from February to April. There are several famous spots in Taiwan where people go every year to see the cherry blossoms. Near Taipei, in the north of Taiwan, Yangmingshan National Park and Wulai Aboriginal Area are two popular destinations. Perhaps the most famous is Alishan Forest Recreation Area, located in the middle of Taiwan. Seeing the sunrise on the top of the mountain there, amidst the blooming cherry blossoms, is listed as one of the top five most spectacular sights one can see while in Taiwan.

How does it use its environment to survive?

Cherry blossoms thrive in higher altitudes and temperate climates. All flowering cherry trees need full sun and well-drained soil in order to bloom fully. The high mountain environment where most Taiwanese cherry trees are found helps it to survive. As most cherry trees are located in mountainous regions at higher altitudes, the trees are able to receive the full force of the sun necessary for them to reach peak blooming. The soil in mountainous regions is well-drained, too. What that means is rainfall that is soaked up by the soil quickly travels downward because of its location on top of a mountain. This leaves behind soil that is moist, but not too wet, creating a favorable environment for the cherry trees to absorb nutrients from the soil and feed its blossoms. This ideal environment allows for Taiwanese cherry trees to reach their peak height, and also enables them to produce the hundreds of blooming pink flowers that make them so beautiful!

What can harm this creature? Are we worried about it?

Taiwanese cherry trees are somewhat fragile, and have a tendency to get diseases and pests. The Taiwanese government takes special care to tend to the needs of cherry trees. Cherry trees in national parks like Yangmingshan and Alishan are specially cared for by members of the park staff. Diseases—including viruses, root rot, twig blight—and insect infestations are prevented with the regular tending and care. Caring for these trees is a big undertaking! They usually require frequent watering, fertilizing, and pruning. While this may seem like a lot of trouble, environmentalists and many Taiwanese people feel it is worth it because of the beauty the cherry trees bring to Taiwan’s natural environment, and also because of their cultural importance as markers for the beginning of spring!

My host mom with the cherry trees and beautiful mountain views

My host mom with the cherry trees and beautiful mountain views

 

Taiwanese cherry blossom blooms

 

Taiwanese Cherry Blossom Blooms

Cherry trees on the mountainside

 

Cherry trees on the mountainside

My host mom excited to be among the cherry blossoms

 

My host mom excited to be among the cherry blossoms

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