HAVEN FOR INDIGENOUS PLANTS
By Steven Crook Translated
by Ann Lee
Kaohsiung is lucky to have a park devoted
to indigenous flora. The Protogenic Plants Garden is
small (4.66 hectares) and, from the outside, it doesn't
look much different from a regular city park with benches
and a play area for kids. Most of the information boards
are bilingual. As you enter the garden, you'll notice
a set of rules: Visitors are forbidden to touch plants,
catch creatures, or introduce outside organisms.
If you can, visit more than once and
read up on the species here. One interesting plant is
Barringtonia racemosa, also known as the Fish-Killer
Tree. This medium-sized evergreen, notable for its huge
leaves, is found throughout Asia. Its long, hanging
strands of green buds (which become pink or white flowers)
are its most attractive feature.
Among plants you've likely seen before,
but perhaps never paid much attention to, is Lantana
camara L. The specimens here have pink and white flowers,
though orange flowers seem to be more common around
The Chinese Flame Tree (Koelreuteria henryi Dummer)
is a soapberry species. The berries can be crushed and
soap made from the pulp; as recently as the 1960s, country
folk in Taiwan used these berries to do their laundry.
It grows well in both rural and urban environments.
When in flower, it has red and yellow blossoms.
The camphor tree -- camphor oil used
to be one of Taiwan's main exports -- is also represented.
There's also a section devoted to some of Taiwan's 300
species of aquatic plants.
The easiest way to get to the garden is by train. Get
off at Zuoying (not New Zuoying, which serves the high-speed
railway station) and turn right as you walk out of the
station. Walk parallel to the train tracks for a few
minutes, then turn right across the tracks at the first
intersection. You'll see the garden on the left side
of the road. Alternatively, take City Bus No. 301