Endemic plants in Taiwan

Tags: nature | plant

Endemic plants refer to a species of plants unique to a geological area like Taiwan. Because of Taiwan's unique geographical location, climate, and terrain structure, plants have evolved to create a very high ratio of endemic species on the island. Most of the endemic plants belong to the Orchidaceae, Compositae, Rosaceae, and Graminae. Taiwan is situated between the east Asian continental margin and western Pacific islands. The climate is divided into tropical and subtropical zones by the Tropic of Cancer. In terms of the plants’ geographical distributions, they belong to species between East Asia and Malaysia. Because geology, climate, and the distribution of plants share common barriers, and high mountains form tropical, warm, and frigid ecological zones, these factors helped build a refuge for plants during the third quarter glacier period, in which abundant plant life can be found in Taiwan despite its restricted territory. Additionally, the separation created by the strait and Taiwan's special terrain structure makes genetic exchange difficult in Taiwan and thus allows many unique species to develop through evolution. Plants which have become endemic to Taiwan are unique and are not distributed elsewhere. They are precious natural resources and are greatly valued in the research of systematic botany, ecological botany, and geobotany.

According to the 2nd edition of Flora of Taiwan, it is currently known that there are a total of 4,077 species of native vascular plants in Taiwan. Among these species, up to 1,067 are unique to Taiwan, making up 26.2%. The distribution density of unique species tends to increase with altitude. The ratio of unique species is proportional to altitude, a fact that makes sense in light of plant dispersion and evolution. As far as the number of species is concerned, the top three are, in order, Orchidaceae, Compositae, and Rosaceae, corresponding to 92, 64, and 49, respectively. However, in view of the ratio of unique species, the highest three are 80.8% of Gentianaceae, 63.2% of Theaceae, and 60% of Ericaceae, a phenomenon also related to altitude. For example, among the two largest species are Orchidaceae and Compositae, which possess a plurality of types and are extensively scattered. Various bright beautiful orchids and chrysanthemums can be seen in plains, coastal regions, and high mountains. Consequently, though high in quantity, they have a relatively low percentage rate. Comparatively, plant families such as Gentianaceae, Theaceae, and Ericaceae mostly grow in the mid-high sea level, resulting in a higher ratio of unique species. Here, the photos of endemic plants in Taiwan are exhibited, including pteridophytes, gymnospermaes, and dicotyledoneae plants such as Compositae, Gentianaceae, and Ericaceae, and monocotyledon plants like Orchidaceae.

Institution: Research Center for Biodiversity, Academia Sinica


Project:Digital Archives of Indigenous Plants of Taiwan-Academia Sinica


Gastrochilus fuscopunctatus

Leontopodium microphyllum
Gentiana scabrida Hayata Begonia chitoensis
Lepisorus megasorus (C.Chr.) Ching Cycas taitungensis Shen, Hill, Tsou & Chen
Adenophora morrisonensis ssp. uehatae Rhododendron pseudochrysanthum
Acer rubescens/Acer morrisonense Berberis morrisonensis
Hibiscus taiwanensis Hu Begonia ravenii Peng & Chen
Gentiana arisanensis Hayata Aster takasagomontanus Sasaki