The Taipingshan region is spectacular.
However, Taipingshan National Forest (太平山國家森林遊樂區) wasn’t always a picturesque and well-maintained protected area and its troubled past provides a significant contribution to the cultural fabric of the region and country. There’s more to it than that though. It also boasts a unique ecological makeup that has evolved with a cool climate, coastal weather patterns and high elevation. The area is an ecological enchantment that offers visitors a chance to experience geothermal activities, primary and secondary forests, high-mountain lakes and other natural attractions.
Holding third place as one of Taiwan’s three largest forested areas after Alishan and Baxianshan, Taipingshan National Forest Recreation Area conveys a different kind of experience with its remnants of man-made train tracks and logging equipment. There is much to see, do and learn about when it comes to the regions’ logging history. Guests can ride on the famous Bong-Bong Train that skirts the mountainside with incredible views across the horizon. This restored train and track system was originally used during the logging periods of Taipingshan between 1915 and the early 1980’s. In fact it was part of a larger rail network that was completed by the Taipingshan Forest Railway in 1934 and incorporated at least 12 stations.
But we’re here today to talk about something else. Something alive and wondrous. Here are six unique ecological wonders of Taipingshan National Forest that you may not have heard about before:
1. The World Famous Dream Creature: Board-Tailed Swallowtail Butterfly (Agehana maraho) / 夢幻般的生物：寬尾鳳蝶
The Board-Tailed Swallowtail Butterfly (Agehana maraho) was first discovered in Taipingshan and named by Japanese entomologists in 1934. It is now the national butterfly of Taiwan. This butterfly feeds only on Taiwan Sassafras and now is most commonly spotted in the Jioujhihze Hot Spring Area. This is one of many endemic species found inside Taipingshan and across Taiwan.
2. The Guardian Angel of Taipingshan Night: The Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) / 夜間的守護者：灰林鴞
There are twelve species of owls in Taiwan and eight of them have been identified in the Taipingshan area. The Tawny Owl is the most frequently spotted one in Taipingshan and represents the environmental stability and habitat quality of this protected forest. The Tawny Owl is the representative of the Taipingshan owls and can be observed on the Cueifong Scenic Road near the high-mountain lake.
3. The Hidden Figure of a Hundred Years: Ota’s Tree frog (Buergeria otai) / 隱身在山林的生物：太田樹蛙
The Ota’s Tree frog (Buergeria otai) was identified by a research team from National Taiwan Normal University. It is distributed to the south from Lanyang River in Yilan County. This species is similar to the Japanese Buerger’s frog, however the calling analysis revealed them to be a completely different species. It is one of the more recent amphibians identified in Taiwan.
4. The Extraordinary Forest Ecosystem: The Taiwan Cypress Forest / 非凡的森林系統：台灣柏樹林
The Taiwan Cypress is seen as a sacred tree in Taiwan. The cypress plants are distributed exclusively in Taiwan, Japan and parts of North America. Among these regions, the Taiwan yellow cypress (chamaecyparis taiwanensis) and Taiwan red cypress (Chamaecyparis formosensis) are two timber woods with the highest quality in the world. You can see both of these precious species of cypress plants on the Taipingshan Cypress Forest Trail.
台灣柏樹在台灣被視為神木，僅分佈於台灣、日本和北美部分地區，其中台灣黃柏（chamaecyparis taiwanensis）和台灣紅柏（Chamaecyparis formosensis）是世界上品質最高的兩種木材，你可以在太平山檜木原始林步道上看到這兩種珍貴的柏樹植物。
5. The Relict Summer-Green Forest: Taiwan Beech (Fagus hayatae) / 夏日之景：台灣山毛櫸
Taiwan Beech (Fagus hayatae) is one of the more rare and valuable plants protected by the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act in Taiwan. It is also the symbol of the summer-green forest ecosystem that occurs above 2,000m near Cuiefong Lake in Taipingshan National Forest. The largest population of Taiwan Beech is located in Taipingshan National Forest and can be seen while hiking the famous Taiwan Beech Trail. One of the more popular times to see this forest is every October to November as the foliage begins to change color.
6. Blooming Despite the Cold: Yushan Rhododendron / 寒風中綻放：玉山杜鵑
Growing high on the mountain ranges of Taiwan, rhododendrons are short plants with disproportionately large flowers, attesting to the strong survival capability of these species.There are 15 endemic species of Rhododendrons in Taiwan, including the Yushan Rhododendron and Red-hairy Rhododendron, which are the most common Rhododendron in the high-altitude areas. A range of colors are featured in bloom and spring between March and May are the best times to see the Yushan Rhododendron also known as the Alpine Rose, in Taipingshan National Forest.