The Council of Agriculture yesterday unveiled a red list of the nation’s vascular plants and said that orchids make up the majority of the nation’s endangered plant species.
The list was compiled by the council and the Taiwan Society of Plant Systematics with contributions from more than 50 botanists, who spent four years investigating the conditions of the nation’s wild flora, Endemic Species Research Institute Director Yang Jia-dong (楊嘉棟) said.
It is the nation’s most comprehensive investigation into vascular plants, Yang said, adding that the evaluation refers to the red list criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Of the 4,442 investigated species, 27 have become extinct, among which five have become extinct worldwide and 22 only in Taiwan, said Chang Ho-ming (張和明), an assistant researcher at the institute.
The five extinct species are Rhododendron kanehirai, Nymphoides lungtanensis, Musa yamiensis, Limnophila heterophylla and Limnophila taoyuanensis, according to the list.
The Rhododendron kanehirai used to grow along New Taipei City’s Beishih River (北勢溪), but the habitat was ruined by the construction of the Feicuei Reservoir (翡翠水庫), Chang said.
Fortunately, some of their seedlings were preserved and can be restored in laboratories, he added.
There are a total of 989 species of plant that are critically endangered, nationally endangered or nationally vulnerable, which is about one-fifth of the total number of plants in Taiwan, he said.
While the exportation of orchids earns the nation about NT$6 billion (US$206 million) annually, some orchids — such as Phalaenopsis — can only be found in greenhouses, said Li Chiuan-yu (李權裕), another assistant researcher.
Three decades ago, nearly 200 orchid species could be found on Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼) and Green Island (綠島), but unrestrained human activity have largely destroyed their habitats, Li said.
The institute has begun to restore certain orchids, such as Spathoglottis plicata, on Orchid Island, Li said, adding that is also invited local elementary schools to maintain the plants.
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