The Council of Agriculture’s Endemic Species Research Institute (TESRI) yesterday said it had succeeded in cultivating seedling sprouts of Kanehira azaleas, an indigenous species of flowering shrub that has been listed as a rare species.
The institute said the native habitat of the flower had been flooded during the construction of the Feitsui Reservoir in 1984 and that since then, the restoration of the species has been accomplished through cuttage propagation.
However, cuttage propagation is a kind of asexual reproduction, meaning that all the reproduced plants have the exact same genes and they are more likely to all be affected by certain environmental pressures or diseases, TESRI assistant researcher Lin Lei-chen (林瑞進) said.
“On the other hand, the cultivated seedling sprouts have diverse genes and better adaptability, and therefore a higher chance of survival,” Lin said.
“There are 15 indigenous species of azalea in Taiwan, of which 11 are endemic, but the azaleas that we usually see are mostly alien species imported from overseas,” he said.
“So the success in cultivating Kanehira azalea seedling sprouts shows the potential of restoring more indigenous species using the same method in the future,” Lin said.
Studies in other countries have proved that the roots of azaleas can absorb heavy metals in the soil, so experiments on the Kanehira azalea sprouts are scheduled for this year.
Should the results prove positive, the sprouts can be given to farmers for planting beside farmland that is close to industrial districts where the soil may have been contaminated by heavy metal substances, Lin said.
“We think it’s nice to start promoting the recovery of the indigenous species of Kanehira azalea because the flowers are pretty,” Lin said.
“They are decorative and improve soil quality at the same time,” he said.