A naturalist working for the Forestry Bureau has become an expert at identifying trees and plant species by collecting more than 500 varieties of seeds over the past 15 years, and she is planning to author the most complete field guide on the plant seeds of Taiwan.
Chang Wen-ting (張雯婷) said she is happy in her work.
“It is a great blessing in life, because I can combine my interest, work and leisure together,” she said.
She has been interested in flowers, plants and the natural world since childhood, and graduated from the Department of Forestry at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology.
The 34-year-old Chang now runs the bureau’s Community Forestry program.
On weekends and holidays, she goes outdoors to collect plant seeds, and Chang is now known as an expert on plant seeds.
She also uses the seeds in artistic endeavors, making good use of them in her paintings, wood carvings and handicrafts.
“Wow, they are so beautiful. These seeds have just about every variety of color,” visitors are often moved to say upon seeing her carefully arranged and meticulously categorized seeds.
It took Chang 15 years to assemble her current collection of seeds from across the nation. She said she started picking up seeds when she was at university, and her master’s degree focused on her favorite subject — studies of important species of plant seeds and techniques to promote their ripening.
Always carrying a small field notebook, the forestry officer can be found outdoors on her days off, going to parks, forests and mountains to hike and collect seeds.
She said she realizes that there are tens of thousands of plant species in the wild, and it might not be possible to collect them all during her lifetime.
However, she added that she would continue to engage in her hobby, because she wants to achieve her dream: to author the most complete field guide on the plants seed varieties of Taiwan.
Chang said that some plant seeds have strong foul smells that are nearly unbearable, but many seeds are beautiful and fascinating to look at. Her favorites are the blue seeds of the Indian leaf flower tree (Margaritaria indica).
“They look like little shiny sapphires, like lovely little jewels,” she said.
The most troublesome are the seeds of the sprawling vine, known as the “giant sensitive plant” (Mimosa diplotricha), with fern-like leaves that close when touched and seeds full of sharp, hooked barbs, she said, adding that when people accidentally come across its vines, they often receive painful stings from the barbs.
To collect its seeds, Chang was stung and cut, but she said the pain was worth it when she was able to get to the seeds.