Wed, Sep 13, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Researchers date famous ancient tree

FLEDGLING:The Formosan cypress which fell on Sept. 11 last year was 1,810 years old, 990 years younger than the figures published by the NTU forestry office in 1953

By Hsieh Chieh-yu and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A sign explaining the history of a fallen Formosan cypress tree is displayed on Sunday at the opening day of an educational walkway in the Xitou Nature Education Area in Nantou County’s Lugu Township.

Photo: Hsieh Chieh-yu, Taipei Times

After measuring the famous ancient tree of Nantou County that toppled last year, researchers on Monday said the tree was shorter, narrower and 990 years younger than previously thought.

National Taiwan University (NTU) experimental forestry office staff installed plaques at the site to mark the first anniversary of the tree’s fall and the opening of an educational walkway in Lugu Township’s (鹿谷) Xitou Nature Education Area (溪頭自然教育園區).

The experimental forestry office looks after many of the nation’s oldest forests and woodlands, including the densely wooded Xitou forest, where the tree once stood.

According to the plaque, the ancient tree — a Formosan cypress that fell on Sept. 11 last year after a downpour loosened the soil beneath its roots — was 38m tall, 13.6m in circumference and 1,810 years old.

Those figures update those published by the office in 1953, which said the tree was 46m tall, 16.8m in circumference and 2,800 years old.

The office said its new figures are more accurate than those taken six decades ago, as advances in technology had improved instruments and methods used in arboreal measurements.

In addition, researchers found that many plants, known as epiphytes, had grown on the old tree’s trunk.

They counted 26 kinds of epiphyte with roots in the soil, six types of vines, 13 true epiphytes and four facultative epiphytes, a total of 49 species, the researchers said.

After much debate following the fall of the tree last year, the office decided to build a walkway around the original site that would educate visitors about the ecology of the forest and its benefits, the researchers said.

The walkway and an owl-shaped memorial for the tree took three months of planning and construction, the office said, adding that it is pleased that the project was completed on time for the first anniversary of the fall of the tree.

Plaques placed along the 115m walkway include notes on the life cycle of the ancient tree, an overview of Xitou forest, forest science, the production by cypress forests of phytoncides and oils that have health benefits and other topics.

For the public unveiling of the walkway, the Environmental Protection Administration organized public tours of the forest in cooperation with Le Midi Hotel, Ginkgo Hotel and other local businesses.

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