A flower species depicted on the NT$1,000 banknote that is commonly believed to be a Yushan thistle is actually a newly discovered species of Cirsium, academics said on Saturday.
Chang Chih-yi (張之毅), a doctoral candidate at National Chung Hsing University’s forestry department, said that the flower is a Cirsium tatakaense — a species endemic to south-central Taiwan that he and his team discovered.
Chang and his supervisor, associate professor Tseng Yen-hsueh (曾彥學), published their findings after five years of research in the international academic journal PhytoKeys on Feb. 14.
Photo courtesy of National Chung Hsing University
The Cirsium tatakaense, which grows in the Tataka area (塔塔加) in Yushan National Park and is often photographed by visitors, can easily be mistaken for the similar-looking Yushan thistle, the two men said.
The flower has yet to be seen outside of the park at altitudes of 2,000m to 3,000m above sea level, they said.
The best place to see the flower is in open areas along the roads near the Tataka Visitor Center, they said, adding that it is in season from August to October.
Photo courtesy of National Chung Hsing University
The flower’s leaves are more slender than those of the Yushan thistle and it has more petals, they said.
The Cirsium tatakaense has a thornier and longer stem, which is easily distinguishable from that of the Yushan thistle, and its petals are white, droop when in bloom and have sharp toothpick-like thorns surrounding their base, they said.
The researchers also examined pollen samples from the two plants and found that the Cirsium tatakaense has much larger grains of pollen.
Although the number of Cirsium tatakaense is low, there is little danger of the plant becoming extinct, as the remoteness and high elevation of its habitat means it is protected from human activity, Chang and Tseng said.
However, climate change could affect the flower’s growth, so efforts should be made to conserve the plant, the academics said.
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