The cherry trees on Yangmingshan (陽明山) have started blooming in the past week due to a warmer than usual winter, prompting the Taipei City Government to move the opening of this year’s flower festival, originally scheduled for Feb. 27, to coincide with the first day of the Lunar New Year on Sunday.
Chan Te-shu (詹德樞), deputy director of Yangmingshan National Park Administration, said all facilities in the park, including tourist centers and tourist service stations, would be open to visitors throughout the upcoming holiday break, except for Lunar New Year’s Eve on Saturday.
The annual Yangmingshan Flower Festival is held in every first quarter of the year, beginning with the flowering of the Taiwan cherry (山櫻), double cherry (八重櫻), Japanese showa cherry (昭和櫻) and somei-yoshino cherry (吉野櫻) trees in the park around January to February, followed by the azalea blooms in February to March.
Park administration officials start closely monitoring weather and other conditions in early January to forecast when the cherry blossom season would begin and decide on a date for the opening of the flower festival.
Influenced by Japanese customs, a day trip to the local park or mountain areas for “cherry blossom viewing” is a favorite pastime for many Taiwanese during springtime.
Ministry of Transportation and Communications chief secretary Kuo Tsung-sheng (郭宗生) said that traffic control measures would be in effect at the park during the Lunar New Year break, which runs until Feb. 17. Traffic control will be in place for vehicles going up Yangmingshan from 8am to 3pm, and for vehicles going down the mountain from 2pm to 6pm.
“The traffic control measures are for vehicles without a travel permit in the area. So we encourage people heading to Yangmingshan to take public transportation,” Kuo said.
“In past years, we have seen people going up Yangmingshan by taking other access roads. However, there is not enough parking space on the mountain, so police will step up monitoring of illegal parking,” he added.
Another good place to enjoy spring cherry blossoms is at the Taipei Water Park in Gongguan District (公館) near National Taiwan University.
The park has cultivated a Japanese cherry, kawazu-zakura (日本河津櫻), that is still relatively uncommon in Taiwan, park officials said.
The plant was produced by Japanese horticulturists who took Taiwan cherry trees and transplanted them in the Kyushu region, where they cross-fertilized naturally with the local Oshima cherry (大島櫻), yielding a new variety of cherry. The flower is pinkish-white in color, with larger petals than most varieties of cherry blossoms.
Park administration officials said they had tried many times to duplicate the Japanese effort in Taiwan, but only achieved success this year, with more than 100 kawazu cherry trees flourishing in the park in recent weeks. The flowers are expected to blossom through March.
Other varieties of cherry trees, such as the Taiwan cherry, double cherry and somei-yoshino cherry can also be seen at the park.