Museum presents ‘magic’ plants

HANDS-ON::One of the exhibition’s organizers said the displays were designed for young people, who can get to know how plants have been used in the past

By Jason Pan  /  Staff writer

Fri, Mar 14, 2014 - Page 5

A new National Taiwan Museum exhibition uses interactive booths and educational commentaries to provide a close-up look into the world of trees, flowers, grass and bamboo, while demonstrating how seeds grow.

The Magic of Plants exhibition opened on Jan. 28 and runs through Aug. 31 on the museum’s first floor, which is next to the 228 Peace Park in Taipei.

One of the exhibition’s objectives is to introduce chloroplasts, which is an organelle found in green leaves that makes photosynthesis possible. Photosynthesis is a process that converts light energy into chemical energy.

The exhibition also presents different capabilities plants have, describing them as incredibly simple yet brilliant tricks and survival strategies designed to help plants combat predators.

The museum’s Web site describes the exhibition as “magic.”

“By using specimens, models and images to demonstrate the magic, this exhibition creates a wonderland of plants for visitors,” the Web site says.

“The magic tricks that plants have are the reason this beautiful world of ours is full of green forests, colorful flowers and fruit. The exhibition is presented in a lively way, with hands-on interactive learning for young people,” Taiwan Society of Plant Systematics chairman Chiu Wen-liang (邱文良) said at the exhibition’s opening last month.

The society and National Taiwan Museum are the exhibition’s main organizers.

Contributions toward the exhibition were made by the Council of Agriculture, the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute, Taipei Zoo, the National Museum of Prehistory, the Taiwan Science Education Center, Fu Jen Catholic University’s Department of Life Sciences and Wellcome Library in London.

“Most people do not notice plants in their daily lives, because plants are fixed in place, they do not move or make sounds. However, to grow, survive and reproduce, plants have what we like to call ‘magic.’ They have an extraordinary design and structure and have a unique relationship with the environment and other life forms,” Chiu said.

Cultural and historical perspectives are highlighted in the museum’s first-floor corridors, where the displays teach the importance of the plant kingdom to people and nations throughout history.

The presentations show how early human civilizations cultivated cereal crops, including rice, wheat, corn, barley and oats. They also tell the story of spices used in different nations and the development of beverages and sugar.

Other highlights include displays of insect-eating plants, a specimen of the world’s largest flower, plants that use a chemical defense system and a variety of flowers that are used to make perfumes.

Museum officials said the exhibition presents more than 60 plant specimens, 15 scientific models and more than 60 pictorial illustrations to detail the many activities and processes of the botanical world.

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30am to 5pm. Admission is NT$20 for adults and NT$10 for children.