Amateur botanist teaches students

By Liao Hsueh-ju  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Sep 12, 2018 - Page 4

An amateur botanist in Hsinchu County has grown nearly 70 species of indigenous plants in a 21.2m2 pond at a junior-high school and said he wants to introduce students to Taiwan’s indigenous plants.

A breakfast store owner by trade, Yu Lin-li (余林立) said he spends his leisure time cultivating plants.

Despite majoring in hotel management, Yu, 51, is considered a gardening enthusiast by people who know him.

Yu said he developed an affinity for aquatic plants while he was working at the county’s Little Ding-Dong Science Park in 1997, when his employer asked him to consult Endemic Species Research Institute botanist Huang Chao-ching (黃朝慶) about how to “tidy up” an ecological pond at the park.

The task grew into a hobby, Yu said, adding that ever since then, he been studying and growing aquatic plants.

He said that when he is not working, he follows Huang to wetlands at high and low altitudes to survey flora.

As his hobby grew, his home gradually became filled with plants, Yu said.

After leaving his job at the park, Yu and his wife opened a breakfast store, but his love for aquatic plants did not end there, he said.

He adorned the storefront with aquatic plants and vines, and went on excursions with Huang after closing shop at noon, Yu said.

In 2014, Hsin-feng Junior High School asked him to renovate the school’s ecological pond, he said.

School principal Tung Feng-chiao (童鳳嬌), who is a customer of Yu’s, allowed him to build a new pond with cement and stones, Yu said.

He said he spent more than a year exterminating exotic species that had encroached on the habitat of indigenous aquatic plants.

Yu said the plants he grows include prickly water lily, buttonbush, kusano willow and rice, as well as species commonly spotted in Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli, such as Eleocharis acutangula, yellow water lily, makino, Nymphoides lungtanensis, arrowheads and Indian sundew.

The pond has piqued the students’ interest and he has been teaching them about plants, Yu said, adding that they now have a solid understanding of plants.

Yu and students from the school’s ecological club have also grown an oriental white oak, raised medaka in the pond and attracted several whitebreasted waterhens to nest beside it.

Hopefully, the pond will serve as an incubator for young ecologists who understand the value of indigenous plants, Yu said.