Taiwan Pleione Nature Reserve, Alishan (Mount Ali)

 

A steam locomotive slowly runs along the Mianyue Line of the Alishan Forest Railway, looming from afar amongst mountain hills, as if we have been placed inside the time tunnel. The veil of the Taiwan Pleione was uncovered in this place, yet it almost became extinct in Taiwan. And now, along the railway that was temporally suspended, the Taiwan Pleione with single leaf and flower was re-discovered, extending its legendary beauty in its natural habitat. The Taiwan Pleione (Pleione formosana Hayata) is a perennial, deciduous herbaceous plant in the Orchidaceae family, classified in the subfamily Epidendroideae, growing in moist foggy areas near the treeline. The stem grows from a single bud with a single leaf, and the flower is enchanting. New plants can be acquired through sexual reproduction, namely pollination, in order to generate seedlings; or alternatively, offshoots formed from the nodes along the stem can grow into new plants, namely asexual reproduction. The Taiwan Pleione belongs to the pioneer community in a lithosere; once other plants emerge and grow in its habitat its community size will decrease relatively, or even become distinct. The Taiwan Pleione grows and flourishes in full sun, is a shade intolerant plant, therefore it often grows on steep cliff faces; if the habitat lacks adequate cleaning and maintenance, then the Taiwan Pleione will be replaced by other plants. The habitat of the Taiwan Pleione belongs to local pine-cypress forest in the cloud forest belt; the main species of trees include Taiwan yellow cypress, Taiwan red cedar, Taiwan Hemlock, Mori oak, and bird-lime tree, and the shrub is mainly composed of Yushan cane and Formosan blue berry. In addition to the Taiwan Pleione, rare plants in this area include Alishan club moss (Lycopodium serratum Thunb. var. myriophyllifolium Hayata), Taiwan Sassafras (Sassafras randaiense), Formosan sinopanax (Sinopanax formosana), Alishan mahonia (Mahonia oiwakensis Hayata), and Taiwan plum yew (Cephalotaxus wilsoniana Hayata).