Daylilies and Golden Needles

When a friend of mine suggested a weekend trip to Chike mountain (赤科山) in southeastern Taiwan’s Hualien county to check out the region’s famous daylilies, I was under the impression that we were going to see wild flowers growing freely in the area. Once on the spot, however, it became clear that these beautiful perennials, called orange daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva), are not only great to look at, they are also a sought-after delicacy known locally as “golden needle flower” (金針花). As such, the plant is commercially farmed and harvested for food. Still, in bloom the densely planted flowers… Continue reading

Leea Guineensis

I came across this spectacular flowering shrub during one of my cycling trips around Taitung in southern Taiwan. Two days later I was back with a camera to take some photographs and for the past hour or so I’ve been researching the Internet for clues about the name and origin of the plant. Without too much conviction I’ve settled on Leea guineensis, although it could also be Leea rubra. The former, as its Latin name suggests, comes from tropical Africa, but the latter is an Asian plant that grows throughout south-east Asia, New Guinea and northern Australia. Either… Continue reading

False Bird of Paradise

The Heliconiaceae family of plants is characterised by a large variety of astonishingly beautiful flowers of improbable shapes. The False Bird of Paradise (Heliconia psittacorum) is no exception. Also known as Parakeet Flower, Parrot’s Beak or Parrot’s Flower, this popular perennial originating from Central and South America provides a striking combination of colours – from its lovely pink bracts to strong orange-coloured flowers with dark green spots and white tips. It is widely cultivated in many parts of the tropics, often as hybrids or in colour varieties that differ considerably from the “original”, but still remain highly impressive.… Continue reading

Peacock Flower

One of the most popular ornamentals cultivated in many gardens around Cambodia is Peacock flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima). This shrub produces striking flowers in red, orange, pink and yellow colours, and as a result of its beauty and ease of cultivation, it has spread to just about every corner of the tropical world. In fact, the plant has been grown so widely that its exact origin is a matter of dispute – some botanists believe it was first discovered in the Caribbean (one of the plant’s popular name is “Pride of Barbados”) or central America (where is is known… Continue reading

Pink Morning Glory

Some people have asked me what method I use for identifying plants. Well, in the good old days one would turn to a botanical key, but nowadays I find it much easier to search through Google images unti I find the plant or flower I am looking for. First I type a few keywords that best describe the plant (colour, shape or region where it might grow), then click on the “Images” tab. This brings up a large number of pictures that might correspond to the given keywords and a few of them could lead directly to the jackpot.  … Continue reading

Indian Lotus on Dapo Lake

We came across this lovely scene last weekend near the town of Chishang (池上) in Taitung County, southern Taiwan. Much of the small lake, which goes under the name of Dapo, was covered by a large colony of blooming Indian lotus flowers (Nelumbo nucifera). Despite its common name, this is a plant native to Taiwan, as well as many tropical regions of Australasia, all the way south to Queensland. The large pink flowers combined with even larger round leaves were a sight to behold, especially when pictured with the rising mountains in the northwest. It was a hot… Continue reading

Night-Blooming Jessamine

A rather ordinary plant, the night-blooming jessamine (Cestrum nocturnum) is widely cultivated in southern Taiwan. I always wondered what makes it so popular until I saw it (and  especially smelt it!) under a moonlight. Its thousands of small white flowers gave an eerie feeling of fluorescence while the blossom’s strong sweet scent further enhanced the pleasure of alighting upon this spectacular specimen of the tropics. The most unusual thing about the species is the fact that it releases the perfume only at night, obviously preferring to attract nocturnal insects while relying on visual allure during day time.… Continue reading