Archives for category: urban ecosystems

The trees of Taiwan each have their own unique personalities. So I’ve been trying to capture them in tree portraits!


Crazy Banyan tree in a Taipei park nearby. You can get dizzy trying to trace the branches and roots…

Here is another one. I definitely do a better job with a can of lichee beer for additional inspiration.


Tree ferns are fuzzy and cute, they look like you could stroke them like cats. I haven’t tried it yet.


This magnificent camphor tree graces the Buddhist temple near my Auntie’s Taichung apartment.


I am dwarfed by this amazing camphor tree!


The temple has ensured that the tree has all the support it needs using metal struts, and white paint over old wounds.

It is estimated to be more than 1,000 years old. So, when this tree sprouted from a seed, Taiwan was home only to indigenous peoples. Its forests were untouched by axe and saw, its rivers ran clean and pure and a-swim with Formosan salmon, and clouded leopards and pangolins prowled the island’s mountain heart.


This tree rivals General Sherman in its awesome age, size, and beauty. Note Dad looking distorted from the panoramic camera function.

Today this giant is lovingly tended by the temple staff. It has grown and intertwined into this complex human ecosystem, admired and appreciated by its human neighbors, wreathed in incense smoke, and reaching outward and upward to the light as it has for more than a millennium.

This afternoon was cool and breezy, with clean air and purplish clouds hovering over Taiwan’s green mountains. I walked in the green thickets of the Taiwan Water Park’s ecological trail and was delighted to spot a hummingbird hawkmoth sipping from the flowers. I’ve only heard of them before this: a precious sighting and apparently good luck!

These tiny creatures look so much like hummingbirds in flight I was fooled; but they are only the size of a baby’s thumb; their Latin name, Macroglossum stellatarum, is longer than they are. I couldn’t capture my little friend with my humble phone camera, so below are images captured by professionals courtesy of Wickipedia (next time they ask for $$, give them a little.)


Haunt of the hummingbird hawkmoth. If you leave nature alone in Taipei, this is what you get! Luxuriant undergrowth along the ecology trail right in the middle of town.



Captured in action, courtesy of Wickipedia contributor.


Excellent photo, again from Wickipedia, that captures the birdlike tail of the hummingbird hawkmoth. Are you amazed? I was!

The cities of Asia are surely places that younger countries like America should look for future examples, good and bad.

Taiwan has a relatively short history of colonization by industrialized humans and a diverse natural ecosystem that allows for persistence of animals and plants even in the core of Taipei (population closing in on 3 million). Here are a few images of Taiwan’s urban ecosystem, where human intent and design combine with natural forces to create oases of nature.

I hope you find them as mentally refreshing as I do.


Da’an Park: skyscrapers loom behind the palm trees of the park.


A beautiful pond lies at the heart of Da’an park. This park was created only about a decade ago from a large lot of urban blight, including abandoned buildings and waste dumps. This area is now home to dozens of species of herons, geese, hawks, ducks, egrets, and songbirds.


Striped bamboo. There are many exquisite bamboo species gracing the park.


Looking up: delicate green canopy of bamboo evokes the great forests of the mountains.


Blossoms of every kind can be seen, even in winter.


Common tiger butterfly. Dozens of species of Taiwanese butterflies float like poems through various zones of the park: sunny, shady, near water, flower patches.


The old fig trees and rubber trees of the park are lovingly propped up and offer a haven to all kinds of birds, insects, and animals.


Pallas’s squirrel, a happy inhabitant of the park’s older fig trees. Utterly without fear and capable of bounds of ten feet or more.